Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford look at how people can ensure they are protected if something goes wrong while on holiday.
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We asked you who has left you feeling ripped off
when it comes to your holidays, and you came back with a catalogue
of travel disasters.
It happens all the time that somebody else
has paid less for the holiday that
I've paid more for.
The costs of these things are certainly going up and up.
It always seems someone's trying to rip me off somewhere along the line.
Whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or a catch
in the small print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket
and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money -
this is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello, and welcome to Rip-Off Britain where,
this series, we're on the very sunny island of Tenerife,
and it's gorgeous.
We're here to investigate more of the problems that you told us
you've had with your holidays.
And today's programme is all about making sure that you'll
be well-looked-after, should the unexpected happened.
And that could be either before you've gone away, or indeed
-whilst you're out there.
-Let's face it -
holidays, of course, are suppose to be a time when you can relax
but, unfortunately, life and everything it's likely to throw
at you just carries on regardless. So it really does pay to make sure
that you want covered by every eventuality,
however difficult that may be to think about.
Because it really can save an awful lot of heartache and, quite frankly,
money later down the line.
The trouble is, you may think you're protected but, when the worst
happens, it may turn out that you're not.
That's what's happened to some of the people
we're going to be meeting today.
Their cases highlight what many would say is a quite scandalous
state of affairs that could leave countless people at risk.
A surprising exclusion in the protection offered
by some of the biggest names in travel insurance.
Could you be amongst the people who are left dangerously exposed?
I was absolutely mortified,
I couldn't believe it.
And I didn't know which way to turn, I really didn't.
And how a tragic end to one family's holiday
also left them thousands of pounds out of pocket.
To be here with financial worries made a situation
which was already sad so much worse.
Now, something we're always told is as vital to have
on your holiday as a toothbrush is your travel insurance.
If something goes wrong while you're away, or even before you've left,
then you want to be sure you won't end up losing out.
Of course many times over the years on this series
we've highlighted examples where I'm afraid that
hasn't proved to be the case. And now, a great number of you
have been telling us that you've experienced particular difficulties
if you've ever had any kind of mental health condition.
Indeed, in some cases, being refused cover altogether.
And the complaints you've been sending us about this
go back quite some time.
Pauline White and her husband Reg,
from Birmingham, have been married for 61 years,
but during the last five of these, their vows to love each other
through sickness and health have really been put to the test.
It all started in 2013 after Pauline had booked
a trip abroad to celebrate a special family occasion.
Well, my granddaughter was getting married in Cyprus, Paphos.
And, obviously, we was invited
and I booked the holiday in January.
And on the same day, or the day after, I booked
up insurance, because that's what you should do.
Pauline had paid £2,000 for the holiday with
Thomson - now called Tui -
and had booked travel insurance a company called insurepink.
But one morning, ten weeks
before the couple were due to fly out to Cyprus,
Reg suddenly became seriously ill.
I heard him coming downstairs
and the usual procedure is,
"What do you want for your breakfast?"
And he opened the door and I couldn't believe
because he just looked a different person, his face.
And I said, "Are you all right?"
He says, "No, something's happened to me."
Although he didn't know it at the time,
Reg had suffered a sudden and severe episode of depression.
And having never experienced any mental-health problems before,
the couple were thrown into complete disarray.
He was anxious all the time,
and he couldn't eat and he couldn't sleep,
and he was having terrible nightmares,
and he was walking around in the night.
I just felt terrible. I felt helpless. I couldn't help him.
I tried, but I just couldn't, because I didn't know what to do.
As the weeks went by, despite taking medication
and receiving help from support workers, Reg wasn't improving
and Pauline began to think about their upcoming holiday.
I remember me grandson saying,
"Well, I don't think you'll be able to go," and I said,
"Well, I'll give it another month and see how he is,"
but he never got any better,
so I knew then that we wasn't going to be able to go.
I was devastated. We both was.
Reluctantly, Pauline decided to cancel their holiday.
Amidst the disappointment, her only comfort was
that the travel insurance she'd taken out did
include cover for cancellation. So she called the company she'd
bought it from, insurepink,
expecting to be able to claim back
at least some of the cost of the trip.
But she was in for a shock.
Oh, I phoned them up. I said that my husband
had had a breakdown and we was unable to travel,
and they said, "Well, we don't cover mental health."
And I said, "Well, yeah, fair enough,
"but when we took out this policy he was perfectly normal."
And they said, "It doesn't matter.
"We don't cover it under any circumstances.
"Go and read the small print, and you'll see."
Although astonished and frustrated
that the policy could have such a blanket exemption
for mental health, Pauline resigned herself
to having lost the money,
and she concentrated on looking after Reg who, five years on,
still hasn't fully recovered.
What happens to you when you're not very good?
My stomach starts churning over.
Right. As if what?
As if I'm sitting at an exam,
or waiting to sit an exam.
-Terrible, isn't it?
But, still, you're still better than what you was
and there's a lot worse off,
-so you got to keep your chin up and keep going.
-Yeah. Which you do.
But in the years since Reg fell ill,
there have been some significant changes to the way that people
with mental-health conditions are treated, especially
since the introduction of the
Mental Health Discrimination Act back in 2013.
The principle that a
mental illness should be treated in the same way as a
physical condition is becoming increasingly accepted as good practice.
And that's the point reiterated by both insurepink,
the company Pauline had bought her policy with,
and indeed by the business that actually provides the cover,
which is called the...
They told us that while at the time,
in common with other insurance providers,
they didn't medically screen or cover people
for mental health-related conditions,
And if Reg's circumstances had occurred now, it would...
..to see if it would cover it.
But that's little consolation
for Pauline, who's spent the last few years getting used
to a new kind of normal.
What about when I walk in the room?
I look forward to it.
-Oh. Why's that, then?
You take all the responsibility away from me.
I ain't got nothing to worry about.
-But what would you worry about?
-I worry about anything.
-What people think.
And the more she has considered the whole situation,
the more convinced Pauline's become that she and Reg were
treated very unfairly.
Well, I'd just like them to pay out
to people who have suffered like we have the same as they do
for people that suffer with a stroke
or a heart attack, and I think you're
entitled to the same treatment as they get.
Why not? Why shouldn't you?
Pauline has been interested to hear of the case of Ella Ingram,
who recently made headlines in her native Australia
after successfully taking on a travel insurance company
in similar circumstances. In 2012, Ella had cancelled a trip
to New York after suffering an unprecedented and
sudden episode of depression. Her insurer said it wouldn't pay out
because mental-health conditions weren't covered.
But, at the end of 2015, as she explained to Pauline
when the two of them compared their experiences
in an online chat, Ella was awarded a pay-out from her insurance company
after a judge found it had discriminated against her
on the basis of her mental health.
-Ella is finally going to get
the 4,000 pay-out she's entitled to,
plus 15,000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation.
Since her case, and the publicity
surrounding it, a number of Australian insurance companies -
including the one with which Ella had her insurance -
have changed their policies, meaning they no longer have blanket exclusions
on all mental-health conditions, as they did when Ella made her claim.
Oh, yes, that's...how I feel about it,
that it's just unfair for other people.
Inspired by Ella's story, Pauline's looking into what recourse
she may yet have and, in the first instance,
she's asked the Financial Ombudsman Service to look into her case.
But in the meantime, despite a growing awareness of mental health and its effects,
it seems that situations like Pauline's
haven't been entirely consigned to the past.
When our researchers checked through the small print of a range
of travel insurance policies, we found that cover for any
conditions of this kind, whether new or already diagnosed,
can still be inconsistent, confusing or, in some
And when consumer campaigner James Daley
did a similar comparison, he was particularly
struck by some of the exclusions starting to creep into policies.
So we looked at a number of travel insurance policies and found that
some of them now have a blanket exclusion for any claims relating
to psychiatric conditions while you're abroad.
Others of them have said that they won't pay out
for cancellation that is linked to a psychiatric condition,
unless you pay yourself for an assessment by a doctor
proving that that is the case,
which seems a bit unreasonable.
In other cases, we found that policies won't pay out
unless your psychiatric condition results in inpatient treatment,
so that obviously means it would be quite an extreme case -
perhaps you've been sectioned -
but there's going to be a lot of psychiatric conditions that develop
while you're abroad which may not necessitate inpatient treatment.
It might be just a visit to the doctors, and there's no good
reason why they should be excluded.
James is very concerned that,
at a time when insurance companies should be becoming more inclusive
on mental-health conditions, some may, in fact, be increasing
the barriers in the way of people who have them.
I don't think it's fair or reasonable to exclude
psychiatric conditions from travel insurance policies, even if you do
tell your customers clearly when they're buying.
Actually, the likelihood that you're going to get a psychiatric condition
for the first time when you're on holiday is fairly small,
and is absolutely the kind of thing you would expect your
travel insurance to cover the cost of.
Another common complaint is that once you've declared to an insurer
that you've had any sort of mental illness -
as those who've had one, however briefly, are obliged to do so -
then, even if you can get cover, the price of it will rocket.
Well, later on in the programme, we'll find out
why getting travel insurance for an existing mental-health condition
can not only be tricky, but expensive, as well.
Some of the prices that came back, as high as £128
for a seven-day break. It's just ridiculous.
Facing up to ourselves or our loved ones dying
is something that, well,
frankly, nobody really wants to think about.
But, like it or not, it is something for which, financially at least,
we should be prepared.
And I'm afraid that that is at the heart of our next report,
because if the absolute worst does happen while you're away
and you don't have the right cover in place,
then the costs, and indeed the stress of dealing with what's
happened, makes an already terrible situation so much worse.
It's official -
the over-65s are amongst Britain's top holidaymakers,
on average taking two foreign holidays every year.
But whilst retirement for some can
mean spare time and bit more cash,
it can also mean ill health.
And you may only discover too late
that your standard insurance policy won't necessarily cover you
for any treatment, bills or other costs that could arise from that.
Brenda Meade from Glenrothes in Fife
found that out the hard way after, in 2016,
she and her husband Bernard booked a holiday
to celebrate not only 50 years of marriage,
but her 70th and his 75th birthdays.
Because it was a big birthday for both Bernard and myself,
we took two of our three children with us and their partners,
just to make it more of a family affair.
The family settled on the Spanish island of Minorca
for their celebrations
and booked a villa with a pool that everyone could enjoy.
Once the accommodation was sorted,
Brenda arranged travel insurance through Trust 2 Travel,
a website specialising in providing cover for travellers
with pre-existing conditions -
in Bernard's case, for his diabetes.
I went on to one of the insurance sites on the internet and picked out
one that I thought would be sensible for us to take out.
I wanted to make sure that we were covered for all angles.
At just over £80, the policy cost more than if the couple
had no health issues to declare.
But it gave Brenda peace of mind
that, should they need it, the policy would pay out.
So, when the holiday came around and the family arrived
at their Minorcan villa,
there was nothing but excitement for the week ahead.
The first thing everybody did
except me was to jump into the pool,
because of the novelty of it, I think.
The rest of the holiday went very well indeed,
and my husband had actually said,
"This has been the happiest holiday and I want to do this again."
But five days into their seven-day trip,
Bernard started to feel unwell.
He walked into the villa
and I said, are you all right?
And he said, "Not really," and went to lay on the bed.
He said, "I've just got a bit of indigestion. I'll be fine."
Brenda and Bernard's daughter Frances went to check on her dad.
And he was just saying that he still had a wee bit of chest pain.
I said, "Just rest up."
I said, "You know that I love you." He said, "I love you, too."
I kissed him, and left.
And though Bernard continued to take it easy, he didn't feel any better
that evening and told Brenda he was going to have an early night.
At nine o'clock he came into the room.
He said, "I'm just going to bed, I'm tired."
And that's the last words I had with him.
He died in the night.
It was just such a total shock.
We just could not believe it.
We were in this villa in this beautiful surrounding and it was
just so surreal. It was just such a traumatic experience.
Bernard had had a heart attack, linked to undiagnosed heart disease.
He was taken to a local mortuary,
and his devastated family was moved to a different villa,
where they spent the remaining days of their trip
making arrangements to get his body flown home.
Flying home on Friday morning was very traumatic,
as you might expect it to be.
Six of us had gone out, and only five of us came back.
This was a terrible end to what should have been
a celebratory family holiday for Brenda, Bernard
and the rest of their family.
After we got back to Scotland, the international funeral directors
had phoned us, and they said that his body was ready to be
repatriated and that they could get him out on a flight -
I think it was a few days later -
but it would cost £4,000 to do so.
It was only on rereading her policy that Brenda realised that,
though it would meet some of these costs, she was going to be left
with a substantial shortfall.
My insurance policy only allowed £1,500 for repatriation.
I have to put my hands up and say that's not something I even looked at.
And though all of this was in the policy's terms and conditions,
it had never really occurred to Brenda or Bernard
that they might need to make this kind of claim.
As it was, with her insurance covering only a fraction of the cost,
Brenda was left with a shortfall of over £2,500,
which she simply couldn't afford.
It was just another blow to us, really.
The average repatriation claim is between...
..and it obviously costs far more from further-afield locations,
such as China, South America
or Japan, where costs can reach up to £17,000.
So Brenda simply can't understand why any travel insurance policy that
says it includes repatriation
would cap it at the level that hers did.
I have to wonder why somebody
would think a repatriation
was only worth 1,500
when it was general knowledge within the insurance business
that it was going to cost more than that.
And, obviously, if it had been further away from home than Minorca,
if it had been in the Americas,
it would have cost an awful lot more money,
so that £1,500 just wouldn't have covered anything.
And her concerns are echoed
by industry experts like financial journalist James Daley,
who feels that a growing number of travellers could find that,
if the worst happens, their policy falls short, too.
Because it's quite an unusual occurrence, it's not something that
people are claiming for every day,
most people wouldn't have noticed that, over the last two years,
some insurers have started to cap
the amount that they'll pay out for this kind of claim.
And it's only some insurers, but a growing number of policies,
that have quite low limits for how much you can claim if you are caught
out in those circumstances.
When James took a look at no less than 489 travel insurance
policies, many of them
did have generous repatriation allowances of up to £10,000.
But 50 policies had a cap of £3,000 or below,
including certain policies from Debenhams and the Post Office.
What's more, three policies from other companies set a limit of £750.
And whilst that may cover the costs of a cremation abroad, if bringing
a body home to the UK, it falls far short of the average costs.
It is something that you need to watch out for
when you're buying a travel insurance policy.
You need to make sure you've got a policy that has a high enough limit
to cover you in those rather unusual circumstances, because of course
that's what insurance is for - it's to cover you for the unexpected.
Around 6,000 British citizens die on overseas holiday each year,
so it is still a comparatively rare event.
But someone who knows only too well the associated costs is
Paul Kane, who runs a funeral director
specialising in repatriation from abroad.
The further you travel and the more obscure the country is,
obviously the cost will increase.
The cost will cover the deceased being embalmed to
international standards to be able to be flown from the country
where they are, the cost of a simple coffin for the deceased to be
placed in and returned back, the cost of the flight
and the handling charges at both ends at the airport and liaising
with the coroner and ensuring, if it's been taken care of, obviously
the cost of the translation of the death certificate back into English.
Paul has seen at first hand how much more complex the whole process
can be if you're grieving but don't have the right level of cover.
If you've got travel insurance,
they will basically take everything off your hands.
They will tell you immediately if there's something that you'll
have to pay to help the repatriation along, but they will
basically appoint a local funeral director to work with us in the UK
and then we will liaise together to return the loved one as soon as possible.
And while all of this is a useful reminder to check the small
print on your policy,
James Daley believes the insurance companies have a responsibility
to make sure that the policies they're selling are up to the job.
Most of us don't really know how much we're going to need.
It's very difficult to understand how much it might cost to
transport a body back to the UK while you're on holiday.
I would expect that insurers keep their limits at levels
which are going to cover people for the unexpected.
Well, the company that runs
Trust 2 Travel, International Travel and Health Care Limited
So I'm glad to say that it will be recompensing Brenda
for the difference between what she paid to bring Bernard home
and what she'd been covered for.
It added that it's also reviewing previous claims to
ensure that there have been no similar incidents.
And though, of course,
that doesn't ease the grief that Brenda still keenly feels
from her loss, it does at least mean that she's no longer out of pocket.
I think anybody would understand that, to a marriage that had lasted
over 50 years - and I'd known him since I was 16 -
to go on holiday and be on such a high and come back and be
on such a low, then to be hit with financial worries made a situation
which was already sad so much worse.
Inside one of the biggest shopping centres in the UK,
we held our annual pop-up shop.
It's your chance to drop in and quiz our top consumer experts,
including holiday guru Simon Calder,
who answered dozens of your travel-related questions
and unexpected health problems were a common theme here, too.
Theresa and Sophie, very nice to meet you.
What seems to be the problem?
John Clarkson and Joe Tuan both contacted us
after sudden illnesses not only caused havoc with their holidays,
but left each of them seriously out of pocket.
In John's case,
a visit to the GP meant he didn't even get as far as the airport.
John, start by telling me what your problem was.
Well, mine was before we went on holiday.
Went to see the doctor and the doctor told me not to fly
because there was a suspected...
-Well, he knew what it were.
So he gave me a letter saying not to fly.
John called the airline to cancel his flights,
hoping he could get a refund on the £182 that he'd paid.
But despite his unfortunate circumstances,
he was told that the tickets were non-refundable,
so he wouldn't be able to get anything back.
-You were wanting your money back, is that the point?
Because you couldn't take the holiday.
John is convinced that his seats were then sold on to someone
else, meaning that while he lost his money,
the airline would have doubled its profit by selling his seat twice.
But however unfair that might feel, Simon says the airline would
have made its refund policy clear in its terms and conditions.
The airline you booked with, when you booked it, it said,
"If you cancel this, you're not getting your money back."
-So while Simon sympathises with John's frustration,
he isn't at all surprised by the airline's response.
We are living in a fantastic time in terms of cheap flights,
but there is a price to pay and that is, when things go wrong,
you can't expect necessarily to get the kind of service,
the kind of people addressing your problems that you would
expect, and that's regrettable but it's just a fact of life.
The only way to protect against this kind of unexpected loss,
of course, is to have adequate travel insurance in place
which will pay out in the event of cancellation.
An avenue John is now going to pursue.
Meanwhile, Joe has discovered the hard way just how much not
taking out that kind of protection can cost.
It was during a trip to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada when
I was very ill one night in bed, sweating,
and couldn't get my breath.
Joe was rushed to hospital and treated for pneumonia.
And after a week in hospital in Egypt,
he was declared fit to fly home by the doctor.
-So you were all right to fly home?
-Yes, I'm OK to fly home.
And I get onto the plane...
But upon arrival at the airport,
and after a checkup by a doctor there, everything suddenly changed.
The captain come along and asked us, "What's the problem?"
He said, "Well, look, it would cost £80,000 to land this plane."
He said, "I'm sorry, we've got to get you off."
Concerned that Joe might fall ill again, leading to a costly detour,
he refused to let him fly, so Joe was forced to get off
and book another flight with a different airline.
But the earliest he could get was three days later.
-And you want your money back for the flight which you lost?
-And the hotel and the taxi.
-Right, over to you, Simon.
-Angela is the captain of that flight.
She is thinking, right, from here, if we need to divert, that is
-going to cost an absolute fortune.
The thing that Angela wants to do
when she's in charge of that plane is not...
-Go without taking any risks.
While Simon says it might not have been Joe's health that posed
the most risk for the airline,
but the fact that he was travelling without any travel insurance.
If he had bought a policy,
Simon reckons Joe might have been able to get the insurance company to
provide the airline with reassurance that he was fit to travel.
She is expecting, as an airline captain, to see
something from the travel insurers saying, "Here's what the state
"of play is, we are the assistance people, we know that he's all right."
They say, "Joe's going to be turning up in a wheelchair at this time,
"be nice to him, make sure you've got enough oxygen onboard.
"We've got people meeting him at the other end."
Now, she hasn't got any of that
because you haven't got any travel insurance.
In the end, travelling without insurance cost Joe not only
a new flight, but £3,000 in fees from his stay in the Egyptian hospital.
You've never taken out travel insurance?
Never in my 76 years of my life.
It perfectly, perfectly reasonable
if you take a decision not to be insured,
but then don't expect the things that come with being insured, Joe!
-I know, I know. I know.
-And it seems old habits are hard to break.
-And I've been away four times since that.
-Oh, silly boy!
-No! No! I don't believe in it.
I think it's just a rip-off.
Well, over in our gripe corner, travel insurers proved a hot topic, too.
But the issue here was not whether or not to get it,
but how much it can cost.
My gripe is about the cost of travel insurance for people of my age group.
While I was in Spain last year, I met a lady in the hotel who's 86.
She had arranged her travel insurance out in Spain.
It cost her £30. Here, you're talking over £1,000.
When I went for a weekly insurance, the cheapest quote was £786.
These insurance companies do not cater for the older people.
And though it can be pricey,
the right travel cover can prove invaluable, as travel expert
Emma Coulthard is hearing from Chris and Marion from Mold.
Having holiday insurance on their recent cruise saved them
thousands of pounds.
Unfortunately, I started having pains in my stomach.
I went to see the ship's doctor and he took me to a hospital in Bahrain
with a member of the ship's crew.
Eventually they did say it was appendicitis and that it was
so large that they would have to remove it.
Though they remain unhappy with some aspects of how the matter was
handled by the cruise company, Chris and Marion were much relieved
that - thanks to their insurance - the medical expenses,
accommodation for Chris, and flights home were all covered.
-And how is your health?
-Oh, I'm fine now, thank you.
Thank goodness you had travel insurance!
Because this is the sort of situation where it really
kicks in for you when you're ill abroad.
Well, since filming, the couple has received another
£1,200 from their travel insurance company towards the cost of the
holiday they had to cut short.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain...
Why this woman is now battling not just an illness
but an entire industry, as well.
I thought I was being discriminated against,
I felt that they were discriminating personally against anyone
with a mental-health condition.
Our travel expert, Simon Calder, is full of the secrets to save
you money on your travels.
He's got plenty of tips on everything from how to avoid
the crowds to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, a city that now frequently heads the list of
top travel destinations.
St Petersburg, the most beautiful city in Russia.
And yes, I have checked!
It might be Russia's second-largest city,
but many would say it's by far the country's cultural capital.
Often known as the museum city, with over 100 museums,
many of which offer great entry deals.
Just make sure you book tickets via the museum's official
website in advance.
And you don't even have to venture inside to be
inspired by the city's splendour.
The buildings themselves are pretty spectacular, too.
But it's not just above ground that the city excels.
The main public transport system, the St Petersburg Metro,
is not only a superb piece of engineering,
but something of an art gallery in itself.
The St Petersburg Metro, the underground railway,
is really a series of subterranean palaces that together
comprises perhaps the city's greatest work of art.
The system can seem daunting, overwhelming at first,
but just seek the locals' advice and you'll be rattling around,
enjoying this amazing creation in no time.
But if you want to bring back a souvenir of your trip,
beware of the strict export laws.
Every time a plane leaves Russia for the West, I reckon there's
usually at least one hapless tourist onboard who's had
all their expensive purchases confiscated, leaving them
hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
So, to avoid that, don't buy anything that anyone tells
you has any historical or cultural significance.
If it's as valuable as you're told,
you'll need an export permit for it.
And if you really can't resist that purchase, then make sure you
keep receipts to show customs officers, should they ask for it.
Without one, it will most likely be taken off you.
Now, earlier in the programme we heard how Pauline White
and her husband Reg were unable to claim on their travel insurance
for a cancelled holiday after Reg suffered a nervous breakdown.
All because, at the time, his policy
simply excluded all mental-health conditions altogether.
Well, since then,
as was the case for the woman we're about to meet, you
might find companies still refuse to give you cover or, if they do,
they may charge you an awful lot more than they would someone else.
Buying travel insurance for your holiday seems these days to
be easier than ever.
Cheap-as-chips annual policies mean you can get basic
cover for unlimited yearly trips to Europe for as little as £9.
But those costs can soar as soon as you declare any
sort of pre-existing condition.
And if it's one that fits under the very broad
definition of mental health, things can be even trickier...
..as Liz Watson from south London recently discovered.
I always knew that I suffered with some kind of mental-health problem.
From, like, a young age,
I always found it quite hard to fit in with people.
I was always very anxious.
Eventually, around five years ago, Liz was diagnosed as bipolar.
And since that diagnosis, along with a combination of medicine
and therapy, not much gets in the way of her living as normal
a day-to-day life as possible.
Or so she thought,
until she tried to book travel insurance ahead of a trip to Spain.
I was really, really looking forward to going on a holiday this year.
It has been a tough year, so it was really important to get away
and have some time to myself.
Liz turned to a company she used before to get travel insurance - BUPA.
She outlined various pre-existing medical conditions, mostly to
do with her digestion, and the company was happy to give her a quote.
But when she went on say that she had recently been diagnosed as
bipolar and suffered from anxiety and depression, all that changed.
I went through all of the issues that I'm having currently,
medically, and they told me
that I was completely covered for all pre-existing conditions.
I did mention to the lady I am bipolar and she asked me
a series of questions, one being, am I on medication for the condition?
Which I said, "Yes."
And she came back onto the phone and said, "Unfortunately, we are
"now unable to cover you for any pre-existing medical conditions."
It seemed to Liz that
while a pre-existing physical condition was something her
insurer had been perfectly happy to cover, a mental-health problem
put her into a higher category of risk it wasn't prepared to take on.
And she didn't think that was right.
I thought I was being discriminated against
and I felt that they were discriminating
personally against anyone with a mental-health condition.
And she told me that she'd logged the complaint
and that I had to wait two to three days to hear a response.
So I came off the phone really angry, annoyed, upset,
and they did actually come back to me
and say, they were sorry that I felt discriminated against.
With the holiday looming, Liz began to search for an alternative
policy that would cover her pre-existing medical conditions.
And after her search online found comments from others who'd
also struggled to find a policy,
she headed to a website specialising in bipolar, that listed a handful
of companies which were prepared to insure people with the condition.
But those policies didn't come cheap.
So I did some shopping around and, to be honest, I thought
it was really unfair, some of the prices that came back -
as high as £128 for a seven-day break. It's just ridiculous.
Some other ones I was quoted was like 100, 97, 85,
and I finally got one for £64.
Whilst Liz was relieved to have found a policy that would
insure her, it was a lot more than BUPA's original quote of just £21.
So just the mention of the word "bipolar" and her other mental
health conditions appeared to have sent the quotes she'd received off the scale.
Even the one she went for was a threefold
increase from the amount she'd paid before.
And though adding any pre-existing condition to an insurance
policy can add to your premiums, Liz believes that people living
with mental health conditions are being unfairly penalised and asked
to pay higher amounts than those with physical health conditions.
To get a sense of whether she's right,
our researchers called ten of the leading travel insurers to ask
them if they would provide cover for someone with a bipolar diagnosis.
Only four of the ten we spoke to - the AA, Cedar Tree,
Saga and Just Travel Cover - said they definitely would provide cover.
Five of the companies couldn't give an answer over the phone,
as they required further medical information.
Just one - Aviva -
told our researcher that it definitely wouldn't provide cover.
And when we later checked that with the company,
it confirmed that its standard policy doesn't currently
provide cover for any pre-existing mental-health conditions,
though it would cover ones that develop after a trip is booked.
However, it said that by the end of March 2018, subject to screening,
more pre-existing mental-health conditions will be covered, too.
And though there's no law stopping insurance companies from
excluding people with mental-health conditions, campaigners
would like to see the ones that DO take a different approach.
Liz has come to meet Mark Rowland from the
Mental Health Foundation to find out more.
Do you think these kind of exclusions towards people
with mental health, to do with travel insurance, are justifiable?
Well, under the current legislation,
it's illegal to discriminate against anybody on account of disability,
and mental health is constituted as a disability,
but the insurance companies are allowed to decline people insurance
cover if they can prove that there is evidence of a reasonable risk.
And that's where we're saying the insurance company needs
to understand what the real risk is, what's the proportionate response?
But the way that individuals like you are being treated is
clearly wrong and unfair and it needs to change.
Am I the only person to have experienced something like
this from such a big company, or have you found other cases the same?
You're certainly not the only person that's experienced that.
Right across the board, many insurance
companies are entirely excluding mental-health conditions from
individuals and consumers, so that they're not able to get them at all.
You know, when you consider that two out of three people living today
will experience a mental-health issue in their lifetime,
it doesn't make any business sense to be excluding that potential customer base.
So, unfortunately, your experience is all too common.
Another organisation showing the same concerns is the
Money And Mental Health Policy Institute,
which recently released figures suggesting 21% of people
who've experienced mental-health problems had ended up
travelling without insurance because it would've cost them too much.
And a further 15% found the costs so high
they chose not to travel at all.
But the industry itself is confident that the vast
majority of people with mental-health conditions will have
no problem getting travel insurance.
While stressing that point,
the Association Of British Insurers went on to tell us that, as can be
the case with physical conditions, too, there are some
mental-health issues that may be treated as a risk factor
by travel insurers.
That's because treatment overseas might involve significant costs.
It added that if you're having difficulty obtaining insurance,
then using a broker service or a specialist provider can help
get cover to meet your needs.
Meanwhile, when we contacted BUPA,
the company that wouldn't cover Liz when she said she was bipolar,
it told us that while it's sorry for the distress she's been caused, it
does cover mental-health conditions such as bipolar where possible.
It said, with its premier and gold travel insurance policies,
checks are made to see if customers can be covered for any
existing physical and mental health conditions while they're abroad.
But Liz is determined to ensure that
anyone who's had a mental-health condition
can still get travel insurance at a reasonable price.
And after setting up a petition calling on the industry to
make that happen, she says she's been contacted by thousands
of people who've had similar experiences to her own.
I think there needs to be a complete change across the whole
insurance industry as a whole.
I think it needs to be reformed.
I think they need to stop discriminating against people
with mental-health conditions
and I think, you know, if enough people get behind the campaign,
we could really make a difference in this country.
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Well, I'm very sorry to say that already we've reached
the end of the programme, but we're especially grateful to the
people who've shared their stories with us today.
Now, clearly, they've been through some incredibly tough times,
but you know their experiences are a very important reminder to
all of us to make sure that the travel insurance you've got
is actually going to help you out when you need it most.
Absolutely, because I think it's really impossible not to feel
real sympathy for people like Pauline and Reg, who discovered way
too late that mental-health conditions can be treated
very differently by the insurance industry than physical ones.
But let's hope that we see less and less
cases of that in the future, as the industry just moves on.
It's always particularly difficult to see people left out of pocket
because of something that they can't do anything about.
But no doubt cases like the ones we've heard today will spur
the rest of us into checking the small print
and exclusions on our own policies.
And, on that cautionary note, thank you very much for joining us.
-We'll see you again soon. Until then, goodbye.
Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon, and Gloria Hunniford look at how to ensure you are protected if something goes wrong while on holiday. A surprising exclusion from many travel insurance policies is revealed, and there is an alarming story that will instantly have you checking the terms of your own cover too. And are those with mental health conditions discriminated against when taking out insurance?
Simon Calder has tips for visiting St Petersburg.