/ Travels with a terminal illness

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Fredt on 12 Jul 2017
Hope the experiences of UKC'ers will inform me better than the vague and inconsistent government guidance on the internet.

A friend of mine has terminal cancer. In the few months that they have at their disposal, they would like to see as much of the world as possible.
Travel insurance for the USA is a non-starter, as healthcare is basically private and the cost of that is prohibitive.

So my friend turned to the possibilities of the EU, seeing as we are still in it, and there appears to be a system of reciprocal health care agreements, though these seem to vary between countries, and is as I said vague and inconsistent. My friend is particularly interested in Italy, France and maybe Greece.

Does anyone have experience of travelling to EU countries without Travel Insurance, and had to use these reciprocal arrangements?

My friend understands that it may be possible to get some limited insurance for travel to the EU (all will exclude repatriation), but before my friend talks to any more insurers my friend would like more information hopefully from someone on here, - as soon as you mention cancer to an insurance company, you are tagged on their systems.

On behalf of my friend, many thanks for any suggestions or help.
Deadeye - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:
If they get an EHIC card (free) it gives them the same rights to treatment as national of whatever EU country they are in.

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx

So the question really is to understand what a native citizen will get in the countries they want to visit - many require co-pay for example.
Post edited at 11:06
Fredt on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Deadeye:

Thanks for your input. This is more or less what my friend had discovered, but as you say, its a case of knowing what each country does, so hoping for some tales of experiences.
JayPee630 - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Deadeye:

I think that's not strictly true, iirc it only covers emergency treatment as 'necessary until you can go home'. So most people recommend having insurance as well.
DancingOnRock - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:
Get your friend to talk to their McMillan assigned nurse. They will give you a list of cancer friendly insurance companies. The insurance company will have a nurse contact them for a questionnaire and your friend's doctor will have to send a letter detailling the illness.

I ended up getting insured by Boots of all people. However, no insurance company will cover you for any treatment related to a pre-existing illness. They will cover you for repatriation if you die abroad and any accident or other unrelated illness.

Good luck to your friend.
Post edited at 12:00
TheGeneralist - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

The thing to bear in mind is that insurance is a huge business and so there is a lot of scaremongering put out by insurance companies. This is then backed up by anecdotes, either from people who have been relieved to have insurance or people who have got stuffed due to not having insurance.

When we were in Germany 10 years ago at Christmas my 6 month old son had a high temperature so we took him to the docs. As in the UK, they gave him some calpol and sent up home. Unlike in the UK, they had also taken a blood sample and they tested it that afternoon in the doc's surgery.
They phoned us up mid afternoon and told us to take him to the city hospital immediately. They did loads of tests and all sorts of stuff on him and diagnosed Urinary Reflux.
They dosed him up on antibiotics and kept him and his mum in hospital for about 3 weeks.

We didn't have any health insurance and the bill for all this came to an eye watering £0.00. They may have asked for the EHIC card at some point in the proceedings, but I don't recall it. They just concentrated on sorting him out.
cb294 - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

No idea about Italy or France, but your friend would be fine in Germany. There is limited co-pay for prescription medicines or hospital admissions (on the order of tens of Euros), but a GP or specialist visit as such will be free of charge if he can show an EHIC card.

When living in the UK we used our UK issued EHIC cards to get all dentistry done back home in Germany, and only had to pay the standard fees. Same for our children who sometimes got sick over the holidays. I do not believe that this has changed since.

Best of luck to your friend,

CB
In reply to Fredt:

My wife broke her wrist in France the winter before last. Despite having a reciprocal EU health card we had to pay for the x-ray and treatment in the local surgery but apparently any treatment in the hospital would have been free - however, the hospital was quite a way away. However, the cost wasn't that great (ca £100 I think) and it was all done and dusted in half an hour with the doctor recommending we fly home as she may have needed it pinned. He also said he would email her surgery the x-rays, so we rang her surgery for their e-mail address only to be told that they don't accept emails and it would have to be sent by fax.................@%£!$!!!
DancingOnRock - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:
People seem to be concentrating on the 'health' side of the insurance.

Travel insurance covers a lot of other things like hotel going bust, airline going bust, losing luggage, legal fees in accidents etc, theft, loss of cash, illness meaning cancellation...

The problem is these are all bundled in so if you're denied insurance on health grounds you don't get the rest.

Your friend may not need all these other insurances, in which case you don't need Travel insurance in Europe. They may even be covered by house insurance.

TLDR; Travel insurance covers more than just hospital treatment.
Post edited at 13:48
JayPee630 - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to TheGeneralist:

That's great, but FFS, they're bonkers about health stuff in Germany! You can't take anything like a pill for a headache without people thinking you should have a CT scan and a week in hospital!
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TheGeneralist - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to JayPee630:

> they're bonkers about health stuff in Germany! ...

I agree, this is a source of much disagreement between me and the missus. But then the girl in the house opposite us at the time also had a kidney infection caused by reflux and it took the NHS 2 years to diagnose it and she ended up with even worse kidney damage than my son did.

I was gobsmacked when the doctor phoned back in the afternoon and told us to go to hospital. My reaction was exactly the same as any Brit would have been "will you piss off, we're trying to relax here, there's nothing wrong with him that a paracetamol won't fix"

But we were wrong, luckily we weren't in the UK at the time.
TheGeneralist - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> People seem to be concentrating on the 'health' side of the insurance.

> Travel insurance covers a lot of other things like hotel going bust, airline going bust, losing luggage, legal fees in accidents etc, theft, loss of cash, illness meaning cancellation...

> The problem is these are all bundled in so if you're denied insurance on health grounds you don't get the rest.

> TLDR; Travel insurance covers more than just hospital treatment.

Right, now I'm going to get fully on my pedestal. Most of the insurances you mention above are bullshit for most people. You should be able to self insure for almost all of them. Anyone that pays for travel insurance decade after decade for hotels, cancellation, luggage, theft, cash etc is just a complete mug.

(Fair enough the OPs case is different, but probably results in the same conclusion for much sadder reasons)

Medical Insurance is an essential for certain countries, and rescue insurance if relevant, but the others are just pissing money up the wall.

Apologies if I've crossed the line on what is obviously a delicate OP
DancingOnRock - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to TheGeneralist:

I'm not sure many people could write off their holiday for a family of four just like that. Losing few grand, just because someone was ill and couldn't travel, for the sake of a £20 insurance policy?

Really?

heleno - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

I'm not sure how relevant this is, because all our problems were minor, but we have had several visits to GPs and clinics in other EU countries for minor complaints, generally we have received excellent care, and we have never been charged. I don't even remember being asked for our EHIC cards.

All the best to your friend; I hope their travels go well.
Crispy haddock on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

Hi, firstly best wishes to your friend and their family.

I travel several times each year with limited cover; the comprehensive travel insurance covers several of my conditions but not cancer as my treatment is on-going. I declare *everything* so I know that all problems not directly related to the cancer are covered.
I just take my credit card and hope, tbh, and I've not had a problem while travelling.

There are many companies who specialise in cancer cover, e.g. InsureWith and InsurePink - there are many more.
Crispy haddock on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> I'm not sure many people could write off their holiday for a family of four just like that. Losing few grand, just because someone was ill and couldn't travel, for the sake of a £20 insurance policy?

Travel insurance for someone with pre-existing conditions costs a LOT more than £20, sadly.
I've got friends who have been quoted £100 or so for a couple of weeks, not including USA cover, either.

DancingOnRock - on 12 Jul 2017
In reply to Crispy haddock:
> Travel insurance for someone with pre-existing conditions costs a LOT more than £20, sadly.

> I've got friends who have been quoted £100 or so for a couple of weeks, not including USA cover, either.

That's as may be, but I was replying to someone who was suggesting Travel insurance in general was not needed.

I'd suggest it would be even more sensible if you're not working due to a terminal illness, as the ability to recoup your losses would be zero.

I can't remember what I paid for my insurance as it was 10 years ago now but my main worry was that the EHIC doesn't cover death and repatriation of your body. Which when you're already seriously ill is quite a pertinent consideration.
Post edited at 23:39
TheGeneralist - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> I'm not sure many people could write off their holiday for a family of four just like that. Losing few grand, just because someone was ill and couldn't travel, for the sake of a £20 insurance policy?

As someone else stated, 20 quid is a bit unlikely. A very quick quote on BMC comes up with a price of £272 for an annual policy for my family of 4. BUT bear in mind that won't cover the two main things we need it to cover: my son's reflux condition and skier cross/freestyle skiing. They are the bits we need covered and are by definition the bits that the insurance company won't cover. That's how they work. They only want to sell insurance to people who they can make money out of.

Anyway, getting back on point, assuming we took out that policy each year for the kids'childhoods, with perhaps the occasional extension to USA, we're talking around £6,000 in insurance premiums. This is way more than we've ever committed up front on a trip.

So I could spend £6k on insurance that I know has huge gaping holes in the cover, or a could [notionally] bank the money saved against a future problem.
DancingOnRock - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to TheGeneralist:

I don't go on holiday for a whole year so two weeks cover is usually enough for me.
pwo - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:
It is possible to get insurance . But it won't cover any pre existing condition or complications arising from an accident/illness NOT connected to that condition but which could affect it. I got ski insurance (with my bank) with a pre existing pre surgical condition but I was told they would not cover the condition or any incident that could affect the prexisting condition.
Be mindful that although the E111 allows reciprocal rights in EU countries the vast majority of hospitals will demand you pay in full regardless and then you claim that back once you're back in the UK.
Additionally there are organisations with specialist knowledge on such considerations
Good luck with it all and I hope you're pal has a great time
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Jenny C on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to pwo:

> It is possible to get insurance . But it won't cover any pre existing condition or complications arising from an accident/illness NOT connected to that condition but which could affect it.

All depends on the insurer. I had surgery to correct a hole in the heart so have to declare that I have had surgery on my heart (this is now fixed and in the words of my consultant I now have the heart I should have been born with), no ongoing drugs or treatment just told to get on with my life.

Some insurers as for stupid premiums.
Some won't offer cover for anything heart related.
Some will insure but not for something directly related to the condition (which as I said I no longer have), which I am happy with.

The one area I would expect to have problems is getting cover for scuba diving, as the condition gives a considerable increased risk of being bent. But for that I can get full cover at standard premium providing I give them a copy of the letter from my consultant which signs me off as fixed.
Fredt on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

Many thanks for all the comments, suggestions and experiences.
If I may, I would like to refocus on the original request. As far as my friend is concerned, there will be no travel insurance, my friend has tried, and if there is any, it will not cover anything to do with cancer, never mind the terminal kind. So comments and views about travel insurances pros and cons are irrelevant.

What my friend is interested in is what can be expected from EU countries with whom we have reciprocal health service agreements. Some on here have pointed out that my friend will need a EHIC card, which is logical. So the scenario is that my friend is in a European country, with no travel insurance and terminal cancer. Can my friend expect the same or similar health care than my friend would get in the UK?
DancingOnRock - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

Yes. Exactly the same.
cb294 - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

Yes (ish). He will be able to access the health system under the same rules as someone insured in the country he is visiting. E.g., if admitted to hospital in Germany, he would have to pay a contribution of €10 per day, and a certain, variable contribution for any medicines he may be prescribed when visiting a GP. He would not be expected to pay in advance for treatment, having to try to get reimbursed by the NHS upon returning to the UK. Cannot speak for other countries, though.

CB
Howard J - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

He could try asking the appropriate charity for his illness for advice.

An insurance broker might be able to put together a customized policy.

EHIC will provide health cover, although not necessarily to the level of the NHS, but probably not repatriation. He needs to consider that of his condition were to suddenly worsen he could face a lengthy stay in a foreign hospital far from friends and family, possibly even dying there. Is that something he's willing to face? And of course, having a terminal illness doesn't make you immune from day to day accidents which might also result in a lengthy stay.
bouldery bits - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

Whatever the outcome, I hope your friend makes the most of the time he has and really bl**dy enjoys it.
Pilo - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:
> A friend of mine has terminal cancer. In the few months that they have at their disposal, they would like to see as much of the world as possible.

India might well be a good choice to see a totally different side of the of the world and considering the cancer killing properties of the everyday diet your friend might find they have more time than they thought. Turmeric mixed with black pepper stops cancer cells growing or reproducing. Combined with the mind medication of the place that could be the best choice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo9QUuDAuHo
Post edited at 23:16
Fredt on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Fredt:

My friend has come up with the idea of a road trip round southern Italy, fly to Naples, hire a F*off SUV and tour round the sights.
So, anyone with experience of southern Italy reciprocal health care?
If not, a southern Italy bucket list?
In reply to TheGeneralist:

> So I could spend £6k on insurance that I know has huge gaping holes in the cover, or a could [notionally] bank the money saved against a future problem.

In terms of travel that covers climbing/mountaineering (this being a climbing forum) Snowcard and Dogtag now quote w/o (or with v little) any cover for cancellation, baggage etc. You can add it on as an option.

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