That depends on what kind of coverage you purchased and when you bought your policy. Unless you buy "cancel for any reason" coverage, your policy probably won't cover you if your trip is canceled or postponed due to the swine flu outbreak. Policies purchased after April 24, 2009, are even more problematic because April 24 is the date on which the swine flu breakout became a well-known event.
In addition, each travel insurance policy is different. If your policy excludes coverage for events related to epidemics or pandemics, you may not be covered regardless of when you bought it. Before you buy any travel insurance policy, you should take the time to read the entire document. Look for exclusions for pre-existing conditions, epidemics, pandemics and other reasons the insurance provider might deny your flu-related claim.
Remember that you will need to buy travel insurance shortly after you pay your deposit for full coverage to apply. For example, Travel Guard's "Cancel for Any Reason" upgrades only apply if you purchase your policy and upgrade within 15 days from your deposit payment date.
Travel insurance providers are approaching the swine flu crisis in a variety of ways. For example:
- In a recent press release, Chris Harvey, CEO of travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth, said that swine flu-related claims against policies purchased after April 24, 2009, are likely to be turned down unless the policy included "cancel for any reason" coverage.
- Travel Guard's "Cancel for Any Reason" coverage is offered as an upgrade to some Travel Guard trip insurance plans. If you purchase this upgrade, Travel Guard will reimburse you up to 75 percent of your trip cancellation penalty as long as you cancel your trip at least 48 hours before departure. Reimbursement percentage depends on the coverage offered under the travel insurance plan you purchase.
Travel Guard also offers telephone assistance to travelers seeking information and referrals for swine flu. If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of swine flu, you can call 866-644-6811 in the U.S. and Canada or 715-295-1209 collect from overseas. Travel Guard also offers swine flu information on its U.S. and Canadian websites.
- Access America / Mondial Assistance says on their (combined) website that policies purchased on or after April 24, 2009, will not cover any swine flu-related claims. Some policies sold before April 24, 2009, may not cover swine flu claims due to specific policy exclusions for epidemics or pandemics.
- Most CSA Travel Protection policies cover trip cancellation if you are being treated by a doctor for a particular illness that was contracted after you purchased your travel insurance policy. According to Bob Chambers of CSA Travel Protection, "Travelers who want the flexibility of canceling a trip regardless of reason should look for a company that offers 'Cancel for Any Reason' policies. Fear of traveling, or government advisories against travel, are not covered reasons under the majority of travel insurance policies, but would be covered under a 'Cancel for Any Reason' policy. Consumers should be aware that most 'Cancel for Any Reason' policies pay a sliding scale of benefits in the event of cancellation."
- InsureMyTrip.com's blog has information about the swine flu outbreak and how various travel insurance providers are responding to customers' questions.
As conditions change, your best bet is to contact your travel insurance provider for up-to-date information.
If you are planning to travel but have not yet purchased travel insurance, you should carefully consider your feelings about traveling during a pandemic. Most travel insurance policies will not cover you if you cancel your trip because you are worried about a particular disease unless you have purchased "Cancel for Any Reason" coverage. Even if your airline will not fly into a swine flu area, your travel insurance policy may not cover your situation. Contact your travel insurance provider before buying a policy if, after reading the entire policy, you still have questions.
In situations where you are requesting that a claim be paid, it is always best to conduct your business in writing, either by email or by traceable traditional mailing methods. If you do not receive a prompt reply to your correspondence, consider resending the letter or claim form, this time sending a copy to a senior executive of the travel insurance company. Keep a log of all correspondence, including emails and telephone calls, just in case.