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Action 9 Investigates: Will travel insurance cover pandemics differently from now on?

WSOC Charlotte logo WSOC Charlotte 5/4/2021 Jason Stoogenke

Debbie Boyle said she and her husband planned a “bucket list trip” to New Zealand and Australia. She told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke they were supposed to go for a month in 2020.

Then, the pandemic hit.

Boyle said a lot of the hotels, airlines and other vendors refunded them -- but not all. She said they were still out about $4,000.

But they had travel insurance, so they were feeling pretty good.

“Oh yeah, no concerns,” Boyle said. “Something happens, God forbid, we’re covered. We get all of our money back.”

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But Boyle said the insurance company denied their claim -- not once, but twice.

“Of course, there’s no verbiage in there for pandemic. Nor did we think to look for that, right? I think that caught the whole world off guard,” she told Action 9.

Boyle said she kept fighting and finally got reimbursed, but that she’ll think about travel insurance differently from now on.

“Trip insurance sounds like a good thing,” she said. “Now, I’m going to think twice about the fine detail and really question them about pandemic-type situations. If we buy travel insurance again, I’m going to go through that thing with a fine-tooth comb.”

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Stoogenke wanted to know if travel insurance will cover pandemics differently moving forward. There are two kinds of travel insurance policies: “Standard” and “Cancel For Any Reason” (which, despite the name, doesn’t cover every reason).

Before COVID-19, typically, neither covered pandemics. Currently, most “Standard” policies still don’t, but many “Cancel For Any Reason” policies do. But there’s a lot of gray area.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

So, what do “Cancel For Any Reason” plans typically cover?

“Trip cancellation, trip interruption, travel delay, emergency medical care, and even emergency evacuation,” Mark Friedlander, with the Insurance Information Institute, said.

What if your trip gets extended because you have to quarantine and can’t return home yet?

“Potentially, once again, it depends on how the policy is written,” Friedlander said. “Some have worked that in.”

What if the government issues Stay at Home orders or shuts down airlines?

“In most cases, that is not covered,” Friedlander said.

What if you get cold feet?

“That’s one exclusion that remains today. You cannot cancel a policy for being fearful of travel,” Friedlander said.

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Jeremy Murchland is president of the insurance company, Seven Corners. It actually covered pandemics before COVID and still does.

“We have our trip protection plan, our travel protection plans,” he said. “We don’t exclude pandemics so, again, if a pandemic comes up and your trip’s interrupted or you get sick, it’s just covered like any other illness.”

Most standard policies still don’t cover COVID specifically, but now many “Cancel For Any Reason” policies do.

ADVICE:

If you want pandemic coverage, look at “Cancel For Any Reason” policies. But, even then, they have exceptions, so read the fine print. And make sure they clearly cover pandemics and epidemics.

“Cancel for Any Reason” policies are typically 40%-60% more expensive than a “Standard” policy. Plus, you usually won’t get back 100% of what you spend. It’s usually closer to 75%, but there are exceptions, so shop around.

Two questions to ask:

  • What are the requirements to cancel?
  • How many days ahead do I have to cancel?
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