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Admiral Insurance says: 'You're too old to claim'

Insurer Admiral was happy to take Gordon Bernard's money when it automatically renewed his £73 annual travel insurance policy in January. But a few weeks later, when the Kent pensioner looked into making a claim after a Caribbean holiday, Admiral said no – because he was too old.
Despite deducting the money from his account for another year, Admiral said he was now older than its 64 maximum age limit. He says the company has since blamed him for the lack of cover, and failed to return his premium.
At the start of this year, Bernard, who lives with his wife Elizabeth near Maidstone, Kent, received an email about his policy. He was unaware he had even signed up for automatic renewal, but being an astute Guardian Money reader, he decided to quickly check the policy still offered good value. As it did, he was happy to carry on with it.
Fast forward to March, when the pair headed off on holiday to the Turks and Caicos islands, near the Bahamas. While there, Gordon stumbled on a pavement, leaving him with a swollen and sore knee. Fearing it might need further treatment, he dug out his policy. He was told by Admiral it would be fine to seek a medical consultation, as the policy would cover this diagnosis.
In the end a claim was not required, but when he returned home he emailed Admiral, and was astonished to be told he was not covered as he was 65.
"It's an astounding way for a company to behave – one that could have had very serious consequences had we had a significant accident. It seems to me it's mis-selling – not least as Admiral had my date of birth a year ago. I have sent two letters of complaint to Admiral but it hasn't even replied, let alone repaid the premium," he says.
Admiral said travel insurance is underwritten and administered by Rock Insurance. It has agreed that Bernard was mis-sold his policy. "We are very sorry, it is something both Rock and we take seriously and it will be investigated further to prevent it from happening again. Rock has contacted him to acknowledge his complaint and sent a cheque to refund his premium along with 8% interest."
Obtaining affordable insurance when you are an older traveller can be a real headache. Many insurers only offer cover up to a certain age – often 65 – particularly with annual multi-trip policies. And even if you can get cover, it can be alarmingly expensive once you hit 75 or 80.
Insurers say the bottom line is that older people are more likely to fall ill, and their medical bills will typically be a lot higher. The Association of British Insurers has published research showing over-65s are three times more likely to make a claim than those aged 35.
Guardian Money this week found quite a number of companies prepared to insure our fictional 70- and 80-year-olds. There are some surprisingly high maximum age limits – 115 (that's not a misprint) for single-trip cover from Alpha Travel Insurance when bought via a price comparison website – while providers who state they have no upper age limit include Age UKSaga and Insureand Go. Which? says the price hikes and variation in rates make it vital to shop around, and this is one of the areas where perhaps a comparison website is the way to go, supplemented by calling some smaller specialist insurers.
First, check your bank account. Some older people may find they are covered by a packaged current account that includes insurance. For example, Nationwide's £10-a-month FlexPlus includes worldwide insurance where those who are 75-plus are covered but have to pay an extra £50 annual premium. Similarly, NatWest has a £50 annual premium for those aged 70-plus holding its £10-a-month Select Silver and £16-a-month Select Platinum accounts, which come with European and worldwide cover. Lloyds Bank's £17-a-month Platinum account comes with worldwide insurance up to age 80, as do the Premier and Gold accounts – although they are closed to new customers.
We looked on to see how much annual and single-trip cover would cost in different scenarios.
• A 70-year-old looking for single-trip for a fortnight in Spain They could choose from 40 results, with TopDog Insurance and Alpha coming out cheapest at £13.52 (but with a hefty £300 excess) and £14.65 (£150 excess) respectively. If they wanted an annual European policy, there were 31 results, with TopDog, its sister company, Flexicover, and Alpha quoting £43.06, £48.84 and £49.19 respectively.
• What if we up the age to 80? Only three companies were prepared to quote on a single-trip basis, starting at £31.43 from Alpha (£150 excess), and no annual policies. The other two firms were Explorer Travel Insurance and Planet Earth Travel Insurance Services.
• A 70-year-old travelling to the US There were 35 single-trip results, with Alpha coming out cheapest at £32.91 (£150 excess) and £34.85 (£100 excess). Cheapest annual worldwide policies, that include the US, were TopDog (£63.84 with a £300 excess), Alpha (£71.72 with a £150 excess) and Flexicover (£73.50 with a £100 excess).
• What about at age 80? Again, there were no annual policies and only those same three companies were prepared to quote on a single-trip basis, with Alpha the cheapest at £66.56 (£150 excess). Be careful when it comes to the very cheapest policies – many will have a limit on baggage claims of perhaps £500 or £750. And, as you can see, you need to look closely at the quoted excesses. Generally, the higher the excess, the lower the premium. Also, it's crucial that travellers declare any information, such as a pre-existing illness, that an insurer might use to calculate your premium. Companies that are said to score well on offering cover for pre-existing conditions include EHICPlus. Remember, there are companies that are not on comparison sites. Which? says those offering decent rates for over-80s include HolidaysafeBengo, Explorer, Let's Go Insure and Policy Direct for single-trip policies, and InsureandGo, Travel Insurance Medical, Saga, Flexicover and Age UK for annual policies.
CA. Sanjeev Soni
CA. Sanjeev Soni

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