"For those trying to plan trips later this year and into next, this is an important point to keep in mind," said Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa. "Epidemic and pandemic coverage is usually excluded from travel insurance coverage."
With most commonly purchased travel insurance policies, this means that if you plan a trip and then cancel because you are simply concerned about the possibility of getting sick, you will not receive compensation through your travel policy.
If you are prevented from traveling due to being sick with an illness other than a pandemic-related illness, the most common policies will likely provide coverage; similarly, if you get sick during your travels with an illness other than a pandemic-related illness, you may be covered.
In the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have voluntarily made arrangements for ticket holders to change their plans without a fee; and hotels, inns and rental lodgings usually have cancellation timelines during which all or a portion of funds will be returned. For those planning future trips, careful review of these contractual timelines should help.
"Remember, don't rely on travel insurance to cover all contingencies, and check the language in any policy you are considering to be clear about what is and is not covered," Cioppa stated.
Consumers with questions about insurance matters can obtain information and assistance from the Maine Bureau of Insurance by visiting maine.gov/insurance, calling 800-300-5000 (TTY 711), or e-mailing Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.
Travel insurance usually costs between 4-10% of a trip's price, depending on the coverage. Here are some brief descriptions of various types of travel insurance policies and what they cover:
TRIP CANCELATION INSURANCE: Reimburses pre-paid travel expenses if you are prevented from taking your trip for a reason covered by your policy. It is typically included in every comprehensive policy. You will usually receive reimbursement if your trip is cancelled for: unexpected illness or injury of you, or a traveling companion, that deems you unfit to travel; hospitalization or death of a non-traveling family member; weather or common carrier issues; unforeseen natural disaster at home or the destination; a legal obligation such as being called for jury duty or serving as a witness in court.
Tip: Exclusions might include canceling your trip due to being detained by customs or having to cancel due to a work obligation. If your flight is delayed, you may or may not be covered. Some policies only cover a trip cancellation claim if you lose more than 50% of your scheduled trip length due to a covered delay. You also must make a good faith effort to continue your travels using alternative means.
TRAVEL MEDICAL AND MAJOR MEDICAL: Provides protection if you become ill or injured while traveling. Travel medical insurance provides short-term medical coverage.
Tip: Find out if your policy requires you to obtain prior approval before seeking medical care. Also check if any pre-existing medical conditions will exclude you from coverage.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL EVACUATION. Provides coverage for services such as air evacuation and medical transportation to the nearest adequate medical facility then home if warranted. This type of coverage is useful if you're traveling to a rural area without easy access to medical facilities. In the event a person passes away during travel, policies may also cover the costs of repatriation of remains. Tip: Coverage may not cover you if you're participating in an activity your insurer considers dangerous such as sky diving. There are specialty insurance products for some activities, such as SCUBA diving.
ACCIDENTAL DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT: Provides coverage to beneficiaries if you die in an accident on the trip or pays a sum to you if you lose a hand, foot, limb or eyesight from an accident. Some plans only apply to an accident that occurs on an aircraft.
BAGGAGE LOSS: Reimburses for loss of baggage or personal items.
CANCEL FOR ANY REASON (CFAR) POLICIES: These policies are more expensive and typically only reimburse you a percentage of your travel costs. The reason for cancellation is not relevant. There is usually a time frame for when cancellations are allowed, and you must insure all of your pre-paid and non-refundable expenses. CFAR policies are usually added as an extra option in addition to trip cancellation coverage.