Dear Santa please improve travel insurance

December 22nd, 2015

The holidays are nearly here and as my grandchildren make their lists for Santa, it got me thinking of a wish list of my own for travel insurance.   Here it is:

It’s no mystery that travel policies have limitations and exclusions.  A good policy is one that covers a lot of ground.  While there are several really good plans out there, it would be nice if insurance companies would changed a few things to make them even better, the following is a small list of things I’d love to see changed.

  • Not having to insure for the full non-refundable trip cost to qualify for the preexisting medical conditions waiver.  As you might know, there are usually a few qualifications that you must meet to get the preexisting waiver with those plans that offer it.  One requirement is to insure to value – insuring for the full pre-paid nonrefundable cost of your trip.  In the past, some plans that didn’t require it but that is no longer the case.
  • Anchor the preexisting medical conditions period to the date of last treatment/symptom, not the purchase date.  All plans have a preexisting medical conditions period that looks back into someone’s medical history prior to the date of purchase.  This look back period can range from 60 to 180 days and maybe waived if the plan has a “waiver” and if you qualify.  However, if for some reason the pre-existing conditions exclusion applies, then we’re in favor of anchoring the preexisting conditions period to the date of last treatment/symptoms and going forward with the specified time period rather than the current practice of using the departure date as the anchor and going backwards from that date.
  • Make baggage coverage primary.  Off the top of my head there is one company that has the option to make baggage coverage primary and there is one company whose standard practice is to provide primary coverage, however, that’s about it.  The rest are secondary.  With secondary, you’d first have to submit the claim to your home owner’s or renter’s insurance first which might cause those premiums to go up, but that’s another story.

Who knows maybe we’ll find those changes under the tree but I doubt it.

Five things every traveler should know about travel insurance!

November 30th, 2015

Travel insurance is more than a luxury; it’s a necessity if one’s trip is to be successful.  However, travel insurance is not a cookie-cutter arrangement where one size fits all.   Here are 5 things that you should know before buying coverage:

  1. Know what you need! Travel insurance is designed to replace financial losses.  What financial losses are you most concerned about?  Do you homework by doing an audit of your current coverages and focus on the large, possible losses – these are the losses that you can’t afford.
  2. Will your medical coverage protect you while you’re on your trip and out of network? Many group and private plans will modify coverage because you’re traveling out of network.  As a general rule Medicare does not provide coverage outside the USA.
  3. Will your homeowners coverage protect your personal processions while you’re traveling? Most homeowner plans will provide coverage off premise the same as on premise.  Check with your insurance company.
  4. Will your credit card provide travel coverage for your trip? Some credit cards provide travel coverage if you use your card to charge your trip.  Check with your credit card company for the limits and the fine print.
  5. Many travel insurance plans offer enhanced benefits if you buy early. The most important of these enhanced benefits is a “pre-existing conditions waiver”.   The “waiver” is not available on all plans and where it is available it is usually free but it does have fine print which can include having to buy the insurance within a specific time following your deposit or first trip payment, being physically able to travel on the day the coverage is purchased, and insuring for value.  Pre-existing medical conditions is the single largest cause of complaints involving travel insurance.  Getting the “wavier” goes a long way in being a satisfied customer.
  6. Trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, and missed connection coverages are “named peril”.  That means that only those perils or covered reasons named in the policy can trigger the benefits.   Don’t assume that any and all valid reasons for cancelling, interrupting, or delaying your trip will be covered.  Your concept of valid might be totally different than the insurance company’s.
  7. Cancel for any reason coverage is available but do you need it?  “Cancel for any reason coverage” is a safety net that can be added to some policies by increasing premium by up to 50% to cover travelers for cancellations that wouldn’t be otherwise covered by the basic trip cancellation coverage.  Most travelers don’t need “cancel for any reason” coverage however, if you need coverage for a specific reason that won’t be covered by basic trip cancellation than you need this coverage.  “Cancel for any reason coverage” is a time sensitive benefit that is only available if you purchase your coverage within the required time period. Plans also require that you insure to value.  Underinsuring will invalidate this coverage.   Plans will either include this coverage or it may be added as an option.
  8. Secondary versus Primary coverages.  The vast majority of travel or cruise insurance is “secondary” coverage.  A common misconception is that secondary travel insurance plans require that you already have primary medical coverage in place in order to purchase coverage.  In reality it just means that if you have other insurance that covers the same loss than that company becomes primary (first payers) and the travel insurance company becomes secondary.  If you don’t have other coverage than the travel insurance company becomes primary.

Bottom line is to become an informed consumer.  Know your needs before you buy and research coverage first.  Don’t buy before comparing plans.   Plans and prices vary.  A 60 year old traveling on a $3,000 cruise can find plans that vary in price from $100 to $350.   Without comparing you might end up with the $350 plan when the $100 will cover your concerns.

Travel Insurance Company Positions on Terrorism

November 20th, 2015

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris we received the following releases from some of our travel insurance partners:

Travelex Insurance Services

Paris Terrorist Attack
Coverage Statement
On Friday, November 13, 2015 the shootings and bombings which occurred in Paris, France have been declared an act of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

Travelex protection plans purchased prior to November 13, 2015 may be eligible for Terrorist Act coverage. Please refer to your applicable Description of Coverage for complete details regarding Terrorist Act benefits, as various Travelex plans may not offer Terrorism coverage.  Travelex protection plans are still available to cover trips to Paris, France, but policies purchased on or after November 13, 2015 are not eligible for terrorism coverage related to this event.

The safety and security of our insured clients is of the utmost importance to us.  Travelex’s Travel Assistance* provider is available to assist travelers who are currently experiencing a flight cancellation, trip interruption or delay; however we advise travelers to contact their travel advisor, airline or travel supplier first, to see how they can be re-accommodated.

CSA Travel Protection

Terror Attacks in Paris

November 16, 2015

According to CNN reports, three teams of terrorists staged coordinated attacks at six locations throughout Paris late Friday (November 13th, 2015), including a concert hall, the Stade de France and at least two restaurants.  At least 352 people were wounded in the attacks, 129 have lost their lives.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attacks.

CSA Travel Protection and Generali US Branch consider these attacks to be Terrorist Acts as defined by our policy language.  Certain CSA Travel Protection plans offer coverage for some effects of a Terrorist Act, provided the requirements of the plan are met.  Customers are strongly encouraged to read their Description of Coverage or Insurance Policy for details regarding their available coverage.  For plans purchased on or after 6:20PM EST/3:20PM PST on Friday, November 13th, 2015, please note that there is no coverage for this specific act; at that time, the attacks were no longer an “unforeseeable event” as required by the policy in order to provide coverage.  Please contact CSA Travel Protection with questions.

We will add to this whenever we receive an announcement from one of our partners.

Travel Worry Free with Travel Insurance?

October 6th, 2015

It would be wonderful if travel insurance actually allowed us to “travel worry free,” as the advertisements proclaim, but in truth, there’s no such thing as worry free traveling. And certainly travel insurance cannot cure all those happenstances that may occur as we move from one place to another.

The advertisements encouraging us to “travel worry free” are about as realistic as claiming one can ski the Alps without threat of breaking a limb on the way down. In today’s world, life generates its own hazards, and travel insurance cannot predict or eliminate the worries or risks that can come when traveling.

Travel insurance can, however, help replace financial losses that may occur while traveling; losses that can be grouped into three primary categories:

  1. Personal losses that result when confronted with the need for medical treatment, medical evacuation, or even death.
  2. Trip investment losses if/when a trip must be cancelled or interrupted due to a hazard/peril listed within an insurance policy. Insurance coverage can also include additional trip expenses incurred due to a covered hazard or peril; costs that include living expenses necessitated when one’s flight is delayed or cancelled.
  3. Property losses that result while baggage and personal effects are in transit with you.

To be sure, travel insurance policies do not cover all the potential hazards of travel. As with all insurance policies, fine print limits coverage. It’s therefore imperative that travelers read their policies carefully and ask questions surrounding various plans before buying one. The best place to find a plan is online, through a travel insurance website that offers comparisons compiled by insurance professionals who can explain policy provisions and help guide travelers to the right plan.

While travel insurance won’t do anything to stop you from traveling “worry free” from all that may occur, it can be beneficial in protecting you from major financial losses.

 

Travel to Greece – Are the warning signs out there?

June 24th, 2015

Travel to Greece – Are the warning signs out there?

In the past several  days there have been several tour operators that have offered deep discounts, up to 50%, for trips to Greece.  At the same time representatives of Greece have been meeting with financial representatives of the EU to try to avoid a massive financial default on Greece’s staggering debt load and to avoid Greece exiting the Euro zone – or as it’s being referred to as “Grexit”.

Can this effect travel to Greece?  Yes, it might be a crystal ball foretelling impending doom.  Historically, deeply discounted tours might be indicative of a destination or tour that’s in financial trouble and discounts are a drastic way of trying to increase cash flow.

What does this mean for those travelers planning a trip to Greece?  It means they should take steps to protect their trip investment.  Here are some ways they can minimize risk:

 

  1. deal with only reputable tour companies or airlines.  See if they are a member of the USTOA and qualify for their tour protection bond.
  2. use plastic to pay for all pre-paid travel arrangements – Federal Credit regulations allow for credit disputes if services are not provided even if due to bankruptcy of the travel provide.
  3. consider travel insurance which includes “default” protection for the bankruptcy of their tour operator or airline.  Many travel insurance plans automatically include default protection as part of the standard trip cancellation/interruption coverage however, some of the plans make it a time sensitive benefit that is only available if the traveler buys coverage within 2 to 3 weeks following their first trip payment..  Some plans also may include a waiting period after the purchase of a policy before “default” coverage becomes effective.

Consumer advocates strongly recommend buying travel insurance through a third party rather than from a tour operator, cruise line, or airline – the reason being that most of their plans exclude coverage for their own default or bankruptcy.  When buying travel insurance it is always best to buy from a third party offers multiple plans and the ability to compare coverages before buying.  It’s the only way a consumer can find the best plan for their trip.