How Older Travellers Can Avoid Being Stung By Post-COVID Insurance Prices


International tourism might be taking its first tentative steps towards normality again. But the bad news is that travel is probably going to be more expensive than it was before the pandemic. In the short term, anyway.

There’s a range of factors at play here. High demand as travel restrictions ease will inevitably push flight and accommodation prices up. If you travel to a country that requires visitors to take COVID tests as a condition of entry, you will have to pay for them privately. Depending on how many tests you have to take, that could easily add a few hundred pounds to the cost of a holiday for a family of four.

And then there’s travel insurance. The pandemic has fundamentally changed attitudes to travel insurance. While an estimated 40% of Brits chose to ignore financial cover for their holiday in 2019, now it is widely seen as essential.

With the risk of last-minute COVID cancellations, the cost of quarantine and even higher prices for medical assistance if you fall seriously ill abroad, few are prepared to take any chances.

On the flip side of this, travel insurance providers are having to take on more financial risk than ever before. They know, for example, that there is now a higher probability of travellers canceling their holiday. All it takes is a positive test. And yet consumers are understandably demanding cancellation cover. So insurance companies are offering it. But they are pushing up their prices in line with the increased likelihood of paying out. 

Big variations in travel insurance prices

New figures reveal that the average price of an annual travel insurance policy - one that covers you for multiple trips over a 12-month period - has increased by 50% since 2019. But it is older travellers, and especially those with long-term medical conditions, who are being hit hardest.

In some cases, it has been found that the prices quoted to older travellers for travel insurance is actually higher than the cost of flights to their chosen destination. Understandably, there are concerns about people being priced out of going abroad because of their age. 

However, it’s not quite time for older travellers to panic. What the research from Which? also found was that there are some huge differences in the prices being quoted. The top prices are eye-watering, but they are not a fair reflection of the whole travel insurance market. 

Older travellers have always had to pay more for travel insurance. From the insurer’s point of view, that’s because people over the age of 60 are more likely to make a claim, especially for medical treatment. The likelihood goes up the older people get. And so do the premiums.

Having a pre-existing medical condition only amplifies this. Many insurers simply choose not to offer policies to people with certain conditions. Others push their prices up to a prohibitive level.

Shop around for specialist policies

But that’s not all insurance providers. The big message to older travellers is to shop around. The Which? study found that the most expensive quotes were often not even for the most comprehensive policies available. So don’t take the first quote you receive at face value. You can probably find better policies, cheaper, elsewhere.

If you’re aged 60 or over, your best bet is to look for a specialist in policies for older travellers. The same goes if you have a medical condition - search travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions or similar. 

What these providers will do is take your specific personal circumstances into account. A lot of standard insurance companies will simply have fixed prices that they apply by age or for medical conditions. A specialist will get you to complete a medical survey - nothing too invasive - and put together a policy tailored to your needs. Because they can narrow down the risks, they can offer you a fairer price. And offer you a policy that is better suited to your needs at the same time.

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to withhold information about medical conditions in an attempt to get a better price. If you do fall ill and need to make a claim for medical treatments, your insurer will look into your medical history. Non-disclosure of any conditions is grounds for declaring your policy void, leaving you to pick up the bill.

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