Watch out for clause on pre-existing conditions

I empathise with the family of the late Mr Jimi Cheong on what they had to go through to raise funds to bring him home (Singaporean in coma dies after being medically evacuated from Tokyo; ST Online, May 2).

At the same time, I am appalled at the way their travel insurer was quick to disengage itself from the situation by saying that they were "unlikely to have a successful claim as his collapse was attributable to a pre-existing heart condition".

This unfortunate incident has surfaced a clause that many travellers may not be aware of, that is, exclusion due to a pre-existing condition.

A check with commonly purchased travel insurance policies indicates that most contain this clause, without any clear definition of what a pre-existing condition is.

With many Singaporeans travelling abroad each year, travel insurance is essential. Yet, many may also have conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Therefore, this clause is a ticking time bomb. It does not protect the traveller; instead, it benefits the insurance company.

Does it mean a person has to go for a health check to be certified fit before he can travel? Does it mean that he has to travel at his own risk should he have a pre-existing condition?

Although such clauses are placed to minimise risk exposure to the insurer, more empathy and flexibility, especially in exceptional cases such as Mr Cheong's, should be exercised.

Everyone wants to have an enjoyable holiday but accidents do happen. This is precisely why we buy travel insurance.

Bernard Ng Hak Jeng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Watch out for clause on pre-existing conditions'. Print Edition | Subscribe