This article focuses primarily on how the coronavirus is taken into consideration in international travel insurance plans such as travel medical insurance, visitors insurance, and travel insurance for persons traveling internationally to the U.S. and other countries. There are some situations where coverage is available, and others where it is an exclusion. If you’re traveling or considering travel now, you need to be aware of how it could affect your plans.
There is a major outbreak currently called the coronavirus. It was first identified in Wuhan in Hubei Province of China, as of late December 2019. This specific strain was originally called 2019-nCoV, also known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus, but has since been renamed COVID-19. As of updating this on February 17, 2020, it is known that the coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted between animals and people. The SARS-CoV was first transmitted from civet cats to humans, and the MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person, and has flu like symptoms. It can take anywhere from two days to two weeks before the symptoms appear after a person is infected with the virus. However, in many people, there are no symptoms.
Coronavirus can be fatal as the infected people can be become extremely ill. It has already caused hundreds of deaths, with thousands of people infected in China. As of February 17, 2020, there have been 71,429 confirmed cases worldwide, 1,772 confirmed deaths in China, and 794 confirmed cases outside of China. Of those, there are 15 confirmed cases in the United States and three confirmed cases in India. There is no specific medicine or vaccine recommended to prevent or treat COVID-19.
There is currently no vaccination or treatment available for this strain of coronavirus. However, as per the CDC recommendations, taking the following measures may help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that is not available, consider using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. You can consider using a standard household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Get the flu vaccine.
Travel Medical Insurance
There is a myriad of different travel scenarios, more than just based on whether you are going to China or not. In any case, there is no specific exclusion for coronavirus but there are several different rules that could apply and exclude coverage, such as: travel warning, pre-existing conditions, pandemic, or epidemic. Whatever your plans, you should review various plans for specific details.
Travel Outside China
If your travel is outside of China, such as to the U.S., the coronavirus is considered just like any other sickness. However, general exclusions for pre-existing conditions apply.
Coverage will be determined case by case based on when the travel medical insurance was purchased, when the person traveled, when they got sick, whether the person has recently been to China, how long the policy has been in effect and so on. The claims department of the insurance company would look into the medical records and other circumstances to determine whether it would be considered a pre-existing condition or a covered illness. There is no one sure way to answer whether it would be covered or not.
There will be no coverage under acute onset of pre-existing conditions because the virus itself is not chronic, it is acute already.
Travel to China
If you intend to travel to China, then be aware that different travel medical insurance plans have different conditions and they take a different position:
- Company 1
There would be a window in which there could be coverage. That window is only available if the person was in Hubei Province prior to the Level 3 Warning being issued (1/23/2020) and departed the region within 10 days, the policy would respond if they were sick with the coronavirus. However, outside of this scenario, there wouldn’t be any coverage for either of the below:
- In the Hubei Province at time of warning being issued and failed to depart within 10 days.
- Traveling to Hubei Province on or after the Level 3 warning was issued.
Both of these scenarios would be excluded by the below exclusion.
Charges resulting from a disease outbreak in a country or location for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Warning if a) the warning has been in effect within the 6 months immediately prior to your date of arrival, or b) within 10 days following the date the warning is issued you have failed to depart the country or location.
Of course, like any other illness, other exclusions may apply as well, such as pre-existing conditions.
- Company 2
Coverage exclusion applies to:
Any Illness or Injury incurred in the Destination Country as a result of epidemics, pandemics, public health emergencies, Natural Disasters, or other disease outbreak conditions that may affect a person’s health when, prior to the Insured Person’s entry into the Destination Country, any of the following were issued regarding the Destination Country:
- the World Health Organization had issued an Emergency Travel Advisory.
- the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention had issued a Warning Level 3 (avoid nonessential travel).
- a similar government agency of the Insured Person’s Country of Residence had published, communicated or issued a Travel Warning or Emergency Travel Advisory restriction or official declaration informing the public about such health issues before the Insured Person traveled to the Destination Country.
In short, if you travel to China now, and get infected, there would be no coverage under this specific policy.
- Any Illness or Injury incurred in the Destination Country as a result of epidemics, pandemics, public health emergencies, Natural Disasters, or other disease outbreak conditions that may affect a person’s health when, prior to the Insured Person’s entry into the Destination Country, any of the following were issued regarding the Destination Country:
Like travel medical insurance and visitors medical insurance, travel insurance is available for many different travel arrangements. Specific coverages may or may not be available depending on your unique situation. Many people purchase travel insurance with trip cancellation insurance to prevent the loss of their prepaid, non-refundable trip costs in case they need to cancel their trip due to the covered reasons. However, if you have not already purchased this coverage, it is too late to purchase it now because the coronavirus is already a known problem.
Travel to China
If you had plans to travel to China, and had not already purchased trip cancellation travel insurance for your trip, it is now too late to purchase this coverage to cover the costs of your prepaid, non-refundable trip cancellation because the coronavirus is already a known problem. Trip cancellation insurance is designed to protect against the unknown and unexpected.
Travel Outside China
If your planned travel is outside of China, and you have already purchased travel insurance, the fear of being infected with coronavirus is not within the acceptable reasons to cancel your trip.
The best option for this type of scenario is to purchase Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance in case you have an upcoming trip and you may need to cancel the trip. Please note that there are specific requirements such as, you must purchase such travel insurance within a certain duration of initial trip deposit, you must insure your full trip cost, and you must generally cancel your trip at least 48 hours in advance. You would get up to 75% of your trip cost back.
However, if you already know that you want to or need to cancel your trip and you want to buy the cancel for any reason travel insurance now, it is not going to work.
Planning for trips involves more than just booking airfare, hotel accommodations, and making sure you’ve packed the right clothing. Life is unpredictable in so many ways, you don’t know what will happen or when disaster can strike. For any trips away from home, make sure that you select the best travel insurance for your journey. If you have any questions, please contact our office for assistance – we are waiting to help you any way we can.