Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions.

I'm planning a family trip to the United Kingdom next year to visit elderly relatives, probably with a stopover in Asia along the way. My adult son is coming but I have some concerns as he has suffered from mental health issues. Though he is stable, I'm worried about him becoming ill while abroad. Is there any chance of being covered by travel insurance if treatment is required?

Travelling can definitely be stressful, whether or not you have a mental illness.

For a start, I'd recommend your son consults with his doctor — he'll want to make sure he has enough medication for the trip.


It's also important to make sure none of his medications are banned in any of the destinations you're visiting.

Carrying a note from a doctor stating his pre-existing condition, symptoms he suffers from and a list of emergency contacts can be helpful should he require medical assistance during your travels.

Most travel insurers rule out cover for mental illness as a general exclusion but, according to my contact at comparetravelinsurance.co.nz, the market is starting to change.

Historically, insurers have been reluctant to provide cover to those with any form of mental illness, whether it be a mild episode of anxiety or a severe case of depression.
However, an increasing number of companies have begun offering varying degrees of cover.

Comparetravelinsurance.co.nz director Natalie Ball says though the industry has a long way to go, certain travel insurers are refining their products and removing any "blanket exclusions" in regard to mental health illnesses.

"Many disorders which would not have previously been insured, such as anxiety, now have cover options available.

"Although we already see cases of insurers covering first time episodes of mental illness, it's great to find that more insurers are providing cover on a case-by-case basis, and not applying a blanket rule to all."

Travelinsurance.co.nz (TINZ) and 1Cover.co.nz have both launched online medical screening processes, which promise to assess a greater range of medical conditions including some mental illnesses.


Travelinsurance.co.nz marketing manager Kate Smith says: "We've spent a great deal of time looking at our customers' risk profiles, and are pleased to say that our online health screening now offers cover to many people with depression, anxiety, or anorexia."

"Provided your condition has been stable for 12 months without treatment or hospitalisation, TINZ customers can apply for cover by completing our online medical assessment during the quote process."

"Travellers will be asked a few questions about their condition, such as when you were first diagnosed, whether you have been admitted to hospital and whether you regularly receive treatment before cover can be determined."

"This update is overdue and we're very happy to be offering additional cover options to those with mental illnesses."

1Cover, Cover-More, Southern Cross, Columbus Direct and TINZ will cover mental health conditions, new or existing, depending on answers given during their online medical screening.

American Express, DUInsure, Tower, Travel Insurance Direct, Webjet, Zoom Travel Insurance will not pay any claims for any mental health conditions, new or pre-existing.

Readers respond

Terry Greening wrote in with an important tip for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.

"Regarding your advice in (Travel's August 14) Ask Away column, my wife and I can add that the experience could literally 'take your breath away'.

When we visited Bryce National Park a number of years ago, we drove from the Grand Canyon and did not notice that we were climbing the whole way.

When we got out of our car, the altitude immediately affected us. We were then in our 50s, about the same age as your correspondent. By taking our time looking around we overcame the problem and had a very enjoyable experience."

Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz
Eli cannot answer all questions and can't correspond with readers.
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