I’ve been getting questions about whether it is safe to send sons and daughters to travel to places where there might be a lot of swine flu about. Many are from people in North America whose children are due to travel to Asia or Africa. The irony is that it is North America which is where most of the cases are, but that will undoubtedly change. And the real fear, I think, is what happens if someone gets really sick far from home, possible somewhere where the medical care is sub-optimal. That’s not just a swine flu concern. Those of us who travel often take out medical travel insurance that covers costs of cancelation, medical care while traveling or even air ambulance back home. So is this a good idea considering the fact that there is now an official pandemic with swine flu? The answer seems to be . . . Read the Fine Print:
Americans who bought travel insurance hoping to be covered for emergency treatment if they develop swine flu while on vacation could find their cover is limited now that a global flu pandemic is officially underway, Squaremouth.com, the country?s fastest growing comparison website for travel insurance, reported today.
Exclusionary clauses in some travel insurance policies allow insurers to get out of paying medical claims related to swine flu in the case of an officially declared global pandemic or epidemic. But not all policies void medical coverage during disease outbreaks – in fact, most do not ? so it?s critical for buyers to find out directly from their insurer, or from a website like Squaremouth.com, what protection they still have, said Squaremouth?s chief executive Chris Harvey.
?Companies may choose to overlook their own pandemic or epidemic exclusion policy on a case by case basis,? Harvey said. ?The lesson here is always to check the policy?s fine print.? (Insurance News)
I did check some of the policies and found it is quite common to have specific exclusions for canceling for fear of getting sick with swine flu: it’s considered a known event. It’s possible with many policies — for an extra fee, naturally — to purchase a “cancel for any reason” option, which you might want to do if you think you’ll go under present conditions but not if things get a lot worse.
Of course getting sick is not the only possibility. As some high profile travelers have discovered any country can decide to do something within its borders such as quarantining people on flights or cruises or in hotels where there are swine flu cases. I expect this will begin to fade as it becomes clear this cat is out of the bag and cannot be contained, but right now it’s happening in places like China and its Hong Kong SAR. If borders are closed or travel connections to certain locales severed (on either end), this would also affect an otherwise healthy traveler.
You can find some insurance carrier statements here. If I could wave a magic want and either get rid of swine flu or insurance companies, it would be a very hard choice.