As the Coronavirus steadily spreads through various regions on its way to, hopefully, running its course and receding from the headlines, travel insurance companies are reporting spikes in inquiries and demand. Insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip reported a 60% jump in policies sold the U.S. over the past month since the first travel-related case of novel coronavirus was detected in the U.S. Many of these policies include a “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) benefit.
“We understand travelers are concerned about this health emergency and want options in the event he or she decides to voluntarily cancel an upcoming trip,” says InsureMyTrip Product Manager Meghan Walch. “We expect this growing demand for travel insurance to continue to rise until the coronavirus outbreak stabilizes.”
While many policies may be generous in what they cover for traveler mishaps, the opportunity to cancel a trip for reasons other than those listed as “covered reasons” on a policy require a little extra distance. This should be an optional Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) benefit and the upgrade should allow for the option to cancel a trip due to fear of getting ill.
The CFAR benefit is an optional time-sensitive benefit available on some plans that allow a traveler to cancel a trip for any reason, up to 48 hours prior to the scheduled departure. Reimbursement is usually 50-75% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip cost. A traveler must meet specific eligibility requirements and must purchase a policy with CFAR selected within 14-21 days of making an initial trip payment or deposit.
When it comes to public health threats, this is an overview on how general travel insurance benefits apply:
Trip Cancellation: a traveler gets ill and must cancel a trip or a traveler must cancel a trip because a travel companion or family member gets ill.
Emergency Medical Coverage: a sick traveler must see a doctor and/or go to the hospital during a trip.
Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage: in rare cases, a sick traveler requires an emergency medical evacuation to the nearest appropriate hospital or back home for recuperation.
Trip Interruption: an extremely sick traveler cannot continue with a trip and must return home.
All claims must be supported by a doctor. These benefits do not extend to fears of exposure to the fast-moving virus. In the event a person is afraid to travel due to health risks, consider a travel insurance policy with the optional time-sensitive Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) included.
Meanwhile, Yonder Travel Insurance, a Minnesota-based travel insurance comparison site, has also seen a sharp spike in calls surrounding concern about how the virus will affect their upcoming travel plans. To that end, Terry Boynton, Yonder’s Co-Founder & President, offers answers to the top three questions asked about the flu strain and how travel insurance applies in situations like this.
If you already have a travel insurance policy, there is limited trip cancellation coverage if you choose to cancel your trip due to an outbreak, or fear of an outbreak, of the coronavirus at your destination. Pandemics and epidemics are generally excluded from trip cancellation coverage. The virus was considered a “foreseen” event as early as January 21and some major travel insurance providers have placed even more restrictions regarding coverage since that date.
The only type of coverage that is sure to provide some type of reimbursement to cancel would be a specific type of coverage called Cancel for Any Reason. This benefit allows you to cancel your trip for any reason at all and receive a 50-75% refund of your insured trip cost. To qualify for this benefit, the traveler must 1) purchase their policy within 14-21 days from the initial deposit or payment date, 2) insure all their non-refundable trip expenses, and 3) cancel at least 48 hours prior to their departure date.
What if I get the coronavirus before or during my trip?
Most travel insurance policies would still provide coverage to cancel your trip due to a new medical condition that causes you to cancel your trip. You may also be covered to cancel or interrupt your trip if you are quarantined or subject to a mandatory evacuation issued by the government. Medical expenses or emergency medical evacuations would likely be covered if you were to contract a virus during your trip.
How do I know if it’s safe to travel to my destination?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there shouldn’t be any travel or trade restrictions at this time due to the coronavirus outbreak. They highly encourage travelers to research airline restrictions to certain destinations and take preventative measures while traveling for respiratory infections as the coronavirus is not an airborne virus and only contracted via contaminated droplets.
If you have yet to purchase travel insurance and are concerned about an upcoming trip, make sure to check with an expert first to ensure you’re purchasing a policy that will provide the coverage you need.