Insurance & IBD

If you have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis (the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease - IBD) you may have difficulty finding insurance cover. Having a chronic (ongoing) condition such as Crohn's or Colitis can mean that the insurance you are offered is more expensive.

This information looks at the different types of insurance, and how to go about finding the best option for you. 

It is best to tell the insurer about your Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis when arranging your policy. If you don’t mention it, you might find that your insurance is invalid, or that you have problems if you need to make a claim. Not all insurance companies are well-informed about Crohn's or Colitis, so they may not ask specifically about your condition when you first contact them.

Insurance cover and benefits vary among insurance companies. You should be mindful of this and always ‘read the small print’ to be sure the policy covers your Crohn's or Colitis and any other needs or requirements you have.

Most insurance companies will ask general questions about your health. They may then ask you more specific questions about your Crohn's or Colitis, such as whether you have been admitted into hospital recently, whether you have had surgery and whether you are on any medication. They may call this their ‘medical screening process’. Some companies may ask you to get a medical report or certificate from your GP. Your GP may charge a fee for this service.

Depending on the type of insurance, it may be more difficult or expensive to get cover if you have had surgery or been admitted into hospital within the last few years. This may also be the case if you are waiting for the results of tests or investigations. The insurance company may agree to cover you but exclude any problems related to your Crohn's or Colitis. However, if your Crohn's or Colitis is under control, particularly if it has been for some time, you may find it relatively easy to take out an insurance policy.

The travel insurance company I use have been brilliant and seem to understand Crohn’s Disease. They don’t raise the price the moment you say you have a long-term condition, and I didn’t find them too expensive.  

Chris, age 26
Diagnosed with Crohn's in 2013

Travel insurance is recommended because medical treatment abroad can be expensive, as can the cost of emergency travel back to the UK. A recent ‘Travel with IBD’ survey carried out by Crohn’s & Colitis UK found that 3 in every 4 people with Crohn's or Colitis had to pay an additional premium on their travel insurance. Additional medical conditions, your age, your destination and the duration of your trip may also have an impact on the cost of your insurance. The same survey reported that 28% of people had deferred, cancelled or changed a trip abroad because of an IBD-related issue.

UK travellers to Europe can apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that may cover some costs of treatment. As this may not cover all the costs you might incur, including return to the UK, the NHS recommends that travellers have full travel insurance as well.

When the UK leaves the European Union, it could mean that UK residents will no longer have access to the EHIC scheme. The British government is looking at options that would allow Britain to remain part of the EHIC scheme after leaving the EU. You can check before you travel here

Some countries outside Europe, such as Australia, have reciprocal health agreements with the UK. The agreements often cover the cost of urgent or immediate medical treatment. However, the range of treatments may be more restricted than in the NHS, and the agreement will not cover the cost of helping you return to the UK.

Healthcare in countries without an agreement with the UK can be extremely costly. An example is the USA. Many people feel that this makes travel insurance essential. You may wish to use comparison websites in order to get a number
of quotes. Make sure that you declare your condition fully, and if you have any questions, call the insurance company directly, as they may offer different levels of cover.

Many insurance companies will expect you to confirm with your doctor that you are fit to travel. If your doctor advises against travelling, this will probably invalidate your insurance, so you may wish to speak to your doctor before you book your
trip. If you are taking medication, you may also wish to check with the insurance provider whether they cover the cost of replacing prescribed medication, if, for example, your luggage is lost.

For holidays in the UK, you still may wish to arrange travel insurance. Although medical treatment should not be a problem for a UK resident holidaying in this country, cancelling accommodation and transport at short notice could mean a financial loss. Insurance cover for UK travel may cover such a circumstance.

If you are going on holiday with a group of people, you may want to consider using the same insurance company. If there is a problem, it may be easier to change arrangements if one company is involved. Your travelling companions should check that they will be covered if you have an IBD-related problem and they have to cancel or change something as a result.

Free insurance provided by a tour operator, your credit card or your bank is unlikely to cover any expenses related to ongoing conditions such as Crohn's or Colitis. This will be explained in the terms and conditions of the policy. However, the insurance company will sometimes extend the cover to include ongoing conditions for a modest additional cost, so it is worth exploring this possibility.

Take a copy of your insurance documents with you when you travel, along with a contact number, should you need to make a claim. Keep any receipts that relate to the claim, such as taking a taxi to the hospital.

For more information on travelling with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, you may find it helpful to read our information sheet Travel and IBD. IBD Passport also contains useful information for those travelling with IBD:

I have had to disclose my colitis to travel insurance companies. I do worry about travel insurance becoming harder and more expensive to get if I become poorly. But, at the moment, I am in relatively good health, and I haven’t experienced any issues taking out a travel insurance policy. 

Andy, age 37
Diagnosed with Colitis in 2007

This type of insurance may only cover acute problems. Some companies offering private medical insurance will automatically exclude claims relating to a pre- existing condition, or have exclusions or limits on some conditions. This usually includes Crohn's or Colitis and also certain related conditions such as arthritis. However, some companies offer greater coverage, and some will look at each case on an individual basis. Crohn's & Colitis UK is unable to recommend or endorse individual insurance providers. You may need to contact a few insurance providers to find something suitable.

If your employer offers private medical insurance as part of a benefits package, you should check whether your Crohn's or Colitis is covered, as policies differ.

Critical illness insurance pays a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a critical illness listed in your policy. It is unlikely you will be covered for pre-existing medical conditions.

There are two main types of life cover: term insurance that pays out if you die during the term of the policy, and whole-of-life insurance that pays out on your death. What is covered can vary widely, so you may find it helpful to discuss your requirements with an insurance broker or financial adviser to be sure you get the right type of policy for your needs. Inheritance tax and other investment implications of life insurance can vary among the types of coverage. Life insurance companies may require applicants to have a medical examination, and tend to look at applications on an individual basis, so you may find the price of your policy is related to the severity of your disease.

Although it is possible to arrange income protection to cover unemployment due to redundancy, liquidation or bankruptcy, any sickness or disability cover usually excludes pre-existing conditions.

Crohn's & Colitis UK is unable to recommend or endorse individual insurance providers.

Independent websites, such as MoneyHelper offer useful information about different types of insurance.

While you can find valuable information on the internet, you may want to phone individual companies to arrange your insurance cover. It is a good idea to get several quotes, because the price of a policy and what is covered can vary significantly.

You might want to speak to an insurance broker, or to an independent financial adviser, particularly if you are considering insurance as part of any investment, inheritance or tax plans.

The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) can help you find an insurance broker to explore your options.

We offer more than 50 publications on many aspects of Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and other forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. You may be interested in our comprehensive booklets on each disease, as well as the following publications:

Living With Crohn's or Colitis
Taking Medicines
Managing Bowel Incontinence
Living With a Stoma

Health professionals can order some publications in bulk by using our online ordering system. If you would like a printed copy of a booklet or information sheet, please contact our helpline.

Our helpline is a confidential service providing information and support to anyone affected by Crohn's or Colitis. Our team can:
• help you understand more about Crohn's or Colitis, diagnosis and treatment options
• provide information to help you to live well with your condition
• help you understand and access disability benefits
• be there to listen if you need someone to talk to
• help you to find support from others living with the condition

Call us on 0300 222 5700 
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Crohn’s & Colitis UK Forum
This closed-group community on Facebook is for everyone affected by Crohn's or Colitis. You can share your experiences and receive support from others.

Crohn’s & Colitis UK Patient Panels
IBD Patient Panels, which are supported by Crohn’s & Colitis UK, are groups of people with Crohn's or Colitis who use their perspective as a patient to work with their IBD healthcare team to help improve their hospital services. For more information on patient panels, please read our information leaflet or contact our Patient Engagement Team.

Crohn’s & Colitis UK Local Networks
Our Local Networks of volunteers across the UK organise events and provide opportunities to get to know other people in an informal setting, as well as to get involved with educational, awareness-raising and fundraising activities. You may find just being with other people and realising that you are not alone can be reassuring. Families and relatives may also find it useful to meet other people with Crohn's or Colitis. All events are open to members of Crohn’s & Colitis UK

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Last reviewed: December 2017