The Covid-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly and insurance companies are adjusting their views on how present and future coverage will be affected.
We are keeping up to date with the latest news of mayor insurers in Canada to provide you with expert advice based on how the travel insurance industry is moving so you can make the best decisions in these changing times.
In this section you will find information regarding the two most important types of coverage and how they have been affected by Covid-19:
- Emergency medical
- Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption
The following information is what we have found to be a common ground to the Canadian travel insurance industry, but there are important differences to be considered between insurance providers.
Travel insurance is very specif to the insurer, the type of product you have, the covered trip and the insured itself. Information circulating among people, i.e. friends, family, etc., might be true for them, but not for you. Please contact your insurance company or a travel insurance expert to get specific and tailored advice on your coverage.
May 1, 2020
After a high volume of flights where canceled due to Covid-19, many airlines and tour operators started offering travel credits or vouchers to be used on future trips instead of reimbursing clients for the airfare or trip bookings. Insurance companies consider these credits and vouchers as refunds which immediately makes a claim for trip cancellation or interruption to be denied.
Travel credits and vouchers have therefore been at the center of a major discussion, but authorities have finally indicated the cases in which airlines are obligated to reimburse clients the money paid for their plane tickets.
Example 1: A Canadian traveler purchased a ticket with Air France to travel to Paris, if the flight is cancelled the airline must refund the client. If the client had a Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption policy he or she cannot claim on the insurance because the travel expenses (ticket) have been refunded. In this case, the client could eventual apply for a premium refund and to do so he or she must contact the broker or selling agent.
Example 2: A Canadian client purchased a ticket with Air Canada or other airline to fly to Paris, if the flight is cancelled the airline is not obligated to refund the cost of the ticket and instead can simply offer a travel credit or voucher for a future trip. If the client would rather have the money back, he or she must make a request to the airline. If the refund request is denied and the client has a Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption insurance to cover for the plane ticket, he or she can then make a claim on the policy.
! When opening a trip cancellation claim, you must present proof that your refund was denied by the airline or travel agency (tour operator). You must also get proof that you rejected the voucher or credit if they were offered.
April 17, 2020
Emergency Medical travel insurance
Coverage.- After an “avoid non-essential travel outside-of-country” travel advisory was issued by the Canadian government on March 13th, 2020 most insurance companies stopped all coverage for medical expenses related to Covid-19 for trips made after that date.
This means that if you have a multi-trip annual plan and decide to travel after March 13, you will not be covered if your claim is for medical expenses related directly or indirectly to Covid-19 while you are away. The same applies to single trip policies with effective date on or after March 13.
This decision stems from an exclusion —found in almost all private Emergency medical travel insurance— for coverage of a sickness or injury related to an either “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” (also called a level 3 or level 4) advisory issued by the government.
Since the above-mentioned advisory applies to all out-of country destinations in relation to Covid-19, this gives the insures basis to deny all Covid-19 related medical claims for trips taken after March 13.
Extensions.- If you purchased an extension before March 13, and you are on a trip, your insurance company will most likely honor the insurance agreement and offer coverage of Covid-19 related medical claims.
However, since the official recommendation is to come back to Canada as soon as possible, several insurer’s have suspended new policy sales after March 13.
In case the extension (on an annual multi-trip plan) or your single trip policy expires, you might find yourself with no coverage at all including for medical emergencies other than those related to Covid-19.
Some insurance companies are offering a limited extension (10-day max.) for those clients whose policy is close to expiry and haven’t found the means to get back home. In any case, most insurer’s are expecting travelers to make all necessary efforts to come back to Canada.
It is in your best interest to plan for an early return instead of waiting until the last days of your coverage to come back home. Booking a flight can take several days and hotels all over the world are not accepting any more guests. Even if you are in a private condo or with family, medical care facilities are rapidly becoming saturated with local cases; access to emergency attention should you need it for any kind of health related issues might be difficult to get, specially as a non-national.
Refunds.- Refunds for unused days on your coverage are available with most companies if no claim has been or will be submitted to the policy and if you produce proof of the date of your return to Canada. Refunds are handled by the selling agent or broker so contact yours. If you purchased directly with the insurance company (through Customer Service or on-line) you will have to contact the insurer directly.
If you’re flying back, your boarding pass or passport stamp showing the date you entered Canada is acceptable proof. If you drove and have no stamp on your passport, proof of a purchase made in Canada with the same credit card used to pay for the insurance will usually suffice.
This might be a tricky one because travelers are being asked to stay at home for 14-days to avoid spreading the virus as potential carriers, so don’t rush to the grocery store or pharmacy; instead, have a friend or relative that has not left the country do the purchase for you (with your credit card) or place an on-line order to be delivered at your address, pay with your credit card. Take all precautions of social distancing and hygiene when the goods are delivered to your home.
Claims.- Customer Service lines are currently receiving higher than usual call volumes so don’t be surprised if you have to wait even a couple of hours to speak to a Claims agent. Unfortunately, brokers cannot assist you in this case.
If you purchased through a broker, he or she had to provide a wallet card showing the emergency numbers to dial in the event of a claim or emergency. You must speak to a Claims representative from the insurance company.
Visit your insurance company website to check if you can submit your claim via email or a special virtual client account. If not, just be patient and call until you get an agent on the line.
Be sure to have all original receipts for medical expenses incurred while on your trip and to fill in all the Claims forms required, do not forget to sign the forms! Incomplete files will be returned and you will only delay your reimbursement. Consult your policy wording or your insurer’s website to get more information on how to submit a claim.
Read more about Emergency medical insurance.
Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance
Coverage.- The logic driving Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption coverage is that the reason to cancel or interrupt your trip must be unknown to you at the time you purchase the insurance or book your trip; in other words, it has to be due to a sudden and unforeseen event.
After the travel advisory of March 13 was issued, all insurers considered Covid-19 to be a known event, so if your trip was booked or coverage purchased after that date, you are not covered if the reason to cancel or interrupt your trip is related directly or indirectly to Covid-19.
This will remain the case as long as the “avoid all non-essential travel” advisory stays in place for all out-of-country travel or for specific destinations, e.g. Spain, Italy, France, etc.
Exclusions.- If the reason to cancel or interrupt your trip is a sickness or death (other than accidental) that was not stable 60-days before you purchased your policy (single trip plans) or booked your trip (multi-trip annual), this will constitute and exclusion and your claim will be declined.
Installments for trips booked before March 13 will be excluded for Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Covid-19 coverage if they are paid after this date.
Until we know the aftermath of this whole situation, we suggest you do not put your money at risk by booking or making additional payments for future trips.
Refunds.- The coverage for Trip Cancellation starts when you purchase the insurance, not when you leave on your trip. This means your policy is in effect from the moment of purchase and you could claim for a sudden and unexpected situation.
In travel insurance, when the insurer is at risk of paying a claim you are somehow already “using” the coverage, so usually you cannot cancel it and get a refund on premium. Most insurers will limit refunds to a few specific cases for which you will have to provide unquestionable proof.
Refunds are usually handled by the agent or broker you purchased the insurance from. Contact your selling agent; he or she will explain if you can apply for a refund, assist you with the request and detail the supporting documentation you need to provide.
As with Emergency medical, refunds for Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance are not available if a claim has been or will be submitted to the policy.
Claims.- They can only be handled by your insurer’s Claims department. You can contact them by calling at the numbers on you wallet card and in some cases by email or through a client’s virtual account; visit the website of your insurance company to see what options they offer to submit your claim.
Be sure to fill all the necessary forms and provide all requested documents. Incomplete files will be returned and the whole process will just be delayed. Don’t forget to sign the forms! Check the “How to claim” section on your policy wording or contact an authorized Claims agent to get more information.
Read more about Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance.