Agents warned to double check swine flu insurance cover
Travel agents are being warned that swine flu cover is not standard issue in all travel insurance products.
According to insurance company, Rock, many insurers have enforced a pandemic exclusion so they do not have to cover claims relating to swine flu.
“With the current levels of infection in the UK, it is important that you offer your customers an insurance policy that includes comprehensive cover should they contract the illness either before or during their holiday,” said a spokesman.
“To ensure you are selling suitable products to your customers, contact your travel insurance provider.”
Rock’s policies incorporate cover for swine flu, including costs incurred for medical treatment, cancellation and repatriation.
It said agents booking holidays for customers concerned about Swine Flu should offer the following advice:
• Ensure your travel insurance policy provides cover for swine flu
• Do not travel with symptoms of swine flu
• Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the World Health Organisation websites to ensure they have not advised against travel to your destination
• In addition to your travel insurance, apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at www.ehic.uk.com
• If you need to cancel your holiday after being diagnosed with swine flu ensure you retain the label from your Tamiflu prescription with your name, address and the date of issue which must be within 7 days of your planned departure. You will need to submit this as part of your claim.
• Call the National Pandemic Flu Service Line in England for the most up to date information relating to swine flu on 0800 1513100.
Swine flu: Will travel insurance cover you?Swine flu fears that prompt holidaymakers to cancel planned trips to Mexico are a legitimate cause for claims against travel insurance – but policy terms and conditions vary
This week, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned against all but essential travel to Mexico, leaving many tourists confused about the rules regarding travel insurance claims in the event of emergencies such as swine flu.
Maxine Baker, travel insurance manager at moneysupermarket.com, said: “People who have their holidays, flights and travel arrangements cancelled can now claim compensation for any money lost. I would advise those affected to contact their tour operator, airline and travel insurance provider to clarify exactly where they stand and who is liable to pay out compensation.”
If the Foreign Office advises against travel to any particular country or destination, then cancellation is outside your control and, depending on your cover, should pay out.
Malcolm Tarling at the Association of British Insurers said holidaymakers should take one of two courses of action. “First, they should talk to their tour operator, or air carrier if they’re travelling with them direct, for possible alternative arrangements. If they make these, they should usually be able to transfer their travel insurance.
“Second, they should listen to the Government’s travel advice – at the moment it’s advising against all non-essential travel – and check whether their policies cover them for cancellations in these circumstances.”
If holidaymakers continue with travel plans to Mexico against official advice and fall ill, their insurance policy is unlikely to cover them and the holidaymaker would have to foot the bill for any treatment or repatriation costs.
* M&S Money is offering to refund in full Mexican pesos or US dollars purchased from M&S by customers who had booked a trip to Mexico and have now opted not to travel.
The Swine Flu Travel Checklist
Hopefully no one in your family will get swine flu, and if you do, for most people the symptoms should be mild. Yet it can easily prevent you having a summer holiday and leave you out of pocket too if you're not careful. This is an urgent checklist of things to do, to protect against the impact.
* Get Travel Insurance As Soon As Possible
Frankly, without a Travel Insurance policy, it's very likely you are going to have to cover any swine flu cancellations or problems out of your own pocket.
Yet travel insurance policies will only cover you and your family if they're bought before you've had any symptoms. Therefore, if you haven’t already, it's time to get a policy in place. The exact timing depends on which type of policy you have.
Single trip. This simply covers a one-off holiday, so buy a policy now, and it's in place in case there are any problems that stop you going away.
Annual Policies. These cover you for a year, and are cheapest for those going away more than twice annually. While there are no hard or fast rules, past decisions from the Ombudsman indicate it's the date you select the policy to start, not the day you pay for it, from when you can start claiming.
So if you buy now but select it to start the day before you go, and get swine flu just before, it's UNLIKELY you’ll be covered. For swine flu safety, start it at least a fortnight before you’re due to go away (as the virus typically lasts less than a week).
For details of how to get the cheapest policies, including best buys such as annual travel cover from £15 a year, see the Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
Check travel insurance policies will cover you for swine flu problems.
Whether it's a new or existing policy, it's important to check before you go that there aren't any exclusions which will kibosh swine flu claims.
The two main things to look for are:
Cancellation cover. If your policy doesn't include cancellation cover, you won't get a payout if you can't travel. If it does, check the level covered is higher than (or at least equal to) the cost of the holiday, and watch out for high excesses.
Pandemic Exclusion. Worryingly, some policies have a total exclusion for pandemics. Normally, this is the type of thing we don't worry about in the UK, until now. Swine flu is a pandemic virus, and if your policy has that exclusion, it basically means if you have any problems due to swine flu you're not covered.
* Going to Europe? Ensure you've a valid EHIC card.
The EHIC is a Government scheme which entitles you to free or discounted medical cover in EU state hospitals, plus those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland; providing you're holstering a valid card. Yet nearly three million people have out-of-date cards, so check before you travel.
If you don’t have it you can get one for free online at www.ehic.org.uk (don’t search on google, there are imposter sites), calling 0845 606 2030, or at the Post Office. Don’t think of it as a substitute for travel insurance though, just additional security. For more info see the full EHIC card briefing.
* Got swine flu already? Speak to your insurer before you travel.
If you already have swine flu or symptoms of it, and are due to go away imminently, speak to your travel insurer as soon as possible. Insurers require official proof that you had the illness before they'll pay out; self-diagnosis isn't enough.
See the question above Am I covered if I have to cancel my holiday due to swine flu? for details of how to validate your claim.
If you have swine flu and aren’t going away for a number of weeks, then as the symptoms typically last five days, it’s to be hoped you will have made a full recovery by the time you’re due to go away.
Swine flu and travel insurance: Q&ADaily Telegraph travel expert Nick Trend examines what your travel insurance will cover in relation to swine flu.
I have swine flu and my doctor advises me not to travel?
Yes. The medical cover section of most travel insurance policies will normally cover the cost of cancelling your trip – you should get a letter from your doctor, and inform the insurer before making the cancellation.
* Swine flu and air travel Q&A
I am turned away by an airline because I am showing symptoms of swine flu?
Yes, normally you will be able to recoup the cost of cancelling other elements of your holiday. But be sure to get documentation from the airline and inform your insurer immediately.
I am taken ill with flu while on holiday?
Your treatment will be covered. Technically there could be an issue if you knowingly left the UK with swine flu, but this would be very difficult to prove one way or another, and in practice insurers are likely to pay up without problems.
I am held in quarantine?
This could be a potential problem area. If you are diagnosed with an illness while in quarantine, then your insurance will kick in as it would do with any other medical treatment. But if you turn out not to have been ill, then the insurer may not be legally required to pay the costs of a new flight home, for example.
The Association of British Insurers says that it hopes that in these cases the government of the country enforcing the quarantine would ensure the repatriation of those affected. If not, travel insurers are likely to treat each instance on a case by case basis.
AXA, one of the biggest underwriters, says that “customers who are quarantined on their trip can make a curtailment claim if they are placed in compulsory quarantine for more than 48 hours.”
Swine flu insurance plans
So far the primary symptoms of swine flu for 68 infected Americans range from fever, coughing, chest discomfort, headaches and body pains. Most of the sick say that they feel tired and run down - the same as during their prior bouts with seasonal flu bugs.
But then again, any form of flu can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that, worldwide, seasonal flu causes from 250,000 to 500,000 deaths each year.
As we wait for the results of ongoing scientific investigations, many people fear that 162 Mexicans have died so far from a deadlier strain of swine flu. The question is whether this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Before the dangerous possibility of a pandemic crystalizes into reality, consumers would be wise to check their insurance policies to see what protection they have against a swine flu outbreak.
Travel Insurance Protection against Swine Flu
The CDC recommends that Americans avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. However, a Mexican trip may be unavoidable. If so, planned guests should check their travel insurance policies to ensure that they have emergency or elective ambulance coverage. This benefit will cover evacuation charges to a U.S. hospital with advanced facilities for treating swine flu.
Many group major medical benefit plans and private health insurance policies cover additional health care charges besides ambulance. Eligible employees should familiarize themselves with the out-of-country coverage as described in their benefit booklets. Travelers should bring any insurance proof-of-coverage cards or policies to their destinations.
Health Insurance for Vulnerable Travelers
The CDC considers a U.S. citizen who has a chronic condition such as diabetes, lung disease and heart disease or who is elderly as being at high risk of severe illness from influenza. Swine flu escalates that risk to possible fatality.
For swine flu risks, the CDC advises that travelers take a supply of antiviral drugs that prevent and treat influenza virus infections including swine flu. Readers should check the CDC web page for updates, but as of today the recommended antiviral medicines to prevent and treat flu are: