Elderly ‘unable to get travel insurance’

Mícheál Lehane,

Organisations representing older people claim senior citizens cannot holiday abroad because they are denied cover or are forced to accept sky-high travel insurance costs. The Federation of Active Retirement Associations say the majority of people aged 74 or more are forced to accept insurance cover provided by tour operators, which prevents them from shopping around to find the best value insurance quote.

And customers in the 74-plus age group claim they are frequently unable to purchase annual insurance cover, that costs younger people in the region of 120.

The federation has lodged a complaint with the Equality Authority on the issue and is to decide whether it will take a case against insurance companies. “This puts elderly people in a very difficult position because they can only buy very expensive cover off package holiday (operators).

“They have no choice. If they travel more than once a year the costs are huge,” federation secretary Bill Murphy said. The Equality Authority said it would examine the claims because companies are not allowed to refuse or increase travel insurance on age grounds.

“Our report on older people showed that travel and car insurance are big issues among the elderly. Anyone found to be loading costs on the grounds of age will be examined by the Director of Equality Investigations,” spokesperson Patrick O’Leary said.

Mr Murphy pointed out that older people were usually safer travellers and there was no reason why their insurance should be more expensive. “Realistically, you can’t really go on holiday if you have no guarantee that yourself and your luggage is insured,” he added.

However, the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) insisted that high medical insurance cover for older people was responsible for the increased costs. “Older people get higher medical expenses cover. We can’t comment on claims that some elderly people can’t get cover because that is an individual company issue,” IIF public relations manager Martin Long said.

The Irish Travel Agents Association, which represents 370 retail travel agents and 20 tour operators nationwide, said every effort should be made to provide insurance for older people.

“Some older people are in the prime of their health and it would be nice if a solution could be found,” a spokesman said.

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