When you plan a trip to the United States, one of the most important things you have to do is getting travel insurance. This especially concerns travelers who have an existing ailment, which may appear during the trip.

However, finding travel health insurance with pre-existing condition coverage may not be possible.

Does US Travel Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?

Unfortunately, insurance companies do not really offer plans that cover pre-existing medical conditions. Travel insurance is supposed to cover you for any medical emergencies that happen while abroad, such as an accident or sickness – but not a medical condition you already had on the day that the travel medical insurance coverage came into function.

However…

There are certain conditions that many companies can cover without any additional costs.

Pre-Existing Condition vs. the Acute Onset of a Pre-Existing Condition

In the insurance world, “pre-existing condition” and “the acute onset of a pre-existing condition” mean different things. The most important difference is that companies will not offer coverage for the first, whereas some might offer coverage for the second.

Pre-existing conditions

Travel insurance companies will refer to a disability or illness as a “pre-existing condition”, which is a medical condition for which you have received treatment or diagnosis prior to purchasing the policy (regardless of whether you knew about it or not). This can include conditions such as:

  • Chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart conditions etc.
  • Physical disabilities.
  • Vision or hearing impairments.
  • Psychological conditions such as mental illnesses.

Most companies do not offer coverage for a pre-existing condition, because, travel medical insurance is supposed to cover you for any medical emergencies that happened while you are in the United States, not to substitute the health care you would have received for an illness or medical condition in your home country.

Is Pregnancy a Pre-Existing Medical Condition?

No, in most cases, pregnancy is not considered a pre-existing condition in the same way as a disease such as diabetes or cancer. Where pregnancy falls into a health insurance policy depends on the specific company, but generally, the following is true:

You are covered You are not covered
You have an unexpected injury, complication, or disease as a result of your pregnancy. Normal pregnancy without any complications, such as doctor checkups or normal birth.

If you are pregnant and looking to purchase travel insurance, it is worth checking in with your provider to learn exactly how much coverage you have, if any.

Acute onset of a pre-existing condition

The acute onset of a pre-existing condition is the unexpected and immediate reappearance of a previous condition that happens suddenly and without previous warning, is short-lived, progresses rapidly, and requires immediate medical care.

A pre-existing condition that is progressing over a period of time (and is present at the time your travel insurance coverage) does not qualify for acute onset of a pre-existing condition, and your purchased plan will likely not cover it.

However, the exact conditions will change from one plan to the next.

What Pre Existing Conditions Does Travel Insurance Cover?

If you have a hearing or vision impairment or a mobility disability which requires the use of a wheelchair, you will likely be covered for it, provided you didn’t need medical assistance or treatment about it in the last year.

You can also receive coverage for pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, lung diseases, epilepsy, coronary problems, etc. provided that it has been stable for a specific period of time

Pre Existing conditions Coverage
Hearing/Vision impairment Yes, if stable for more than a year
Physical disability Yes, if stable for more than a year
Hypertension Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Asthma Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Diabetes Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Epilepsy Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Coronary problems Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Lung diseases Yes, if stable for a specific period of time*
Mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) Yes, if stable for more than a year
Terminal illnesses (i.e cancer) No

*depending on the policy

In other words, if your condition is considered “stable”, you will have less difficulty finding travel insurance with adequate coverage. In this case, you will have to pay extra to have your condition covered, and you may be asked to present a doctor’s certificate.

You will not be covered for any condition that is unstable, terminal in nature, or that carries a high risk of complications or fatality.

Is it Possible to Get Travel Insurance if I Have a Mental Illness?

You may find it difficult to find a travel insurance company that actively offers coverage for treatment of mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder but it is not entirely impossible.

If a travel insurer does offer coverage for mental health, then they will likely ask you to undergo an assessment first to determine your state prior to the travel. The insurance company can offer you coverage if you are not actively struggling with any mental health problems at the time you purchase the policy, and you can prove that you have not dealt with mental health problems in the past 1-5 years.

Another instance in which travel insurance companies offer mental health coverage is if the mental illness appears for the first time ever during the trip.

Do I Have to Disclose My Disability to Travel Insurers?

You don’t technically have to disclose your disability to your travel insurance company. Disclosing it will mean that they can charge you extra for a policy because you can be considered high risk.

However, if you are worried that your disability will cause you to seek medical treatment in a foreign country or force you to cancel your trip, you do have to disclose it. If you do not, then the travel insurance company can refuse to accept any claims you make that are related to your disability or pre-existing condition.

How to Buy Health Insurance for Visitors to the USA with Pre Existing Conditions?

You can get travel medical insurance online for pre-existing conditions in one of the following ways:

  • Directly through insurance companies. You can simply visit the website of the insurance company and subscribe to a plan they offer.
  • Through insurance brokers such as Insubuy. On their website, you can compare different plans side by side and choose the one which best fits your needs.

When buying disability travel insurance, remember:

  • Let your travel insurance provider know about it. You have to disclose your condition/disability to the travel insurance provider when you purchase the policy. This will mean you have to pay more for the policy, but if you do not disclose your condition, you will not have coverage for it.
  • Buy the policy as soon as you book your trip. It is always recommended to purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your trip because then you will have more coverage in case you need to cancel at some point. If you have a condition that may potentially get worse and disrupt your travel plans, it is even more advisable to buy travel insurance as soon as you can.

What Companies Provide Coverage for Travelers With Pre Existing Conditions Visiting the USA?

Naturally, travel insurance policies are different depending on which country you are living in, as well as where you are going to. What’s more, not all travel insurance companies will offer coverage for disabilities or pre-existing conditions.

You can purchase travel insurance through local travel insurance companies such as:

  • AXA Assistance USA.
  • HTH Travel Insurance.
  • Seven Corners Travel Insurance.
  • Travelex Insurance Services.
  • TravelSafe Insurance.
  • Trawick International.
  • USI Affinity.

Best Health Insurance Plans for Travelers With Pre-Existing Conditions

Here are six of the best plans that offer health insurance coverage for the acute onset of a pre-existing condition:

  • Beacon America
    • Covers the acute onset of pre-existing conditions of persons under the age of 70
    • The condition must have been stable in the previous 730 days from the Effective Date of Coverage.
    • Covers medical costs of up to $150,000 or $50,000, depending on the policy you choose.
    • Medical Evacuation to $25,000
  • Safe Travels USA Comprehensive
    • For persons under 70 covers medical treatment to policy maximum (cardiac-related treatment up to $25,000)
    • For persons over the age of 70 covers medical treatment to $35,000 (cardiac-related treatment to $15,000)
    • The condition must have been stable in the previous 36 months from the Effective Date of Coverage
    • Medical Evacuation to $25,000
  • Atlas America Insurance
    • Covers the acute onset of a pre-existing condition for persons under the age of 80, except for chronic or congenital conditions)
    • Covers medical treatment to policy maximum
    • Medical Evacuation to $25,000
  • Patriot America Plus
    • Covers the acute onset of pre-existing conditions of persons under the age of 70
    • Covers medical treatment to policy maximum
    • Medical Evacuation to $25,000
  • Safe Travels USA
    • Covers the unexpected recurrence of a pre-existing condition up to $1,000
  • VisitorSecure Insurance
    • Covers the acute onset of pre-existing conditions for persons under the age of 70 up to policy maximum
    • Covers the acute onset of pre-existing conditions for persons over the age of 80 up to $10,000
    • Medical Evacuation to $25,000

Health Insurance Plans With Pre-Existing Condition Coverage for Green Card Holders

Green Card holders are permanent residents in the United States, therefore qualify for ObamaCare and are subject to the rules of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for residents of the U.S.

According to these new rules, insurance companies are not allowed to refuse coverage to US citizens or permanent residents on the basis of a pre-existing condition. Therefore, for Green Card holders, pre-existing medical conditions are covered in their health insurance plan and treated just like any other medical condition.

On the other hand, if you are in the US temporarily, you are considered a visitor, so you are not eligible for coverage under the ACA and you have to get visitor’s insurance.

What Should a Good Travel Insurance Policy Include?

When you are buying a travel insurance policy, you have to look for one that has comprehensive coverage for common travel disturbances in addition to disability travel insurance. This includes:

  • Adequate health insurance. If you get into an accident or get sick during your trip, a standard travel insurance policy will pay for doctor consultations, emergency services, hospitalization, and even surgery, prescription drugs and medicine. Usually, travel health insurance is for medical emergencies unrelated to pre-existing conditions, but you can add more coverage to suit your needs, if necessary.
  • Trip cancellation, interruption, or curtailment. If your trip is cut short or cancelled for some reason, the travel insurers will partly reimburse any lost travel or accommodation costs.
  • Lost, stolen, or damaged possessions. This can also include any medical equipment you bring with you.
  • Repatriation or emergency evacuation. If you have to be emergently evacuated from a foreign country, the insurance policy can pay for the cost of the emergency air ambulance or repatriation.
  • Missed flight. If the flight you missed was through no fault of your own (ie. the airline rescheduled or had a delay) the insurance company will cover any expenses related to it.
  • Personal liability. Although this is not a “standard” travel insurance item, some travel agencies will offer coverage if your actions cause bodily injury to someone or damage someone’s property.

Coverage For Medical Equipment

Coverage for loss or theft of your luggage is part of most standard travel insurance plans, and your medical equipment can count as “luggage”. So, yes, you can find a company that will cover your mobility or hearing aids, but it will not be for the full price of the equipment.

Most policies exclude valuable or expensive items by default, so if your wheelchair or hearing aids are on the more expensive side, they may not be automatically covered, but you can choose to pay more on premiums and have enough coverage for it as well.

Note:

  • You will not be reimbursed for the full price of your belongings. There is usually a limit to how much the company will pay per item (it can be between $500 to $2,000, depending on the policy).
  • You will not be reimbursed if you lose or damage your belongings because of “recklessness” (i.e. if you leave them unattended).
  • The travel insurance company will ask for the receipts showing the cost of the items that were stolen, damaged or lost before they consider your claim. They will also ask to see a police report or report from the airline that they have misplaced your luggage/items. Read the policy rules to learn what you need to present in case you have to make a claim.

Disability Travel Insurance Coverage for Mobility Aids (Wheelchairs)

If you are travelling with a wheelchair, especially by air, you will likely have to store it away before boarding, which leaves it susceptible to theft, damage, or loss. The travel insurance company you choose may already offer coverage for your wheelchair unless it is on the “exclusions”* list. Find a provider that does not exclude wheelchairs or expensive items from their list, and if you are still unclear, ask them about it specifically.

If you have an electric wheelchair, then you will have to purchase additional coverage because that is considered an expensive item, and is not likely to be included on a standard policy.

Disability Travel Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aid

Hearing aid also falls into a similar position as wheelchairs. Because they are a possession, they can already be covered under a standard insurance policy, but it is always smart to double-check.

Additionally, the cost of the hearing aid also plays a role in how much coverage you get. If it is on the higher range of prices, it can be on the “exclusions”* list, which means the insurers are not obliged to reimburse any costs related to it or they will only pay a small portion.

*A list of items for which the insurance policy will not offer you coverage if you lose or damage them. They are usually listed on the policy. This can include specific items, such as electronics or designer clothing.

Disability Travel Insurance Coverage for Loss of Essential Medication

Another important part of travelling abroad with an illness or medical condition is medication. There are travel insurance policies that will offer you coverage for the loss of your essential medications.

If you lose your medicine while you are travelling, your insurers will partly or fully cover the cost of replacing them, according to the rules on the policy.

Travel Insurance Coverage for a Replacement Caregiver

If you are reliant on a caregiver because of your disability, there are travel insurance policies that will help you continue your trip even if your caregiver is suddenly unable to join you. They can do this by offering reimbursement or paying for the extra cost that getting another caregiver to join you on the trip can add up to.

So, if your original caregiver cannot come, the insurance company will pay (up to a certain amount) for travel and accommodation costs so that you don’t need to cancel your trip as well.

For this to be possible, the original caregiver must have been included in the same policy as you.

What If I Have to Cancel My Trip Because of My Disability?

Travel insurance plans usually have a list of what is considered a “valid” reason for reimbursement if you cancel your trip. Suddenly becoming ill, getting into an accident, or other health-related reasons usually make the cut.

However, they may refuse to offer coverage if it is for a pre-existing condition. This is why it is important to ask the insurers and read the policy carefully for what is included and what is not.

If you are worried that your disability may stop you from going on a trip you have paid for, you can always consider “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, which is just as the name suggests: You can cancel your trip and will be covered, whatever the reason is.

There are, of course, some rules and it is more expensive than other cancellation policies, but if you have invested a large sum of money on a trip, it may be worth it.