Thousands of older Scots are at risk of potentially crippling medical bills because they are unaware of the age limits on travel insurance policies, a report out today warns.
More than six in ten over-50s in Scotland admit they don’t know if their insurance policy has an upper age limit, even though most insurers specify a point after which they won’t offer cover.
As debt problems hit more older households, a growing number of over-70s are travelling without insurance in order to avoid high premiums and lengthy medical checks, according to Age Scotland Enterprises.
It found that half of over-70s in Scotland have no idea if their insurers would withhold insurance after a certain age.
The charity called for insurers to make it easier for older people to secure affordable insurance that covers them to the age required. Age limits vary widely. While a minority of insurers have no age-based criteria, others won’t provide cover above a particular age, usually 70 or 75.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at MoneySupermarket.com, said: “Older travellers are treated very differently by travel insurers. Not only are they seen as higher risk and therefore charged higher premiums at different age milestones, but some insurers have upper age limits where they will not provide cover at all.”
The biggest danger is that people in or around age 70 simply renew their existing insurance policy without double-checking the age limit, said Atkinson.
“As they’ve aged, travellers may now fall foul of an upper age limit and find their cover is void because of this,” he added.
Logan Steele, general manager of Age Scotland Enterprises, said: “The fact that age limits exist affects the cost and suitability of a product and very few insurers tailor their policies to suit older people.
“This is particularly true for people over the age of 70, who are most likely to be approaching the point when their policy could be invalidated due to their age.”
Steele said “more and more older people are being discriminated against” in terms of the quality of insurance products and the wording used to market them. “It is no wonder many older Scots feel confused when it comes to making important financial decisions, and some choose to do without insurance altogether and just take the chance,” he said.
Age limits on insurance policies are among the issues causing stress and anxiety for older Scots wrestling with money matters, according to a Fear of Finance report being published by Age Enterprises Scotland.
It revealed that older people are increasingly travelling overseas without insurance to avoid lengthy and extensive medical checks – leaving them at risk of huge medical bills in the event of illness or an accident.
“If you choose a policy that turns out to have an upper age limit, when that limit is reached the policy will be invalidated and you will be forced to look elsewhere for insurance,” said Steele. “This can be particularly inconvenient for older people, and some will choose not to bother.”
Atkinson urged older people buying travel insurance to shop around for insurance when their existing policy expires to ensure they have cover that meets their needs and is valid for their age at the time of the trip: “Having adequate insurance cover is vital when travelling abroad to ensure any costly medical bills can be paid should you fall ill or need emergency treatment.”
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