The trickiness of finding travel insurance if you’re aged over 50

<em>Picture: Dotonegroup</em>
Picture: Dotonegroup
The UK has an ageing population. The figures speak for themselves. About ten years ago, one in every three people in the UK was aged over 50. Within the next 20 years, this is likely to rise to two-fifths. This group is relatively well off. Something like £260bn, around 40 per cent of total UK annual consumer spending, comes from the pockets of the over 50s.

Understanding the 50+ market is critical to business. But a recent report from Lloyds TSB suggests that this is one message that at least part of the insurance industry has decided to ignore. The report found that a quarter of holidaymakers in this age group are struggling to get adequate travel insurance for various reasons.

The research shows that the main cause for holidaymakers aged 50 and over being refused cover is an existing illness or injury. 15 per cent have been refused cover for this reason, rising to 16 per cent for those 60 and over. Similarly, over one in ten (11 per cent) has difficulty buying insurance due to their age, rising to one in six (17 per cent) for the 60 and overs.

And yet, this is one of the most active groups in the UK’s population. Nine out of ten say they go on holiday regularly, with half of those taking more than one holiday in a year. Despite the economy, around one-third say that they are travelling more now than in previous years. But around one in four has experienced difficulties when buying insurance for their holiday.

According to Jatin Patel, director of personal current accounts at Lloyds TSB, “no one should be grounded from travelling because of their age. It is clear that age holds no barriers for those wanting to explore new frontiers, so age shouldn’t prevent older holidaymakers from accessing adequate travel cover at a reasonable price.”

Clearly, the bank wanted to use the research to help sell its own travel insurance services. But there is a growing number of specialist providers whose entire raison d’être is to meet the needs of the over 50s.

The granddaddy is of course Saga. Many people know it for its magazine, but it is also a major financial services provider. The firm offers insurance cover for anyone over 50, with most pre-existing medical conditions included. If you do have a medical issue, the company lets you go through the screening process online.

The charity Age UK, which came out of the merger between Age Concern and Help the Aged, provides travel insurance with no upper age limit. It too provides cover which includes a wide range of health issues. It even offers cover for winter sports for the active and adventurous. Then there’s AllClear and Gnu Insurance, both of which insist that they provide cover whatever your age or medical history.

Lloyds TSB does provide an excellent travel insurance service for its silver surfers – literal as well as metaphoric. But other banks see this as part of their service to customers. The Clydesdale Bank’s Signature Account, for instance, comes complete with cover for anyone up to 75, again with most pre-existing medical conditions included.

The Co-operative Bank goes even further with its Privilege and Privilege Premier accounts, both of which include travel insurance up to the age of 80, or 65 for winter sports. The Santander Reward current account includes annual worldwide family travel insurance, covering you up to the age of 64.

In each case, it’s a question of balancing whether the benefits (of which travel insurance is but one) can justify the monthly fee you have to pay for these accounts. The Clydesdale will charge you £12.50 a month. That compares with £9.50 a month for a Co-op Privilege Account, £13 a month for the Co-op Privilege Premier Account or £10 a month for the Santander Reward Account.

However, don’t be misled into thinking you have cover just because you have acquired one of the new European Health Insurance Cards (the replacement for the old E111 form). You don’t! The EHIC doesn’t offer any form of insurance but provides emergency access to state-provided healthcare throughout Europe either free of charge or at least at a discount. The card is an essential thing to carry, but it is not an alternative to travel insurance.

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