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Friday 19 September 2014

The livin' isn't easy with travel cover in your golden years

Published 20/07/2014 | 00:00

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Age Issues: Those in their 70s can pay far more for travel insurance

Holidaymakers in their 20s are more likely to bungee jump off dizzyingly high bridges than those in their 70s.

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Despite this, you'll easily pay three times the price for travel insurance if you're in your 70s than a daredevil 21-year-old. The higher cost comes down to medical risk - the elderly are considered a higher insurance risk than the young because the injuries and illnesses of an older person tend to be more serious.

While this is usually true, what doesn't add up is why people in their 70s and early 80s pay more for travel insurance than those in their 60s - particularly in light of new analysis of travel insurance claims.

The analysis by British consumer website Fairer Finance found that you're less likely to make a claim under your travel insurance if you're in your 70s or early 80s than an individual in their 60s.

James Daley, founder of the website, found that once you get past your mid-50s, your chances of making a travel insurance claim start to increase. "However, for those who are still travelling by their late 70s and early 80s, both the frequency and average size of claims starts to fall again - before leaping again once they reach their late 80s," said Mr Daley.

Despite this, you could pay three times as much for travel insurance if you're in your 70s or early 80s than a 65-year-old would. For example, annual worldwide travel insurance on multitrip.com costs a 65-year-old €34.99 (plus a €3.95 handling fee) if they have private health insurance and buy the Premier policy. However, a 75-year-old with private health insurance would pay €104.97 - plus the handling fee - for the same policy.

"There are statistics which show that seniors may make fewer claims but incur higher medical bills abroad than younger people and take longer to recover from an accident or illness, especially in the US," said Ciaran Mulligan, managing director of Blue Insurances, the company behind multitrip.com, when asked about the analysis. "Sometimes we see claims for seniors who experience difficulty when they reach very warm and humid holiday destinations. A day in a hospital in the US could incur a charge of up to $10,000 (€7,400). You must also take into account that those over the age of 65 are generally retired and are able to travel more than people still working and this can result in more claims too."

A couple in their early 60s would pay €73 for VHI's multi-trip travel insurance policy. A couple over the age of 65 would pay €115.

"Our pricing is driven by the value and volume of claims," said a spokeswoman for VHI Healthcare.

"From the experience we have gathered over the last 10 years, we can clearly say that customers under the age of 65 claim less overall and the value of these claims tend to be less also."

As well as paying more for travel cover than an individual aged 65 or younger, those over the age of 65 could also find themselves turned down for travel insurance unless they have private health cover. Most insurers, however, don't insist that you have private health insurance before offering travel cover if you're aged 65 or under.

Elderly people with a serious medical condition will usually find it impossible to get travel insurance. "If you had a heart condition and had stents inserted a year ago, it's very likely that you won't get cover," said Dermot Goode, general manager of health insurance with Cornmarket. "You might find an insurer who will cover you, but your premium will be loaded."

You can forget about getting travel insurance if your doctor has advised you against travelling, according to Mr Goode.

"You' won't get cover either if you've had specific medical treatment in the last 18 months or you have certain medical treatment pending," said Mr Goode.

It's important, therefore, to let your travel insurer know if you have had any medical treatment recently - or if you'll be going into hospital shortly for an operation.

There are some illnesses and medical conditions which won't preclude you from cover, so it's always worth checking where you stand. Don't be tempted to hide a medical condition. Should you have to make a claim, your insurer will find out and probably turn down your claim as a result.

Even if you don't have a medical condition, you'll run into difficulty finding a travel insurer who will cover you once you hit the age of 80. You can't get an annual policy from multitrip.com for example if you're over the age of 76. "We can provide a quote for seniors about the upper age limits on www.Cleartotravel.com," said Mr Mulligan.

There are other travel insurance restrictions which you will have to put up with if you're an elderly holidaymaker. Insurers usually have a cut-off point where they restrict the number of days which you are covered for when on a trip abroad. This cut-off point is often lower for those over the age of 65. A 21-year-old could be covered for a single trip that lasts for up to 60 days while a 70-year-old might be only covered for a trip that lasts up to three weeks.

You could also find that your insurer won't cover travel in your holiday destination. "We have some restrictions regarding how long customers over 80 can stay abroad and we also have some geographical limits on their policy," said a spokeswoman for VHI.

Even if you can get travel insurance, understand the rules of your policy. Repatriation - where you're flown home for medical treatment after falling ill abroad - is one area where you could get caught out.

"Most travel insurance policies cover the cost of repatriation but if someone goes and makes their own arrangements to fly home, they're not covered," said Mr Goode.

Knowing where you stand is always important with travel cover - but this is particularly the case if you're an elderly holidaymaker.

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