Infectious Disease: A Good Reason to Buy Medical Travel Insurance – But Check the Terms

Faced with Covid-19 coronavirus, people – as they tend to during infectious outbreaks – have become concerned about whether and to what extent their insurance will cover costs associated with the event. In the case of travel insurance, there’s good, bad, and ambiguous news.

If you contract coronavirus before you travel or while you’re traveling and have a standard policy that includes coverage for medical treatment and medical evacuation, your care probably will be covered. The “probably” is due to the fact that many insurers set a deadline – a date before which you might be covered but after which you won’t be. That’s because Covid-19 is now a “foreseen circumstance” — people now know about it.

Trip cancellation can be more complicated. Many policies exclude losses caused by disease outbreaks. Cancelling a trip simply because you don’t want to risk infection likely won’t be covered by a standard policy.

What if you get sick and need to cancel your trip? You might be covered, depending on the insurer and a long list of conditions. For example, an illness that would be covered often requires a medical professional to confirm that the policyholder was, in fact, too sick to travel.

A cancel for any reason (CFAR) policy can help you recoup part of your expense, but they’re pricey: usually around 10 percent of the cost of your trip, compared with four to six percent for a standard policy.

Do these exclusions and uncertainties mean medical travel insurance is a waste of money?

Not at all.

As I’ve written before, there are many ways one can be injured, fall ill, or die abroad – and your regular medical coverage may not work the same way abroad as it does at home. Since we’re talking about infectious diseases, take a look at the recent snippet below from the CDC website for a glimpse at some areas of concern. The list is always changing.

With travel policies – as with all other forms of insurance – it’s important to understand what’s covered and what isn’t and talk with your agent to be sure you’re getting the coverage you need. You also should thoroughly research your destinations and planned activities for possible exclusions.

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