Protect your summer travels: 4 insurance providers covering COVID-19
With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, the pandemic doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. However, many airline, hotel, cruise and Airbnb flexible cancellation policies are disappearing faster than home test kits from pharmacy shelves.
The U.S. government doesn't seem to have any plans to remove the requirement for a negative test to allow re-entry to the U.S. So while hospitalizations and fatalities are thankfully lower due to widespread vaccinations and better treatment options, the real risk remains that U.S. travelers still might get stranded abroad for a week or more if they test positive, and may run the risk of missing a trip after a positive test. A recent survey by The Points Guy shows travelers are hesitant to go abroad because of these concerns. So, is purchasing travel insurance your answer to reducing risk and increasing travel confidence?
To manage the financial risk of having your vacation canceled, you might consider travel insurance for your summer trip that will specifically cover you in case you test positive for COVID-19. Travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth.com recently reported that "traveler interest in coverage for contracting COVID-19 is at an all-time high" with 42% of visitors to its website searching specifically for COVID-19-related policies.
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TPG has looked into the latest on why you might want to buy COVID-19-specific travel insurance, and what some of these policies might cost you for the coverage. We've supplied some sample prices and products below, but as always with insurance, be sure to read the policies' coverage fine print, and search for the pricing and policies that best fit your specific budget and needs. Ask questions directly to the insurance supplier prior to purchasing, and carefully document your trip costs and any medical expenses that occur along the way.
Why you may want to buy Covid-specific travel insurance
Many standard travel insurance policies will cover you in the event of an accident, natural disaster, flight cancellation and/or sickness. But many traditional travel insurance policies have had specific clauses saying medical care, trip cancellations and disruptions are not covered in the case of a pandemic. Even now, many policies will not reimburse you for cancellation or trip interruption if the reason you can't travel is due to COVID-19-related border closures, entry requirements or mandatory quarantines.
Many people found this out the hard way as COVID-19 first reared its head around the world in early 2020 and saw their claims denied by their insurer, citing the fine print. TPG has covered this pandemic gap in traditional travel insurance products.
“Look for travel insurance that covers trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical and emergency medical transportation coverage, which also includes epidemic-related coverage that may result in a canceled trip or travel delays," says Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at Allianz Partners. He says policies, like his company's OneTrip Prime product, "will provide coverage for personal mandatory quarantines and denied boarding due to suspected illness."
Related: 6 Reasons why you might want to buy travel insurance
Here are some sample Covid travel insurance policies
Travel insurance policies vary widely in terms of what areas of your trip are covered, what support is offered and what the reasons for trip cancellation may be. The basic formula is that the more you spend on the insurance, the more the policy will cover and the more flexibility you will have to use it. Cancel for any reason (CFAR) policies, for example, are typically the most expensive to purchase, but enable you to get most of your trip refunded if you need to back out for any reason. Travel insurance policies generally require that you purchase the coverage within a certain amount of time from booking the trip (two weeks is common).
As a comparison exercise, TPG priced out a few travel insurance policies from different companies with similar coverage options for a test case of a $10,000 one-week trip to Mexico for two people this summer. Keep in mind, for the information below, these are only sample policies. Your situation may vary widely, with coverage and pricing potentially differing dramatically depending on your specific timing, destinations, tour type and activities planned.
The World Nomads Explorer Plan (underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance) is priced at $197.88 for a sample two-person trip to Mexico. It includes $10,000 of trip cancellation coverage (the lower level of $2,500 coverage is priced at $122.85). The Explorer Plan also covers mishaps due to sports and activities versus the Standard Plan.
In terms of COVID-19-related coverage, the World Nomads website says insurance "purchased by U.S. residents may provide coverage for specified benefits if you test positive for the COVID-19 virus. These benefits may include emergency medical, emergency medical evacuation, trip delay and trip interruption coverage if you contract COVID-19 while traveling. You may also be eligible for trip cancellation coverage for prepaid nonrefundable travel expenses such as flights, hotels and excursions covered by your Travel Protection Plan as part of your covered trip, if after you purchase your Travel Protection Plan, your doctor advises you that you are unfit to travel on your scheduled departure date due to being diagnosed with COVID-19." (Emphasis is mine on the "maybes.") It appears the "maybes" in this case depend on the insured providing prompt and proper documentation on the reasons for the claim and the amounts to be covered, and on World Nomads approving those reasons and documents.
World Nomads also notes that its coverage "is not available for loss arising from: government intervention including travel bans, border closures or broadly imposed quarantine requirements." So while your personal COVID-19 situation would be covered, external pandemic factors would not be.
When I priced out the same sample Mexico trip with Allianz travel insurance, its OneTrip Basic policy came in at $433, including $5,000 of cancellation coverage (out of my $10,000 trip). The policy does have an Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which "adds covered reasons to select benefits for certain losses related to COVID-19 and any future epidemic."
The fine print states (like most of these policies seem to) that COVID-19-related cancellation or medical reasons would only apply to the covered person specifically, and would not reimburse you for trip cancellation if a country or region is preventing entry and canceling trips due to COVID-19-related restrictions. Allianz policy details include a number of specifics about COVID-19 coverage areas, documentation required for reimbursement, and scenarios where epidemic-related items would and wouldn't apply, all of which potential purchasers should read carefully.
Among the different types of policies, Allianz's Daniel Durazo notes that its OneTrip Prime product "is great when it comes to family vacations, as it covers kids 17 and under for free when traveling with a parent or grandparent.”
Seven Corners Travel Insurance
Seven Corners travel insurance offers a wide variety of product options, including Cancel For Any Reason policies, which allow you to get reimbursed even if you canceled your trip just because you were worried about COVID-19. A more common (and inexpensive) option is its RoundTrip Basic policy in which "your medical expenses for treatment for Coronavirus contracted on your trip can be covered."
Other products — including Liaison Travel Plus, Liaison Student Plus, Wander Frequent Traveler Plus or Explore North America Plus — require you to specifically sign up for the "COVID-19 Treatment benefit." In the fine print of the policies, underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company, it says "COVID-19 is treated the same as any other sickness for purposes of all coverages that are triggered by sickness or that can reimburse losses resulting from a sickness, including death caused by sickness. Depending on the Plan Design, this can include Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Accident and Sickness Medical Expense, Emergency Medical Evacuation/Medical Repatriation/Return of Remains."
Should you get stuck in a foreign country due to mandatory quarantining after your scheduled trip concludes, the Seven Corners plans "allow for coverage to be extended for the entire duration of a COVID-19-related quarantine, and coverage will be extended for five additional days following the end of the quarantine provided you have not arrived back in your return destination city."
My sample Mexico trip policy with Seven Corners came in at $394, including coverage of 100% trip-cancellation costs (unlike the similar policy at Allianz, which covered half of my $10,000 cost) and 75% of the trip-interruption cost (similar to Allianz). Their premium RoundTrip Choice product added 42% to the price of the Basic policy, but greatly expanded the monetary coverage limits, as well as additional coverage areas.
AIG Travel Guard
AIG's Travel Guard suite of products covers a variety of potential trip and medical costs. Its COVID-19 policy states, "If you contract COVID-19 prior to departure, you would be covered for Trip Cancellation, if you have a confirmed and documented diagnosis and/or you are medically unable to travel at the time of departure due to COVID-19. If you contract COVID-19 while on a covered trip, you would be covered for Medical Expense and Trip Interruption/Curtailment benefits if you have a confirmed and documented diagnosis."
But it should be noted that AIG also mentions that "Due to the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement declaring Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, please note that as of, at the latest, March 11, 2020, COVID-19 is a foreseen event and certain coverages will not apply." So again, read the fine print of any policy carefully.
My sample policy price request for the Mexico itinerary for two returned a cost of $572.62 for its Essential base product. The policy summary on the website says it covers 100% of trip costs for cancellation or interruption based on contracting COVID-19 (or other covered reasons) with, of course, proper documentation and certain caveats.
Related: The best travel insurance companies
Given the stubborn persistence of both the COVID-19 epidemic and its related travel restrictions, purchasing travel insurance, particularly for an expensive trip, can be a wise choice. Most travel insurance policies now include coverage due to COVID-related travel issues, but potential customers should read the fine print carefully to determine exactly what circumstances are covered, and to what extent reimbursement and medical costs will be paid for.
Given that every traveler's needs are unique, and that insurance pricing, policies and processes are constantly evolving, TPG recommends travelers use the samples provided in this post as snapshot examples, rather than specific guidance toward any individual policy type or company.