We’ve encountered a few variations of this question over the years in our comments: “Why doesn’t the travel insurance company ask pertinent medical questions before they sell me a policy?”
As a consumer, you have a right to purchase insurance of all kinds. It’s your responsibility to have the insurance you need to cover your situation. For example, your homeowners’ insurance provider doesn’t ask if a tree appears about to fall on your house. It’s your responsibility – as the homeowner – to get the right home insurance to protect your home and your belongings.
How Consumers Make these Travel Insurance Mistakes
The primary mistake travel insurance consumers make is failing to read their policy.
What happens is that most travel insurance consumers purchase a plan that has ‘trip cancellation’ and they think that it means cancelling a trip for any reason, at any time, and getting a full refund – no matter what.
Travel insurance is no different than other insurance products in that is has limitations and exclusions. Remember all the folks with flooded homes who moaned about their homeowners’ insurance failing them? Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding that occurs from outside the home. It was a surprise to all those homeowners, but not to anyone who had read their policies.
The next mistake travel insurance consumers make is failing to purchase the right coverage.
If you know you have a pre-existing medical condition, or if you’ve been to the doctor to be treated for a condition, then it’s your responsibility to be honest with the travel insurance company about the situation and purchase the coverage you may need on your trip.
The travel insurance plan’s description of coverage details the list of limitations and exclusions and that is your agreement with the travel insurance company. Typical medically related exclusions include items like the following (these are copied from the current version of Worldwide Trip Protector Gold from Travel Insured International):
1) Pre-Existing Conditions, as defined in the Definitions section (except Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains), unless the policy is purchased within 30 days of the initial Trip deposit. The booking for the Trip must be the first and only booking for this travel period and destination, You are not disabled from travel at the time You pay the premium, and You must purchase this policy for the full non-refundable cost of Your Trip;
2) Suicide, attempted suicide or any intentionally self-inflicted Injury while sane or insane (in Missouri, sane only) committed by You, Traveling Companion, or Family Member whether insured or not;
3) War, invasion, acts of foreign enemies, hostilities between nations (whether declared or not), civil war (does not apply to Cancel for Work Reasons coverage);
4) Participation in any military maneuver or training exercise (does not apply to Cancel for Work Reasons coverage);
5) Piloting or learning to pilot or acting as a member of the crew of any aircraft;
6) Mental or emotional disorders, unless hospitalized;
7) Participation as a professional in athletics;
8) Being under the influence of drugs or intoxicants, unless prescribed by a Physician;
9) Commission or the attempt to commit a criminal act by You, Traveling Companion or Family Member whether insured or not;
10) Participating in bodily contact sports; skydiving; hang gliding; parachuting; any race, bungee cord jumping;
speed contest; spelunking or caving; (Does not apply while on Your Trip if You purchase Sports Coverage);
11) Participating in extreme skiing or mountaineering (mountaineering below 15,000 feet is covered while on Your Trip if You purchase Sports Coverage);
12) Dental treatment except as a result of Accidental Injury to sound natural teeth;
13) Pregnancy and childbirth (except for Complications of Pregnancy or as specifically provided under Part A);
14) Traveling for the purpose of securing medical treatment.
In addition, there may be coverage-specific exclusions like the following:
The following limitation applies to Trip Cancellation: All cancellations must be reported directly to the Travel Supplier within 72 hours of the event causing the need to cancel, unless the event prevents it, and then as soon as is reasonably possible. If the cancellation is not reported within the specified 72-hour period, the Company will not pay for additional charges which would not have been incurred had You notified the Travel Supplier in the specified period. If the event prevents You from reporting the cancellation, the 72-hour notice requirement does not apply; however, You must, if requested, provide proof that said event prevented You from reporting the cancellation within the specified period.
The travel insurance companies have done their part by making their policy available to you and, even better, giving you a free look period to review it, ask questions, and make changes or cancel your policy.
Now you have to do your part and read the policy to know that you’ve purchased what you need to cover your trip.
7 Things that Confuse Travelers about Travel Insurance