Does my insurance cover me for a pandemic?

author-avatar By on March 18,2020
Does my insurance cover me for a pandemic?

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With coronavirus threatening shutdown of all travel, it’s reasonable to be worried about your travel insurer's policy on cancellation and medical coverage.

The latest news amid the coronavirus pandemic is that all countries have been slapped with a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning by the government’s Smart Traveller website. Many airlines have significantly reduced international travel, with some stopping travel altogether, and many countries around the world have closed borders. The Australian Government is also urging all Australian expats to come home immediately if they wish to do so.

While many airlines and travel-associated companies have made concessions to customers during this time, it could still be reassuring to know whether or not your travel insurance covers you for pandemics. Note that the coronavirus pandemic is a rapidly transforming issue, and travel insurers may update policies at any time - if in doubt, contact your travel insurer directly.

Travel Insurance that Covers Pandemics

We’ve taken a look at five popular travel insurers and looked at their Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) to find out if they cover pandemics.

Travel Insurance Provider

Medical

Cancellation

Cover-More

Yes

No

American Express

Yes

Yes

APIA

Yes

Yes

Australia Post

Yes

No

HBF

Yes

Yes

Policies were researched with the United States as a destination in mind, for those aged under 60 years. Note that your policy may change if you are older. We haven’t compared all providers in the market, and the information was correct at the time of writing - COVID-19 is a rapidly changing event so check with your travel insurance provider directly.

Cover-More

Cover-More is underwritten by Zurich. There is no coverage for coronavirus if you cancel your trip because you’re worried. Conversely, medical expenses incurred by contracting coronavirus overseas are covered under ‘Additional expenses if you become sick’, and ‘Overseas medical expenses’.

  • However, there is no coverage if you are forced to quarantine even if you don’t have the virus.

  • There is no ‘general exclusion’ for a pandemic or epidemic.

Cover-More is an interesting case in that it used to offer a ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ add-on, which has since been suspended. This is in effect from 13 March for Australians and Kiwis. However, if you purchased the CFAR add-on before this date, you will still be covered.

American Express

American Express travel insurance is underwritten by Chubb and is provided as a complimentary feature on many of its credit card products.

  • Chubb has deemed coronavirus a ‘foreseen circumstance’ from 4pm AEDT, 2 March. This means that exclusions may apply for policies in effect from this time.

  • Those travelling to/from the Hubei province in China have a ‘foreseen circumstance’ date effective from 5pm AEDT 22 January. and for mainland China from 9am AEDT, 2 February.

This means that if you have had to cancel a trip or took out a policy before these key dates, you will likely be covered. However, if your trip is made after these dates, you are ‘not likely’ to be covered. If the travel situation improves, and a customer decides not to travel, Chubb may consider this cancellation to be a ‘disinclination to travel’ i.e. a change of mind.

APIA

The Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency specialises in insurance for those older than 55 years. APIA has stated:

If you entered into a policy after 6:00pm AEST, 31 January 2020, we would expect that this was done with an awareness of this event and that it could affect travel. For these policies, claims that arise due to this event (for example, flight delays or cancellations) may not be covered or have reduced cover.

However, those with a pre-booked trip or those already overseas could still be covered for both medical and cancellation. If you have additional travel, accommodation or meal expenses you may be able to claim for these, too.

Australia Post

Australia Post travel insurance is underwritten by Zurich. According to a note by Australia Post with updated coronavirus travel warnings:

It is a condition of our policies that you are not aware of any circumstance which is likely to give rise to a claim. If you incur medical expenses with associated additional expenses as a result of contracting coronavirus, there may be cover up to the benefit limit.

The claims team will then consider DFAT travel advice placed at the time you purchased your policy and where you chose to travel. For cancellation, there is no cover for coronavirus: We will not pay for claims caused by or arising from an Epidemic, Pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses, or the threat or perceived threat of any of these.

HBF

HBF is underwritten by CGU and currently covers travel impacted by coronavirus with a couple of caveats. For policies purchased after 23 January, there is no cover for cancellation of travel as result of coronavirus. Similarly, if you get sick before depart, HBF will also not cover you. However, if you purchased before this date, HBF encourages travellers to call its claims team.

Coronavirus and travelling - what should I consider?

To put it succinctly, it’s a dicey time to travel. With the Government issuing ‘Do Not Travel’ warnings on all countries, this could be enough to void your insurance totally if you do decide to travel overseas. You might find it near impossible to take out a suitable travel insurance policy from now. COVID-19 is a fast-moving pandemic, so you need to do all your checks and balances before lodging a claim:

  • Check your insurer’s PDS: This should have all the necessary information, with added amendments about coronavirus in particular.

  • There are generally two product classes: Travel insurance generally covers both medical expenses and cancellation costs. While more insurers seem to still cover medical expenses, cancellation may be excluded when it comes to pandemics.

  • Check with your insurer about date of policy: Most insurers tend to have a ‘cut off date’ with when you needed to have purchased your policy. This may extend as far back as January.

  • Check with your airline and accommodation: If it was your airline or accommodation that cancelled your trip, you should be able to claim a return as part of the terms and conditions.

  • There is usually a ‘change of mind’ exclusion: If you’re hesitant to travel and cancel your trip, this generally counts as a ‘change of mind’ and you might not be covered.

  • Credit Card vs Retail Insurance: Your credit card may offer complimentary travel insurance via a third party. Be aware that the PDS could be different between what you receive on your credit card, versus if you bought through the insurer directly, even if the policy looks similar. 
  • Your travel insurer might not cover 'government intervention': Yes, that's right. Government intervention could include the 'Do Not Travel' advice - best to check your insurer's PDS and with them directly.

With the COVID-19 situation changing day by day, travel insurers, airlines and the associated travel industry are run off their feet trying to keep up with the authorities' recommendations. It might be best to postpone those travel plans for a while, self-isolate, put your feet up, and make yourself a hot chocolate, because it could be frantic for a few months yet.


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author-avatar
Harrison joined Savings in 2020. He is a journalist with more than four years of experience, with previous stints at News Corp and financial comparison site Canstar. With a keen interest in personal finance, Harrison is passionate about helping consumers make more informed financial decisions.

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