Most insurers provide cover for travellers with diabetes, but passengers often need to satisfy certain conditions in order to be granted cover. The assessment is are based on a number of factors including the type of diabetes, current treatment and other existing medical conditions.
Steps to get cover
- Compare and understand different policies. If you have diabetes, it’s crucial to compare policies carefully. While most insurers provide automatic cover for diabetes, often they will need you to meet different and requirements. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes but have also had a case of hypertension in the past 12 months one provider may exclude your travel cover automatically. Another insurer might provide you travel cover, so long as you had disclosed your hypertension.
- Disclose everything. If you are unsure, disclose. Not only is it a requirement for most travel insurers, disclosing your diabetes will allow your insurer to clarify any conditions they need you to meet – even if diabetes itself is automatically covered.
- Treat a higher premium as an essential expense. When travelling overseas with diabetes, you need financial protection against the high cost of medical and hospital bills, even if it comes at a premium.
Make sure you understand how compare different policies as well as what is covered, and under what terms. If you would like compare policies now:
General conditions of diabetes cover
To get diabetes cover, you generally must:
- Not also suffer from Hypercholesterolaemia, Hypertension or a known cardiovascular disease
- Have no vascular, nerve, kidney or eye complications
- Not have been diagnosed within a certain period e.g. within the last 12 months
Read more about Travel Insurance for Diabetes
Yes. Most insurers will automatically cover you for both types of diabetes but will usually have different conditions depending on the insurer and the type of diabetes. For instance, type 1 diabetes can require a stricter diet regime and more attentive management of the condition and often travel insurance brands will impose stricter conditions e.g. you must be under a certain age.
Anna was turning 51 and wanted to travel to Morocco with her husband for their summer getaway. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at birth, Anna stuck to a strict daily routine involving taking insulin, regular diet and exercise as well as checking her blood every day. She also knew, from a previous experience 5 years ago, that Type 1 diabetes was included in her policy. Unfortunately, on Anna’s 3rd night in the African country, she was hospitalised as she had misplaced her insulin medication. Although Anna became stable, to her husband’s shock, their insurance provider would not cover the hospital costs. The policy required that people with type 1 diabetes be under the age of 50 to qualify, leaving the poor couple in an unexpected financial mess.
Depending on the travel insurance provider, you may have to disclose your diabetes type, how you currently treat your diabetes e.g. what medication, as well as any related pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure.
- Mentioning pre-existing conditions during the application
- Undergo a phone assessment to answer questions about your diabetes
- Fill out an online questionnaire
- Fill out and post or email a hard-copy form
- Undergo a face-to-face medical assessment
Once you’ve provided all the relevant information concerning your health, your insurer will provide a written notice to let you know whether you will or will not be offered cover. You’ll also be notified of any special conditions or exclusions that may apply to your policy, and of any premiums you are required to pay before cover will take effect.
Preparation is key to ensuring a safe and successful holiday. Keep the following in mind when planning your next trip.
- Your activities will differ. When travelling, most people don’t stick to their normal exercise regime, and you’re probably no different. You’ll also be eating different foods and be eating in different time zones and at different times of the day. All of these factors can impact your diabetes.
- Check the fine print. Don’t simply assume that you’re covered by your travel insurance policy. Check the fine print concerning pre-existing conditions and medical cover to see whether conditions related to your diabetes are covered.
- Speak to your GP. See if you need specific vaccines or medicine for the area you are planning on visiting.
- Ask your doctor for a typed letter explaining your condition. This letter should feature your name, contact details, date of birth and explain that you suffer from Type 1 diabetes. It should also contain information about the medications you are on, the insulin delivery devices that you use, the blood glucose measurement equipment you use, and how these items need to be with you at all times. Make sure you have multiple copies of this letter.
- Get extra prescriptions. It can be difficult to find the right medications when overseas, so make sure you purchase all the medication you need before you start travelling.
- Familiarise yourself. That is, with the meals and foods available in the region of the world you are visiting.
- Develop an action plan. Manage your diabetes and insulin dosage during long flights. It’s also a good idea to put together an emergency plan in case complications occur. This should include a list of any emergency contacts.
- Make copies of all your documentation. Leave these with people staying at home. They can then send those to you if required.
More information about travel insurance and pre-existing conditions
As security measures are tight at international airports, people with diabetes need to take some important precautions before boarding a flight. First, make sure all of your syringes and insulin supplies are clearly labelled with their pharmaceutical information. Next, remember that all prescription medications need to be carried by the person for whom they are prescribed.
Carry everything related to your diabetes in your carry-on luggage. This ensures your supplies won’t be lost or mishandled. It also means they avoid the extreme temperatures present in airplane cargo holds.
Finally, if you are on an insulin pump, notify security staff that you have diabetes. You do not have to disconnect the pump from your body if requested by security, and it’s safe to carry your pump through airport security systems.Back to top
If you’re flying overseas and you have diabetes, you’ll need to prepare carefully for your flight. It’s important that you keep your insulin supplies and emergency snacks close to you rather than storing them in the overhead compartment. This ensures that you can act quickly in the case of hypoglycaemia or if meals are delayed.
Don’t adjust your watch or pump clock during the flight. Instead, leave it on New Zealand time so that you can continue to know the correct timing of meals and injections throughout the journey. Many airlines offer a “diabetic friendly” meal option, but it’s typically best to avoid these as they may contain an insufficient amount of carbohydrates.
Finally, make sure to check your blood glucose levels regularly during the flight so that you always remain in the healthy range.Back to top
When you arrive at your destination, you may encounter certain difficult circumstances that you’ll need to work around. These include:
- You’ll need to adjust your watch or pump clock to the local time. This means you may also have to calculate when your next meal or injection is due.
- Be careful what you eat and drink. In countries where hygiene and food preparation standards are poor, the risk of gastroenteritis and other illnesses is greatly increased. Choose your meals wisely.
- Be aware of your diet. Remember that changes to your diet could require changes to your insulin doses.
- Keep your supplies handy. Whenever you’re travelling around your destination country, make sure to keep your diabetes supplies with you at all times. If you lose your luggage or your supplies the best thing to do is visit the emergency room of a major hospital. You should be able to get what you need there. In some countries, it may be worthwhile contacting the national diabetes organisation to find out how best to replace lost supplies.
- Have your emergency contacts ready. If you are admitted to hospital, contact your emergency contacts listed in the emergency plan you prepared before leaving home.
Take a look through this handy checklist to see if you’re ready to travel.
- NDSS Card. This proves that you have diabetes.
- Insulin, syringes and pens. You’ll need long acting and short acting insulin, plus also remember to check on the availability of insulin at your destination.
- Insulin pump. If you use this, make sure you pack it.
- Glucagon emergency kit. Carry this in its original packaging.
- Prescription medications. Don’t leave home without them.
- Doctor’s letter. As mentioned, this contains personal details and confirms that you have diabetes. It also outlines the prescription medications you are taking.
- Ketone strips. Bring this for testing blood ketones.
- Blood glucose strips. Work out how many you think you’ll need and then pack more. The last thing you want is to be caught short.
- Finger pricker.
- Lancets and needles.
- Medical alert bracelet. Make sure this specifies that you have Type 1 diabetes.
- Travel insurance details. These will come in handy if you need to make a claim.
- Medicare card. This can be used if you travel to a country with which the New Zealand government has a reciprocal health care agreement.
- Cool pack. This can keep your insulin cool if you are travelling in extreme heat.
- Sharps disposal container. Safe disposal is essential no matter where you are.
- Carbohydrate sources. Both simple and complex carbohydrates.
- Always keep your supplies close at hand. There are times where this may be inconvenient, but doing so could save your life.
- Get a note from your doctor. This should explain that you have diabetes and list the medications you are taking. Having the note translated into the language of the country where you are travelling also helps.
- Diabetic Travel Insurance. Make sure that you have found a travel insurance policy that offers cover for people with diabetes. Check with the insurer prior to purchase to avoid a nasty surprise later on.
- Stick to your meals routine as much as possible. Delayed flights and different time zones can make this difficult, but the safest option is to stick to your regular routine.
- Keep original packaging. Keeping the original packaging of insulin bottles and pens can help save time when passing through airport security.
- Be careful what you eat. Investigate the meals you plan on eating and how many carbohydrates they contain.
- Pack more than you need. If you’re only going for one week, pack adequate supplies for two weeks. This will ensure that you are covered in case of an emergency.
- Test your blood glucose levels regularly. Everything from different meals to different exercise routines and meal times can throw your body out of whack. Test your levels regularly to ensure they remain healthy.
- Tell your travelling companions that you have diabetes. Equipping them with this knowledge could help them save your life.
While there are certain obstacles getting travel insurance if you have diabetes, those obstacles are far from insurmountable. With careful planning and a sensible approach, you can enjoy many wonderful, safe holidays to all four corners of the globe.