Is diabetes a pre-existing condition for travel insurance?

When considering whether diabetes or any other chronic condition is a pre-existing condition that would be covered by travel insurance, you have to look at three things:

  1. What’s the definition of a pre-existing condition?
  2. Does diabetes fit under that definition?
  3. Does my plan cover pre-existing conditions?

Pre-existing conditions defined

According to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, the definition of a pre-existing condition is “something that happened (or started to happen) before you bought travel insurance.”

That’s a broad definition that would absolutely include diabetes.

However, most travel insurance plans that address pre-existing conditions do it the way Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection does in its ExactCare Extra® policy.

Under that policy, a pre-existing medical condition is considered to be a medical issue that “within the 180-day period immediately preceding and including the Insured’s coverage effective date:

  1. a) “first manifested itself, worsened, became acute or had symptoms which would have prompted a reasonable person to seek diagnosis, care or treatment;
  2. b) “[had] care or treatment … given or recommended by a Physician;
  3. c) “required taking prescription drugs or medicines, unless the condition for which the drugs or medicines are taken remains controlled without any change in the required prescription drugs or medicines.”

Another way to look at this is to consider how travel can affect medical conditions. If a diabetic traveler lost their insulin or other medications in the course of their travel, or had a diabetic episode brought on by changes in diet, those are directly related to the traveler’s diabetes – a condition they may well have had for more than six months prior to their trip.

So while the definition of a pre-existing condition might suggest some wiggle room, a real-world scenario clearly points out what’s pre-existing and what’s not.

Are pre-existing conditions covered?

Some plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions; others cover them only in part.

If your health concerns you but you want to travel anyway, make sure you’re clear on your policy’s pre-ex coverage before you buy.

Also, many travel insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions, but put some sort of prerequisite around the coverage. A common one is that you have to buy insurance within two weeks of making your first trip deposit. (This is how Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection offers coverage for pre-existing conditions.)

Under that scenario, someone could buy the same travel insurance policy for two identical trips and have pre-existing conditions covered under one policy and not the other – all because of when they bought the policy.

Bottom line: If you’re not sure how your policy covers pre-existing conditions, ask. If you have a medical issue that you think could affect your travel and you want to know if it’s considered pre-existing, ask.

And as an absolute rule of thumb, assume that any medical condition you currently have that could affect your travels is pre-existing, until you’re told it’s not.

Finally, if your travel insurance carrier puts a purchase window around pre-ex coverage, make sure you buy within that window. It’s the best way of making sure you’re protected.