How to avoid the pitfalls of travel insurance

Each and every year, I get calls from clients who say they never knew this or that about their travel insurance policy. As such, I’ve decided to answer some of the more oft-asked questions via the following list, in a bid to help and assist you the next time you decide to buy travel insurance.

1. Buying travel insurance early does not lock in insurability. Many people think that if they buy insurance early and then have a change in their health status, they are covered. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

One alteration in medication or any medical investigation changes everything and must be declared or a future claim may be denied. Travel insurance coverage is all about a traveler’s health on the actual day they leave and for each and every trip they take during the year.

2. A change in health can make an annual plan worthless for future trips. Just because someone buys an annual policy does not mean they are covered all year. A simple change in health could leave a condition uncovered for future excursions.

Some plans provide Future Insurability options, allowing a person to travel even with a change in stability, but not all plans offer this route.

3. If a claim has been made, and a traveler wishes to come home early for whatever reason, there is no refund of unused days.

4. A traveler may not be able to top up or extend an annual or single trip if a claim has been made on the initial policy.

5. Travelers need to call the insurance company when going to the hospital. Some insurers have specific hospitals they want the insured to visit and if they go to another hospital, charges may not be covered.

6. A pending test or investigation to be done at a later date can result in a claim being denied. Travelers must try to get back all test results, and avoid booking any further tests until their travels are complete. Failure to do so could result in a claim being denied.

7. Should an insurer decide to send a traveler home after an illness, the traveler should take the offer. Failure to do so will result in the insurer taking future coverage on that condition off the table.

8. After an emergency, plans cover one follow-up visit to a physician or hospital. It’s important to note that an insurer is not going to pay for ongoing visits or therapies.

9. Failure to disclose all conditions can lead an insurer to deny a claim for a totally unrelated disclosed condition.

10. Buy insurance prior to milestone birthdays. For instance, by applying before turning 70, 75, 80 or 85, travelers can lock in much lower rates, even if their birthday is months before they are travelling. It’s the traveler’s age at time of application that counts.

11. It is important to understand how many days stability a plan requires. Typical plans can be 90 or 180 days, or one year. There are plans that allow travelers to reduce the stability period to as little as seven days by purchasing a rider at an additional cost.

Hopefully, you can learn from this and avoid the pitfalls of travel insurance.

Martin Firestone is president of Travel Secure.