The Limits Of Travel Insurance After The Pandemic
By Liam Morarjee, Date published: 2020-10-08
With the embers of the pandemic still smouldering in many places around the world, travel is not top of mind for most people. As we have written about previously, the impact of this pandemic on the insurance industry has been immense. Nowhere is this more clear than with travel insurance companies in Hong Kong. As this novel coronavirus pandemic takes it’s natural course, we can expect changes to coverage terms and limits of travel insurance expanding until we have a medical solution for the virus in the form of effective treatments or vaccines.
Travel insurance is an important part of your travel preparations. When you are packing for a trip, there are 2 things you should not forget: enough underwear and travel insurance. While Hong Kong residents get to enjoy highly subsidised world-class healthcare, these benefits do not extend outside the territory. Many foreign hospitals and clinics are expensive, require immediate cash payment in the form of a deposit, or simply will not treat you if you do not have enough money or insurance to pay the bill. Travel insurance will help you cover medical fees incurred due to illness or injury while overseas. In addition, it also comes with important ancillary services like trip delay, trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical evacuation, repatriation, medical translation services, and 24-hour emergency assistance hotlines to help you secure quality medical services while overseas.
That being said, travel insurance companies have begun to review their coverages since the start of this pandemic and have placed different limitations on coverage.
Government Travel Advisories
Most travel insurance policies will include exclusions for injury or illness that occur in a country or region where your local government has placed travel restrictions or advisories on. By now, most countries around the world have put out travel advisories for many of the coronavirus’ hot spots such as certain parts of China and Italy.
In Hong Kong, the Security Bureau has placed a COVID-19 related Outbound Travel Alert for all overseas countries and territories essentially excluding all places from travel insurance coverage. Although mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan may still be covered.
Most travel insurance policies sold in Hong Kong will also have what is called a “known event” exclusion. When something becomes a known event any travel booked after that date would not cover that known event.
For example, Chubb Hong Kong has declared COVID-19 to be a known event effective January 31st, 2020. That means any travel arranged after that date would not protect you against any COVID-19 related medical costs including death.
Please note however that different travel insurers have different dates so be sure to check with your travel insurance provider. For example, Zurich has set their “known event and conditions” date to January 22nd.
Extensions Of Coverage Due To Travel Restrictions
Many governments have closed their borders or restricted travel in and out in an effort to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. So what happens if you are unable to leave the country or return to Hong Kong as a result of airport closures or government prohibitions?
Every policy is different and you should speak with your insurance agent about this but Chubb will extend your policy up to a maximum of 7-10 days without additional charges in these circumstances. You can also look to your Trip Delay/Cancellation section for additional coverage.
If you need to cancel or rearrange your travel plans due to the novel coronavirus, you may not have coverage under your travel insurance plan. Things like “unexpected compulsory quarantine”, “denial by foreign government”, or “epidemic” may not be listed as an insured peril under your trip cancellation coverage.
That said, you should review your coverage carefully with the help of your travel insurance broker to determine if you have opted for a “cancel for any reason” coverage offered by some insurers.
COVID-19 Medical Expenses Coverage
Like many health insurers, travel insurance companies in Hong Kong have changed their coverage to accommodate travellers affected by the pandemic.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 while overseas and are eligible for coverage, you will generally get coverage for:
- Medical Expenses
- Follow-up Expenses for up to 90 days following your return to Hong Kong
- Automatic Coverage Extension for up to 10 days for free if you need to stay longer than planned
- Repatriation to Hong Kong if medically necessary
If you are diagnosed with the disease within 14 days of returning to Hong Kong, your travel insurance policy will still cover medical expenses even if there were none incurred overseas.
This is an unprecedented situation that is rapidly evolving and many of you may have questions around the virus and how it affects your coverage. If you have any questions about your insurance during this time, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Trusted Union is an independent Hong Kong insurance brokerage. Their insurance brokers have over a decade of insurance experience and bring this knowledge to you as an expat, local, or business owner.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.