Can you get health insurance with pre-existing conditions?

Health insurance does not always cover existing medical conditions or any you have had in the past five years. Here is what cover you can get and how to find it.

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Can you get it?

Yes, you can get health insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But most policies restrict when they can pay out to treat pre-existing conditions.

What is a pre-existing condition?

It is anything you have had medical treatment for in the past. This includes consultations, medication, surgery or any other treatment from the NHS or a private company.

Pre-existing conditions include:

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Asthma

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Strokes

  • Cancer

  • Back pain you needed surgery for

Most insurers count any condition you have had symptoms or treatment for in the past five years as pre-existing, even if it was diagnosed more than five years ago.

But some insurers include any conditions you have had treatment for during the past three years or seven years.

Read your insurance policy carefully to understand what cover you are buying.

What cover can you get?

You can take out most health insurance policies if you have existing conditions, but many do not pay out to treat them.

For example, if you have diabetes, most policies would pay for private treatment if you broke your leg but not for treatment for your diabetes.

Some insurers agree to cover certain conditions, especially if they decide they are minor or unlikely to occur again. Check a policy's terms to see which conditions it can include.

Most insurers agree to start covering a condition after you have been symptom free for five years.

For example, if you had a back injury and stopped having treatment three years ago, your policy would not pay out for further treatment for it for two years.

But after two years it could cover back injuries again as long as you have had no treatment, medication or check-ups in that time.

What policies are available?

The types of policy you can get if you have pre-existing conditions depend on the type of underwriting used by the insurer. Some let you choose which type of underwriting they use.

Full medical cover underwriting

Full underwriting lets you know for sure if your pre-existing condition is covered or not.

You have to provide your insurer with extensive details of your medical history. This usually includes answering questions about your health and giving them permission to access your medical records or contact your GP.

Insurers use this information to work out their risks and decide:

  • If they are happy to give you insurance

  • How much your policy costs

  • What treatment and illnesses it can pay out for and what it excludes

  • If they are willing to cover any of your pre-existing conditions

Moratorium underwriting

You do not have to provide detailed medical information when you apply. But if you make a claim, your insurer will look into your medical history to decide if they can pay for your treatment.

If your policy does not include pre-existing conditions and you try to claim for treatment for an illness you have had in the past five years, your insurer will reject your claim.

But they can start to cover some pre-existing conditions after a set period. This is called the moratorium, which usually lasts for two years.

If you have no symptoms or treatment for your pre-existing condition during those two years, your policy can then start covering the condition.

Covering chronic conditions

Many policies exclude chronic conditions, but some let you pay extra to cover them.

Chronic conditions need ongoing and regular treatment to help you manage them rather than short term treatment to cure them. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Asthma and hay fever

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis

  • Glaucoma

Some policies can pay for one off costs for your chronic condition like a hospital stay, but ongoing costs like medication or regular follow up appointments are not usually included.

Where to find health insurance

You can find a policy using our health insurance comparison, which includes details of what cover each insurer offers.

But if you have pre-existing conditions you want your policy to cover, you could speak to a health insurance broker.

They can look at your health and financial situation to provide you with quotes for policies that suit your circumstances and provide the cover you need.