Travelling with pre-existing conditions? Here's what you need to know.

By Hwee Minn Low, 16 June 2017 38819

You are only hours away from flying off for your holiday. While scrambling around, you try to make sure that everything is ready. Luggage? Check. Passport? Check. Peace of mind? Hang on. 

What if my flight gets delayed? Or if my luggage gets lost? Or if I get my asthma attack? You suddenly remember that you have bought travel insurance for this trip and breathe a sigh of relief. However, did you know that most plans only cover 2 out of these 3 concerns? Most travel insurance plans do not cover pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma.

Now, there's no need to panic. With the right type of insurance coverage and a few preparations, you can get that peace of mind. Here are some simple steps you can take when travelling with a pre-existing medical condition:

What's a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is one that you already had in the 12 months or more before the start of your trip. An example would be an asthma condition you've had since young.

Did you know?

- Eczema, gout, epilepsy, asthma, and high blood pressure are all considered pre-existing conditions. Most travel insurance policies don't provide a payout for this. So yes, you could have an attack but not be covered by your insurance to see a doctor. That's probably not the vacation you had in mind.

- Airlines can prevent you from even boarding if you're sick or just look like your condition could get worse. Your flight ticket may not be refundable even if you're denied boarding for medical reasons, Remember to read the terms and conditions before buying the cheapest flight.

But if you have pre-existing conditions, you'll know money is a secondary concern. Being comfortable and safe come first. Here's what you need to do:

How to deal with the top 3 concerns when travelling with a medical condition

1. Conditions on the airline

Despite what airline ads suggest, cabin conditions are seldom an airborne paradise. If you've been curled up on an economy flight with a medical condition, you'll know it's not the most pleasant experience. The least you can do is look out for your health.

Note that the air pressure in flight cabins is different from the air pressure on the ground. That leads to reduced oxygen levels, which can cause health problems for travellers with cardiac or respiratory diseases. Picture a five-kilometer run while only taking shallow breaths and you'll have some idea what an asthma attack on a plane feels like. Make sure your inhaler is in your pocket.

You should also have your medication on hand. Never put it in your checked bag, where no one can get it until you land. Don't leave it in the overhead compartment either; lest the person in the aisle seat kills you by taking forever to wake up and undo his belt while you're struggling for medical aid.

It's inadvisable to fly just after heart surgery. Get clearance from your doctor before… nevermind. We'll save you the phone call. She's going to say no.

2. Healthcare at your intended destination 

At minimum, you must be insured for the following at your destination:

- Personal accident coverage
- Hospitalisation
- Medical evacuation

In developing countries, don't count on always having access to good hospitals. You may have to be flown home for treatment.

In developed countries, you have another problem: medical treatment tends to be crazy expensive. Travellers to the United States, in particular, should know that healthcare costs can be many times the amount you'd pay in Singapore. 

If you're travelling to a country where you can't speak the local language, brush up on key phrases, such as "I need help" or "I need to get to a hospital". We offer a gentle reminder that, when you make loud noises and gesture a lot, most people think "crazy person", not "someone in need of help".

Lastly, check the weather. If you have respiratory problems like asthma, avoid pollen season. If you have gout, extreme winter conditions can introduce your joints to new worlds of pain.

3. Insurance coverage

If you think lost luggage is expensive, wait till you see a medical bill from Tokyo or New York. You'll probably need a second mortgage if you break a finger, let alone need surgery. Focus on picking a travel insurance plan that can cover your medical needs first, the other details are secondary.

Income is the first insurer in Singapore that covers your pre-existing conditions, with the Enhanced PreX plans being applicable to all ages. The Enhanced PreX Basic plan covers hospitalisation charges, medical evacuation, and emergency phone charges.

If you're still worried about non-medical things like trip postponement, upgrade to Enhanced PreX Superior or Prestige plans. Those also cover trip disruption and cancellation, as well as overseas hospital allowance and provision for compassionate visits. Although you know your parents are just flying over to tell you they told you so, and give your broken skis a disapproving stare.

Picking a travel insurance policy is like picking the right kind of kopi. They may all start with kopi but kopi-o is definitely worlds apart from kopi-gau. You need to choose the one that is suitable for you. Just like you need that kopi-gau to stay awake for work, you need a policy that can cover your needs.

With Income, it's #travelmadedifferent. You can get the right travel insurance in minutes, even while waiting to board the plane. So if you haven't already, get it 
right now

Peace of mind? Check.

To find out more about Income's Enhanced PreX plans, click here.