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How NHS waiting lists could affect your travel insurance

Waterloo London England UK, November 21 2021, St Thomas' Major London Teaching Hosptial And Accident And Emergency Department
There are currently 7.6 million people on NHS waiting lists. (martinrlee via Getty Images)

There are currently 7.6 million people on NHS waiting lists, which is alarming on so many levels. It’s not just the fact that it raises the risk of people’s health deteriorating while they wait to be seen, or that delays in care are contributing to record numbers of people who are too sick to work. It could also leave you tens of thousands of pounds worse off if you travel without considering the implications.

When you buy travel insurance, you’re asked whether you have any health conditions, and whether you’re waiting for any diagnostic investigations or treatment.

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Pre-existing conditions are a headache, because you need to include everything that has affected you in the past, or it won’t be covered while you’re away. This may seem obvious for chronic conditions like diabetes, but some people may not realise that it includes everything from relatively recent broken bones, to allergies, neurodiversity, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.

The good news is that once you’ve answered a number of questions about your condition, you may still qualify for affordable cover – especially if you have never been hospitalised or been forced to cancel travel plans because of it.

Read more: The tax cuts that could offer a lifeline to cash-strapped UK families

If you’re on a waiting list for a diagnosis or treatment, it can be more difficult. Insurers consider you to be more of a risk – because they can’t rule out the worst-case scenario. It means most insurers won’t cover you, so you’ll need a specialist insurer, and they’re likely to charge significantly more – just in case your condition deteriorates while you are away and requires emergency care.

You might be tempted not to admit to being on a waiting list when you’re buying insurance. Unfortunately, if you then go on to need emergency care while you’re away, it’s highly likely that you won’t be covered for it, so you could end up tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

When you realise how expensive cover is, you might decide to travel without any insurance at all. A recent survey by Wellsoon found that one in five people currently on waiting lists plan to do this. If you travel without insurance, healthcare costs can be ruinously expensive – especially if you are travelling to the US. To make matters worse, you won’t be covered if something goes wrong with any other aspect of your holiday either – like cancellation or theft of your luggage or valuables. So even if the condition doesn’t affect you at all, you could end up out of pocket.

When you travel, it’s not worth trying to fudge the truth or go without insurance, because a decision you make to save hundreds of pounds could end up costing you tens of thousands instead. It means that while the NHS waiting lists remain so horribly long, more of us will have to budget for far more expensive travel insurance.

Watch: Sunak plans to make a huge difference in waiting lists

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