Traveling during COVID-19: Experts say insurance is a must
TORONTO – As tourism picks up in much of the world, experts say purchasing travel insurance is necessary if Canadians are to stay safe and enjoy a trip abroad.
Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, told CTVNews.ca that adequate coverage while traveling outside of Canada is “always important”, but even more so during the pandemic, as health conditions and travel restrictions can change suddenly.
“It is important to work with a professional travel agent to organize your travel arrangements and ensure that you have the right coverage for you, as what is and is not covered differs for each insurance provider, especially period of COVID. ”Paradis said in an email Thursday.
Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., a Toronto-based travel insurance company, told CTVNews.ca that Canadians should not leave the country without insurance.
“You need it [for] nothing short of a slip and fall, God forbid a car accident, a heart attack, a stroke or something as simple as stomach flu, “he said during of a telephone interview Thursday. “You can’t do without it.”
Unlike the start of the pandemic, insurance companies are now offering COVID-19 specific travel insurance for medical expenses, including quarantine after a positive test, but Firestone says this coverage depends on the traveler’s vaccination status. .
“If you are fully vaccinated, most insurers will now cover you against COVID without having to purchase an endorsement or additional expense,” he said. He added that companies have not capped the amount they will cover and that policy prices have not increased to reflect this.
“[COVID-19] is treated like any other unexpected medical emergency. That alone tells you that insurance companies are basically saying the risk is not what it used to be, ”Firestone said.
For those not fully vaccinated, Firestone said some companies offer COVID-19 add-ons, or jumpers, for medical bills related to the virus. He said it was an additional expense on his travel insurance policy and was capped at a certain price limit, unlike those who are fully vaccinated.
However, Firestone said, most countries require travelers to be fully vaccinated to visit.
“It defeats the purpose,” he said. “I can get you insurance, but if you’re not fully immunized I don’t think you’re going anywhere.”
While most insurance policies now cover medical expenses related to COVID-19, Firestone said not all policies cover travel interruptions or cancellations related to the pandemic.
Manulife offers a variety of travel insurance options, while WestJet offers free COVID-19 travel insurance to travelers who use their services. However, some insurance companies, such as TD Insurance, have implemented coverage exemptions when Canadians have been advised to avoid travel.
“Trip cancellation interruption is always a problem from a travel insurance perspective if the reason you are going to cancel is related to COVID,” Firestone said.
He said many insurers still have COVID-19 listed as a “known cause,” meaning the traveler is responsible for any border cancellations or closures, as governments have made it clear that countries can close without notice. .
“Therefore, your trip cancellation policy which you bought to cover your money that was exposed will not pay you if your reason is that I cannot go, our borders have been closed, Italy does not no visitors, etc., ”Firestone said.
He said it was still a “big reluctance” for Canadians to resume travel and is unlikely to change until the federal government lifts its advice to avoid all non-essential travel.
However, Firestone said some policies may cover costs if the airline, hotel, Airbnb or tour operator has a policy in place to reimburse or credit travel interruptions due to a change in travel reviews. of the government. He noted that this varies from company to company.
Firestone said Canadians should be “wary” when choosing a policy because interruption coverage “has yet to catch up with medical care.” He noted that insurers still view COVID-19 as a “problematic scenario” to get claims paid in the event of cancellation and disruption.
CANADIANS LOOKING TO TRAVEL
With several countries opening their borders, travel is a priority for many Canadians.
Effective November 8, the United States will open its land and sea borders to fully vaccinated non-essential Canadian travelers for the first time since March 2020. Air travel to the United States is permitted under certain conditions.
The reopening of the land border means Canadians can drive to the United States to visit family or take a day trip, something Canada has allowed fully vaccinated Americans to do since August 9. .
While other international destinations have also opened their borders to Canadian tourists, the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country and to be extra careful if they have to travel.
Will McAleer, executive director of the Canadian Travel Medicines Association, told CTVNews.ca that Canadians should follow three “golden rules” when choosing a travel insurance policy.
McAleer said in a telephone interview on Thursday that Canadians should first assess and understand their health before purchasing travel insurance.
If Canadians have pre-existing health conditions, McAleer said it’s important the insurance policy treats them to make sure they’re covered if they have to go to a hospital overseas.
After choosing a policy, he said, Canadians should familiarize themselves with what is written in the policy and contact the insurance company if they have any concerns.
“Understand what you are and are not covered for in relation to COVID. You also want to make sure you are covered for this [health] condition you might have, and if you have any questions, ask them, ”McAleer said.
Finally, McAleer said Canadians should consider what they plan to do on their trip, such as any high-risk sporting activity, including bungee jumping or hang-gliding that could cause injury or damage, and choose a policy that meets those needs. He added that this type of coverage can vary from policy to policy.
“A lot of us haven’t been able to travel for a while so … that means [they] could take additional risks, ”he said. “So you want to make sure that this policy will cover you in all cases. “