When planning for a trip, what if you have to cancel before you go? What if you have to return early because of illness? Travel insurance can help get your get money back, depending on the policy you buy and what it says.
Many travel insurance policies have skimpy coverage, full of exclusions and limitations. Moreover, the travel agents and tour companies selling these products don’t explain them properly. I see a big consumer revolt on the horizon.
In a recent column I wrote about a couple who had bought trip cancellation insurance through Expedia. They were denied coverage because the wife had a pre-existing condition (Crohn’s disease) and her medication had changed. Luckily for them, Expedia decided to overrule the insurer’s decision and try to improve the disclosure.
Also, my blog recently featured a travel insurance horror story told by KP (the first comment). She, too, had a fight with an insurer over a claim denied because of an unstable condition, which she resolved in her favour by going to small claims court. Here’s what she told me:
I am happy to report that after a case conference where the lawyer for Manulife was literally speechless, they have agreed to reimburse the airfare for me and my husband, as well as my sister and her husband, together with the costs I incurred as a result of being forced to bring the claim against them in the first place.
We considered proceeding to trial in order to get compensation for the emotional stress inflicted upon my sister; however, her condtiion has deteriorated to the point where it is unlikely she will live to see the trial.
People should be informed when purchasing travel insurance that Manulife is interpreting their own policy so strictly that anyone who has so much as seen a doctor for a sniffle will be denied coverage if their trip is cancelled.
Our portion of the lawsuit (mine and my husband’s) was settled the moment Manulife received the claim. They said it was “always their intention to pay our claim,” although they waited until they were sued to do so. If that doesn’t prove that this company denies everyone in the hopes that they won’t or can’t sue, I don’t know what is. These practises really need to stop. The time and energy my sister wasted fighting this is nothing short of criminal.
Milan Korcok, a medical journalist, specializes in helping people understand travel insurance at his helpful website. He advises giving it the same attention as selecting a hotel for your trip: Does the room overlook the park or the dumpster? You need to know your policy inside out and the best way to do that is to buy from a company that specializes in travel insurance, not someone who sells it as a sideline.
I’m posting some emails I received from readers about their own experiences, along with Korcok’s comments. He seems to be saying two things (1) Most policies cover less than you think they do. (2) If you have a medical issue, don’t rely on verbal assurances that you’re covered. Get everything in writing.