Seniors and the preexisting-condition clause

By Wayne Wirtanen
This item appears on page 72 of the March 2002 issue.

Ruth Harris of Concordia, KS, sent ITN the following letter: “We have all been warned to watch for a ‘preexisting-condition clause’ in travel insurance. Uniworld has changed the company from which they get their travel insurance for their travel packages; consequently, if you are over 70 years of age, you may not want to buy your travel insurance through Uniworld.

“In their 2001 brochure, Uniworld says they ‘recommend’ Trip Mate Insurance Agency, but when we purchased a tour from that same
brochure we found that we were to be insured by iTravelinsured. We had not heard of this company, but upon reading their folder we made two discoveries.

“First, no matter how quickly you purchase your insurance, the preexisting-condition clause is NOT waived if you are over 70. Since many of ITN’s readers are over 70, we felt we should alert them to this company’s policy.

“Further, there is a deductible of $250 listed in iTravelinsured’s policy if you cancel the tour less than one month (29 to 0 days) before departure. Most cancellations are going to be due to some unforeseen event, illness, death, etc., and therefore will fall into this 29-day period. Why pay $259 for the insurance and then another $250 to cancel the trip?

“We were able to get Uniworld to cancel our insurance and purchased it separately, but this took several phone calls. Amy, the Uniworldm salesperson who handled our booking, was very cooperative and willing to help us make this change but said it wasn’t always possible.”

The Uniworld response

We forwarded Ruth Harris’ letter to Uniworld and received the following reply from Scott P. Muller, Uniworld’s Customer Service Manager:

“Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to address the concerns expressed by Ms. Harris. At this time, we wish to offer the following information.

“At present, we do recommend a Travel Protection Policy offered through This company has our full confidence, and we believe the policy offered is a comprehensive protection package at competitive rates. There is a Pre-Existing Condition Clause, of which I shall attempt to clarify now.

“The policy excludes coverage for those medical conditions that manifested themselves, became acute or were being treated in the 60 days before purchase of these benefits. However, a covered person may have a condition that requires them to take medication. Unless the condition for which medication was prescribed is unstable or there has been a change in the required prescription or dosage, that condition will not be considered preexisting.

“As an example, if one has diabetes and takes medication on a daily basis, one will receive coverage so long as one has not had a change in the required medication or dosage and one’s diabetes was under control during the 60 days before the coverage goes into effect. If coverage is purchased by the final payment due date of the trip, the preexisting-condition clause is waived for all covered travelers under the age of 70.

“We hope this serves to clarify the policy for you and your readers. We understand there are many policies available in the marketplace, all with varying coverages. Therefore, a Uniworld guest is never required to purchase a policy through us or through They are always free to seek out a policy that will meet their specific needs.

“Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance.”

My comments

1) A gold star for Ruth Harris for reading her policy and recognizing its shortcomings. Another gold star to Uniworld for allowing her to change policies.

2) A prudent travel insurance purchaser should know what the most basic terms and conditions are before purchase. Uniworld, as most other this detailed information in their tour brochure. They’ll supply this information, but you have to request it.

3) Uniworld’s response confirms Ruth Harris’ complaint that’s policy will not waive the preexisting-condition clause for those age 70 and above. Further, the response did not address Ruth Harris’ concern of the $250 deductible for tours canceled in fewer than 30 days. This deductible amount is not a common condition of travel insurance policies.

4) Scott Muller’s description of the preexisting-condition clause as it exists in most every travel insurance policy is accurate and enlightening. His description of a “stable” diabetes condition is an example of the type of preexisting condition that will not affect a traveler’s insurance coverage.

However, a traveler with a “stable” condition but without a waiver of the clause has the responsibility, when filing a claim, to produce doctor/hospital/medical records that demonstrate the “stability” of his condition or his ability to meet the other medical condition requirements of the policy. It’s still preferable to find a policy that will waive the preexisting-condition clause, if only to avoid the paperwork hassle required to process a claim.

Know what you are buying

A travel insurance sales brochure will describe, in clear and understandable language, what is covered and what is not. Travel insurance companies will provide the coverage that the policy describes. The key to buying travel insurance coverage for your needs (and to avoiding the disappointment of a disallowed claim) is to read and understand the policy that you intend to purchase.

Following are some travel insurance companies that will waive the preexisting-condition clause regardless of one’s age (they all have requirements that the insurance must be purchased within a specified number of days after the first deposit has been made on the tour): Travel Guard (phone 800/826- 4919), Travelex Travel Plus (800/863-9995), Travel Insured International (800/243-3174) and 1 Travel Protection (877/279-7959). CSA Gold (800/348-9505) will waive the clause for those up to age 80.

If, in the changing travel insurance scene, you don’t quickly find the coverage that you would like, call a travel insurance broker such as World Travel Center (800/786-5566). Tell them what coverage you require for your age and health and for your specific trip. They can look through the policies they provide and make a recommendation that, as closely as possible, meets your requirements.


For the near term, my recommendation is that a senior traveler should consider what I believe to be the four most important features of travel insurance coverage, and only then compare costs and other features of a policy. Those four conditions are 1) waiving of the preexisting-medical-condition clause, 2) finding the best-available tour/cruise company default protection, 3) finding the most generous domestic and foreign “terrorism” trip-interruption/cancellation protection and 4) finding trip-cancellation coverage that allows purchase of coverage for only a part of the tour cost and/or “freestanding” trip-cancellation coverage, that is, trip-cancellation coverage that is not a part of a total travel insurance package. (Travel Guard offers this “freestanding” trip cancellation coverage, but I’ve been told that it is available only through an agent or broker.)

Unfortunately, you are not likely to find all four of these features in any one policy. Decide which two orthree areas of coverage best suit your needs and then call several travel insurance companies (or a broker who supplies a wide variety of policies) to find the best fit.

Happy trails.