Regulators have promised to make it easier for people with cancer and other serious medical conditions to buy travel insurance, but campaigners say the proposed changes do not go far enough.
For the past year, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has been looking into the problems that people with medical conditions have in finding cover.
Releasing the results of the FCA’s probe, Christopher Woolard, the regulator’s executive director of strategy and competition, said: “People with pre-existing medical conditions feel poorly served by travel insurance. There are specialist services out there, but often people don’t know where to find them.”
In one response to the regulator’s official call for input, a person with “low grade bladder cancer” needing no regular treatment — and only six-monthly check-ups — was charged £450 for a travel insurance policy for a six-day trip to America.
The FCA said it would introduce a signposting system so that people who cannot get insurance with mainstream insurers — or are provided with very expensive quotes — can be directed towards specialist providers.
These can be hard to find at the moment, said the FCA: “Specialist providers are at present crowded out of the advertising market, unable to compete with the high-cost and high-visibility campaigns of mainstream providers.”
Campaigners said the FCA could have done more to help people who are priced out of travel insurance.
Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, welcomed the FCA’s statement, but added: “We are disappointed these proposals do not go even further. Improved signposting will only benefit people with cancer if, at the end of it, there is fair and affordable cover available. As it stands, this is rarely the case.”
She added: “No two cancer experiences are the same and if travel insurers want to meet the [needs of] people with cancer, they must update their oversimplified medical screening to reflect this.”
Macmillan’s research suggests that people with cancer pay nearly four times the average cost of an annual travel policy for the general public.
Others said that the FCA’s plans for signposting needed clarification. Richard Smith, managing director of tifgroup, a specialist travel insurance provider, said: “There is a lot more detail required from the FCA. I think we need to help people find the right insurance partner for their situation.”
He said that it was important for people with cancer to understand how insurers would price their policies, so they could make an informed decision about which insurance company to choose.