Lib Dem spokesman attacks travel insurers for not covering sick people

An MP has accused travel insurance companies of discriminating against people with severe illness, such as breast cancer, by refusing to insure them or hiking up premiums.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said insurers were often not willing to cover people with particular needs and were therefore being highly "discriminatory and anti-social".

He accused the companies of excluding people from many aspects of life, forcing them to stay at home or pay high charges.

He said: "I understand there must be higher costs for people who appear at risk but often premiums are extortionately high.

"It is not for the government to intervene but for the regulatory body. The FSA should step in and sort out the problem and make sure insurers take account of the financial risks and balance it with reasonable behaviour towards the consumers.

"My late wife died of cancer and I witnessed first hand the problem for many, many years."

The call follows an early day motion - a form of parliamentary petition - laid down condemning insurers for high premiums and urging them to reconsider, enabling patients to travel abroad.

The early day motion reads: "That this House calls on insurance companies to take action to reduce the travel insurance premiums charged to people who have suffered from serious diseases such as cancer; notes that premiums for people in such a position can be many times higher than otherwise quoted; and calls for action to be taken to lower premiums so that insurance costs do not prohibit former patients from travelling abroad."

Cable is one of 54 MPs who have signed the motion.

A Norwich Union spokesman said: "Insurance companies deal with risk, we don't discriminate. What we do is use our experience to assess the risk and balance the risk against the premiums.

"We're in a competitive market and if our premiums could be lower they would be."

Graeme Trudgill, technical services manager at Biba, said that brokers could be the solution as there are a number who will accommodate people with particular illnesses.

He said: "They have access to specialist knowledge and understand the difference, for example, between different types of cancer. They can make a more informed decision about rating the risk."