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Fear Not the Travel Medical Questionnaire

By Kellie Davenport

Filling out your travel medical insurance paperwork doesn’t have to be intimidating. As long as you answer the questions completely and honestly, you’ll get the coverage you need. And remember: If you’re unsure about any answers, ask your doctor or insurance provider for help. Follow these four tips to ensure you’re covered:

Read the whole document and answer all the questions. Insurers use your answers to determine the amount of risk you represent and decide on your rate. Because of this, the medical questionnaire is a legal contract, and errors may render it void.

Ask for help if you’re uncertain. If anything is remotely in doubt, query your insurance specialist or review the form with your doctor. Most companies also have a 1-800 assistance number. You might even want to request a copy of your health records to be sure you understand, and accurately represent, your medical history.

Remember that even long-term and unused prescriptions must be disclosed—even if they seem irrelevant to you. That round of antibiotics your doctor prescribed for a trip two years ago, but you never used? Yup. The thyroid medication you’ve been taking for decades? That too.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘well, I just take this one little pill.’ Or, ‘I’ve been on this pill for 20 years.’ But we’re not asking how long they’ve been on it; we’re asking if they’ve been prescribed any medication for a particular condition,” says Pam Murray, manager of travel medical insurance sales at AMA. “What we’re concerned about is, what would happen if you took away that pill?”

Don’t deliberately downplay medical conditions. It might be tempting, to keep your premium down. Or maybe you’re reluctant to share such personal information. But remember the first point above? Errors and omissions may void your contract. Also keep in mind that your insurer has the right to access your five-year medical history in the event of a claim. So there’s little point in trying to conceal something. “Plus, when somebody shows up at the hospital in the U.S., and they have their heart meds and their diabetes medication and whatever else, an insurance company knows pretty quickly whether or not they have a serious issue that they didn’t disclose,” says Murray. It’s just not worth it.