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Surgery Abroad: What Am I Covered For?

Medical cover for travellers

Dear Essential Travel
I had elective surgery in Britain a year ago and have recovered well. I'm considering another surgery, but my surgeon has moved to South Africa. I'm travelling there for my initial consultation and to hopefully go ahead with the operation. Whether I have the surgery or not, what type of medical travel insurance should I consider?
Susan Ainsley, Liverpool

Our Answer

Hi Susan

So glad your first surgery went well. We know medical insurance can be a tricky one to navigate and are happy to help. Unfortunately, if you do decide to go ahead with the surgery in South Africa, you won't be covered for the entire duration of your trip. You will, however, be covered if you just have the consultation.

Why am I not covered for surgery?

Your Medical Travel Insurance will only cover medical expenses that come about due to unforeseen events, accidents and serious injuries. Unfortunately this means that unless you fall ill or have a medical emergency, not in any way relating to your surgery, you will not be covered by the medical policy. You will also not be covered for any medical expenses that you may incur for your consultation or for the surgery (both pre- and post-op), if you choose to have it abroad.

Am I covered for the rest of my trip if I do have surgery?

medical insuranceTravel with medical cover.

If you do decide to have the surgery abroad, you will unfortunately not be covered medically at all or the duration of your trip. This is due to the fact that even post-op, things can go wrong. Your immune system is often supressed after surgery, making you more susceptible to illness, which makes figuring out why you may have fallen ill almost impossible to pin-point. Which, as I am sure you can understand, means that there is greater risk involved. Our policy wording explains this in greater detail.

So when am I medically covered?

If you just have the consultation, then depending on the medical cover that you take, you will be covered for any accidents, or serious illnesses that might befall you. If you opt to do something such as a safari, you will only be covered if you follow the guide's instructions and do not actively expose yourself to any danger. If you decide to take part in sports that are higher risk sports then it would be a good idea to make sure that you take out additional cover for them. Read more about sports travel insurance.

Should I still take out insurance?

medical insurancePlan for medical needs.

It is always a good idea to take out travel insurance, as we cover you for so much more than just medical emergencies. If you don't elect to have the surgery abroad, then you can rest assured that you're covered. And if you decide to go ahead with surgery here in the UK, you will have fewer things to worry about while you recover on your holiday abroad.


Last Updated: January 2013

Guest Travel Writer

Guest Travel Writer

Your Essential Travel Experts can't be everywhere all the time, so we often welcome guest travel writers. This article was written by one such visiting travel enthusiast whose experience of different places and advice for travellers makes for an interesting read. Enjoy!