Studying abroad access to healthcare

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My daughter was treated for sarcoma 3 years ago and has had regular scans and checks since then, thankfully all clear. She wants to study abroad in the EEA and has a place on a degree level programme. I would like to know what she should do to ensure she still has access to her twice yearly scans - these will become annual during the time abroad - and what she should be doing about health insurance while abroad.  She will be coming home to visit and for summer holidays while she studies. 

  • Hello   ,

    Thanks for getting in touch and I am sorry to hear the situation. This can be a complicated area, you may find it helpful to read some of the information on the NHS website about medical treatment abroad here. We have referred your query to our Cancer Information Nurse Specialists here on the supportline. They’ve advised that your daughter speaks to her GP or oncology team about the scans. Your daughters' medical team may want to arrange for her to have the scans whilst she is back in the UK so they can continue to manage her follow up care. If you wish to discuss this further with our Nurse Specialists, please call them on 0808 808 0000, they’re also available on webchat here or Ask an Expert on the online community here. 

    For those travelling within the European Economic Area, it’s important to have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).This card is free and currently allows a person access to emergency state healthcare at reduced cost or sometimes for free. But be aware that this card does not cover planned medical treatments abroad and is only used for “necessary healthcare”. You can find out more about this on the NHS website here 
    It may be worth checking for specific student travel insurance as there is specialist products for students travelling abroad. You can find quotes for these policies on comparison websites online. It’s important to note that travel insurance won’t usually cover any planned medical treatment while abroad, but it will cover things like cancellation, baggage cover, emergency medical treatment and personal liability cover.  

    When looking for insurance it may be worth looking on our online community. We have a helpful travel insurance group here. On this page people affected by cancer discuss their experiences trying to get travel insurance and post recommendations of companies they’ve personally used. By using the information provided by others who have been in a similar position, hopefully you can make a shortlist of companies to try.  
    Another option for finding travel insurance is the Travel Insurance Directory which has been created by MoneyHelper (a separate organisation to Macmillan).  The directory can be used to search for FCA approved travel insurers who may offer cover to people with pre-existing medical conditions. Please visit their directory
    Does your daughter have any travel insurance cover in place through her bank account or a credit card? They won’t usually automatically cover for pre-existing health conditions, but if she has got this cover already through a product it’s worth checking on. They may be able to offer full cover if a top-up fee is paid.
    Lot of companies will ask very similar or even the same questions. The medical screening systems they use are often the same, which leads to a bit of repetition with the questions. Please don’t let this put you off, despite being asked similar questions each company will have their own quote at the end if they can offer cover – so it is worth persisting and shopping around. If you’re struggling to properly explain your situation with the questions asked, you can ask if it’s possible for the company to manually underwrite the policy. This is where a person would look at your health situation and decide whether to offer cover and at what price, rather than a computer making the decision. Some companies may do this as their standard procedure. 
    Your daughter may encounter some companies that offer a policy with a cancer-related exclusion. This means your daughter wouldn’t be covered for any claims relating to the cancer. This could affect the premium considerably, but it’s good to consider the risk of not being covered for anything relating to the cancer. 
    You mentioned health insurance in your query which might be another option. Some private health insurance policies may cover global treatment, but this isn’t a replacement for travel cover as it would only be covering medical expenses. You would also want to check the terms and conditions to see if this would cover planned treatment such as scans.  
    Insurers can underwrite this type of policy in a few different ways. The way in which they’re underwritten often determines whether or not pre-existing medical conditions are covered:

    Moratorium underwriting 
    This method often excludes claims relating to health conditions the member had, or recently suffered from, at the time the policy was taken out. The exclusion normally lasts for the first year or two of the policy (the ‘moratorium period’). 
    If a claim is made after that time, the health condition is usually covered, providing there are no further symptoms, medical advice or treatment during the moratorium period. 
    Full medical underwriting 
    This is a process an insurer uses to assess the likelihood of the insured person making a claim against the insurance.  

    The insurer may ask for information about the person’s health, lifestyle and the health of their close relatives. They may do this through questions and medical reports. Based on the assessment, the insurer decides whether to offer cover, what premium they will charge and any other special terms or restrictions to include. 
    Medical history disregarded 
    There is an alternative method of underwriting which is often referred to as ‘medical history disregarded’. This is usually only included in a small number of Private Medical Insurance policies offered through some employers. This type of underwriting, in effect, ignores pre-existing conditions, which means a valid claim could be made on medical conditions an employee has, regardless of when they happened. 

    There are a wide range of private medical insurance policies on the market which offer different levels of cover. It may help to seek independent financial advice to help you choose one. 
    A financial adviser will be able to recommend a PMI policy suitable for individual needs. If family or friends cannot recommend an independent financial adviser visit where you can find details of local advisers. 
    When choosing an independent financial adviser always check that they, and the company they work for, are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
    formerly known as the Financial Services Authority to provide financial advice.  

    Individuals and companies can be checked on the FCA register: 

    If you would rather speak to the FCA directly, they can be contacted on 0800 111 6768 from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays), and from 9am to 1pm Saturdays. 
    I hope this provides you with a bit of helpful information. If you have any further questions or would like to discuss things such as mortgages or pension, then please don’t hesitate to get back in touch. 
    Yours Sincerely,


    Chris H 
    Financial Guide 



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