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Trip Insurance Warning

I am posting a re-post that I made a a comment on another post. There are a lot of people who are thinking about cancelling their trip by using their trip insurance. I just want people to be aware of my experience so you won’t wait to the last minute even if you have a “cancel for any reason” policy. Here is what I said in another post. I hope it helps:

Just a word of warning regarding trip insurance cancellation. If you have never done it, you have to jump thru a lot of hoops to cancel and it can be very time consuming. Due to a medical condition on my wife, I had to cancel two trips last year. The amount of paperwork work I had to fill out surprised me. It was like buying a house and my wife had a very serious medical condition that was not even questioned by the insurance company. On of the policies was a cancel for any reason and I had to have a doctor fill out medical forms and submit them for the doctor to sign. I also had to submit every piece of paperwork and credit card statements for every claim on every hotel and every tour that I booked. It took about a month to gather all the paperwork that they wanted and it had to be submitted before we were to leave. In the fine print of one of the policies, I had to schedule a doctor appointment so many days before I filed the claim. I had called the doctor and he agreed that for my wife to travel was impossible and said so on the phone, but because I actually didn’t see the doctor within so many days if filing the claim and within so many days of departure, they at first denied it. I finally got hold of somebody who was compassionate and knew what we were going thru and bent the rules so I could get paid. Read and reread your policy. Allow enough time to get all credit card receipts for everything you have charged and any correspondence that you have made proving that you have booked exactly what you are expecting to get reimbursed for. It is not as easy as people think who have never filed a claim. It takes a lot of time and energy. They don’t part with their money easily even if it a cancel for any reason. You must still comply with all their requests for information.

Posted by
244 posts

We once had to cancel a family vacation two days prior to departure when my young daughter's shoulder pain was diagnosed as a minor pneumothorax and the dr. said that a flight would be very risky as she could suffer a collapsed lung. As this was a fully-prepaid Hawaiian cruise for 5 people, the amount at stake was significant. The claim process looked daunting but as my daughter had been seen in person by the doctor, and there were only two payees for this trip (the airline and the cruise company), it only took a couple days for me to compile everything and get the claim submitted. We got every penny back.

Since then, I've never traveled without trip insurance and we've had three other successful claims. One involved a travel companion's cancelation of her participation in our trip a week prior due to the hospitalization of a family member who had a serious fall. The insurance reimbursed her airfare and her 1/5 share of the condo we'd rented for a week. Another claim involved arriving in London from Athens to change planes for our flight to Chicago only to learn that the flight was canceled and the airline had nothing else to put us on until the next day. Our trip insurance had a benefit of up to $200 per person per day for costs incurred in this situation, so the four of us were able to take a train into the city, get a hotel, and spend a nice afternoon and evening walking around London and enjoying some nice meals. Our third claim was a minor one, reimbursement for some costs incurred when a delayed flight caused us to miss a connection.

Because I know that insurance companies don't make this easy, I'm diligent about creating a paper file for every trip that's coming up. I file every hotel's confirmation email, every receipt, copies of credit card statements showing the charges and date incurred, print-outs of hotel cancelation policies, etc. My kids live in a paperless world where they just assume that if they need to find something later, it will be in an old email or a digital file they've created. However, my paper file made things pretty quick and painless in all the above situations.

Posted by
52 posts

Another issue to think about. If Rick Steves cancels your tour (and gives you a full refund), is that a reason for insurance to cover your non-refundable ticket when the airline did not cancel.

Posted by
3306 posts

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Although there are different interpretations as to what was meant by the line in Shakespeare's Henry VI, sounds like he may have been onto something.

Posted by
113 posts

From Ray: "Another issue to think about. If Rick Steves cancels your tour (and gives you a full refund), is that a reason for insurance to cover your non-refundable ticket when the airline did not cancel."

Your first line of defense with the airlines is the hope they cancel flights and refund, or at least give you a credit. Edit: deleted comment about adding plane ticket to policy because it may be wrong per another post.

Insurance will never make you whole - there are too many loopholes and exceptions, and of course deductibles. This is especially true of trip insurance, but also of every insurance policy you buy.

Posted by
2278 posts

And one problem with trip insurance is the requirement that you buy your plane tickets in a very tight window with the tour bookings, and update the insurance to reflect it, for it to qualify.

I do not believe this is true. I’ve been buying trip insurance for years. You just need to let them know what the cost of the airfare is when you book and they will collect an additional premium. There is not time requirement.

Posted by
16591 posts

I agree with Alan Though it's obviously possible for requirements to vary from one insurance company to the next, the TravelGuard policy I read carefully a few days ago had no such requirement. You just have to notify the company and pay up as you commit additional funds to the trip.

It's possible the rules may be different if you buy insurance through your cruise line or tour operator.

Posted by
244 posts

I always do "pay as you go" for trip insurance premiums. Within 14 days of my first payment of anything for a new trip, I insure that cost. Trip insurance works in tiers, so if my first payment for a trip with my husband is $200, say a deposit on a rental home, that's $100 per person, and I insure the trip at the lowest coverage possible, typically having to buy coverage up to $500 per person in costs. You have to get insurance after your first payment of any kind even if it's a refundable cost. Getting that ins. in place within that 14 day window (some policies say 21) gives you waiver of pre-existing conditions. (I don't have any pre-existing conditions, but I figure that a claim will be simpler if I don't have to expend any effort at all proving that my reason for canceling was not due to a pre-existing condition.) As I incur each new expense for the trip, I check to see if I still have enough per-person coverage, and if I don't, I call the agent through whom I bought the insurance, go up to the next tier, and pay the additional premium. The additional premium is always very modest compared to the first premium. I always get my insurance by calling the folks at tripinsurancestore.com. Great customer service. They can recommend a policy to me based on what my primary concern is for that particular trip. For example, if it's a winter trip departing from the midwest, one of my primary concerns might be a weather-related flight cancelation or delay. You don't have to buy the airline tickets within any particular window after purchasing the insurance, you just have to remember to up you coverage once you do buy them.

Posted by
4669 posts

When I made a $95 claim for the cruise ship doctor, Travelex demanded that I provide a denied Medicare claim (... ie international) "although we know it will be denied."

Posted by
5548 posts

I have had to do exactly what yosemite1 details in this post on two different occasions. But we received 100% of the claim in a month from Travel Guard, many thousands of dollars on both claims. I don't understand why this a "warning." It is an insurance claim requiring proof of cause of cancelation.

Posted by
1036 posts

I used Travel Insured International at the recommendation of our Travel Agent for the Hawaiian Cruise we were on and for the Viking River Cruise, we used the company that they offer. The people from the trip insurance used by Viking were amazing. They even called me to see how my wife was doing. There was a lot of paperwork that I had to fill out, but I was really impressed with them. The Travel Insured International was the one that I had to jump through so many hoops to get my money. If it wasn’t for one very compassionate person at the company, who I pleaded my case to on the last day, I wouldn’t have received any money, because I talked to the doctor on the phone rather than going in person with my wife. The doctor had been following my wife condition and she had many visits with him, but that didn’t meet the requirement of actually seeing him so many days before I cancelled the cruise. He said there was no point in coming in as he knew exactly what was going on with her. In fact we discussed it at length before we booked the trip that if her condition got to a certain point, we would have to cancel. The insurance company demanded all her medical records and even saw that I called the doctor and the doctor said not to go, but the policy said a visit was required.
That is why it pays to read the fine print.

Posted by
11676 posts

This is a good reminder to "read the fine print" to understand one's rights under the policy, and the claim process. But please, let's not kill all the lawyers. They can be useful in helping people recover what is due them on a denied insurance claim.

I know this was stressful for you, yosemite1, but it is reasonable for the insurance company to require proper documentation of your expenses and the basis of your claim. Otherwise some people would cheat. Credit card statements showing the expenses (and the dates) are sufficient and shouldn't be that difficult to produce.

And as for the timing of the doctor visit, that is also reasonable, to preclude using a stale diagnosis which may not still apply. Ethically the doctor cannot sign off on a claim without up-to-date information. While you were able to obtain that over the phone, normally that would not be sufficient documentation as it is not in writing. It is fortunate you were able to get the insurance agent to apply a reasonable approach and relax the requirement a bit in your wife's case.

It was kind of you to post this so others can learn from your experience. Your final summary is absolutely true: insurance companies do not part with their money easily. But they will, provided you jump through all the hoops and meet the requirements for filing the claim. That is true of all insurance---homeowners', auto insurance, medical insurance. Keep those receipts and credit card statements!

Posted by
2761 posts

It is an insurance claim requiring proof of cause of cancelation.

Even if it's a Cancel for Any Reason policy, which is what one of the OP's policies was? Of course, I have no first hand experience with any of this, since we've never gotten trip insurance in 35+ years of travel.

Posted by
113 posts

Even if it's a Cancel for Any Reason policy, which is what one of the OP's policies was? Of course, I have no first hand experience with any of this, since we've never gotten trip insurance in 35+ years of travel.

I have never had trip insurance, and particularly not "cancel for any reason," but if you read up on those policies, they have many exclusions that do not qualify, such as epidemics, pandemics, and social unrest / riots. And I am sure there are plenty of other exclusions that unwary purchasers assume covers them - there are posts on this forum and elsewhere that should give anyone pause about these policies as far as covering what is going on with the coronavirus.

Also, I have read multiple sources that say "cancel for any reason" policies cost more (40 percent more) and have a higher deductibles on claims than the more typical policies. Again, read up on it if you are curious.

I self insure my trips. Never needed it in the past, and knock on wood, hope I never do. Bottom line is that "cancel for any reason" is a misnomer at best, so caveat emptor.

Posted by
1036 posts

Usually people who say they are self-insuring their trip means that the will use their own money to pay for anything that a trip insurance would cover. In other words, no trip insurance. Until I got older that Is what I did. I was willing to take the chance of not taking any trip insurance because I was young and healthy. I saved a lot of money by doing that.

Posted by
113 posts

"Self insure" means I assume all risks and costs for any trip disruption or need to cancel. In other words, except for any coverages I might get from a credit card, I do not purchase any trip insurance. Luckily, in over 40 years of international travel, I have never had any such losses, and in that sense I am playing with house money, so to speak. If I got burned for a couple of thousand dollars, I might reconsider, but I get a headache reading those policies and trying to figure out what they cover and what they don't.

What I do have and have been doing for a few years is I have a medical evacuation policy through MedJet. The potential costs for repatriation while abroad with an injury or illness are enormous, and a good evacuation policy is a relative bargain. However, they recently notified people that they will not evacuate anybody from China, and a few other places with coronavirus widespread, and that is fine with me because I have no plans to travel any of those places.

Posted by
5448 posts

Statistically/Actuarially speaking if you are a lower risk person, self-insure if you can afford the loss, buy insurance if a loss would result in extreme harm. The logic is insurance companies build in cost and profit into their premiums. Their cost include marketing, writing the policy and dealing with claims.

The case for self-insuring travel cost is that cost would be spent (ie gone) if you successfully take the trip.

My exception to self-insuring is MedEvac insurance is that a medical evacuation/transport flight back to the States would be a major cost. And my Medicare Supplemental only covers $50,000 USD of lifetime foreign medical cost. Typical MedEvac adds an additional $50,000 USD of medical coverage plus the evacuation/transport cost.

Posted by
5448 posts

BTW high risk would include older persons with pre-existing medical conditions. Travel insurance policies may have pre-existing coverage waivers but the policy holder needs to carefully follow the conditions.

https://www.travelinsurancereview.net/coverages/pre-existing-condition/

Some travel insurance plans cover medical costs relative to
pre-existing conditions by offering a waiver to the exclusion. Having
pre-existing coverage means that the medical coverage provided by your
policy is in effect because the pre-existing exclusion is waived.

What is the ‘Look-back Period’ and ‘Medically Stable’?

The look-back period is the amount of time prior to your travel
policy’s effective date that the insurance company will review for
pre-existing conditions if you end up filing a claim. If you were
medically stable during the look-back period, it is not considered a
pre-existing condition.

The term medically stable means that you’ve had no new medical
condition and no prescription medication changes during the look-back
period. You must be medically stable when you purchase the travel plan
and if a claim is made.

The amount of time in the look-back period varies from plan to plan,
but is typically between 60 and 180 days. Any medical condition that
existed during the look-back period is considered a pre-existing
condition if you had symptoms and/or were treated or had a change in
your prescription medications.

Important notes about this coverage

You must purchase an amount of coverage that equals all pre-paid non
refundable payments applicable to the trip. Your health must be
medically stable when you purchase your travel plan.

Nearly all plans require you to purchase your travel insurance soon
after making your first trip payment.
If you buy it early and the
trip is fully insured, there is often no extra charge.

You must cover the full length of your trip (not just a portion of it).

Pre-existing condition limitations do not apply to the following
coverage (which means a pre-existing condition can’t be used to deny
these claims):

Emergency Medical Evacuation

Repatriation

Posted by
113 posts

That "look back" period mumbo jumbo is one of the reasons I have never bought trip insurance. If I am abroad (or in the US away from home) and get sick enough to need to fly home for treatment for a longstanding pre-existing condition of mine (diabetes), MedJet covers me on evacuation, and my gold plated private health insurance covers me while abroad, at least for initial doctor or emergency room visits. Now in a few years when I go on Medicare, I may have to reconsider my options...but I will look at that then.

Posted by
46 posts

I thought we were covered (at least for our flights), as I'd bought insurance from AA.com (underwritten by Allianz).

Sadly, it appears epidemics are specifically excluded.