With travel horror stories like emergency medical evacuations, stranded cruise ships, and super blizzards, travelers have become more aware of travel insurance and yet they still have a lot to learn.
Unfortunately, the impression that many travelers have is that once they buy the plan, they’re covered for anything that goes wrong on their trip.
Like any other insurance product, your travel insurance is a legal document and there are exclusions and limitations to the coverage you have to understand before you can be 100% confident you have the right coverage.
Here are 6 steps to avoid denied travel insurance claims.
1. Buy your travel insurance policy early
Your travel insurance can’t protect you from things that have already happened. If the hurricane warning has been issued, or your spouse is ill, or the traffic accident occurred, it’s too late to buy a travel insurance policy to cover your trip for those events. Also, several important coverages require the traveler to purchase the plan within a certain number of days of making their first trip deposit, so you want coverage for:
you’ll need to buy your travel insurance early.
2. Insure all your pre-paid trip expenses
Many travelers purchase their flights and then buy their travel insurance, estimating the cost of their remaining travel expenses. This is a great way to lock in your coverage and get access to the time-critical coverages, but you’ve got to circle back and update your coverage for all your non-refundable travel expenses once you have a total or some coverages, like trip cancellation, won’t be active. Not only that, the travel insurance plan won’t send you a check for the portion of your trip you did insure.
You’ve got to check your travel details and total up the trip costs to make sure your coverage is valid. If you estimate high, then finalize your plans during the free look period, you can make changes to your policy and be set to go.
3. Recognize what a pre-existing condition means
A pre-existing condition is defined in travel insurance plans as “any injury, illness, disease or other medical condition that occurs prior to the travel plan’s effective date and for which you had symptoms and sought diagnosis, medical treatment, and/or new prescription medications or a change in your current prescription.”
The definition doesn’t change even if you later find out you had a pre-existing condition and didn’t know it. If you recently visited the doctor for a medical issue (within the last 60-180 days) and don’t have the results from that visit yet, you might want to hold off on buying your travel insurance. At least until you’re sure the reason you visited the doctor isn’t going to result in a diagnosis that may cause you to cancel your trip. If you buy your travel insurance, then find out you have a diagnosis that means you’ll have to cancel your trip, that cancellation won’t be covered unless you bought pre-existing medical condition coverage.
4. Read and understand the covered reasons for cancelling
Unfortunately, many travelers read ‘trip cancellation’ and think that means they can cancel their trip no matter what, but it’s just not true. Travel insurance providers specifically list the reasons a traveler can and cannot cancel their trip and expect to be reimbursed for their lost non-refundable payments.
Read the travel insurance plan documents that are sent to you by email when you buy the plan to understand the reasons you can and cannot cancel your trip. If you want the right to cancel your trip for any reason at all, get ‘cancel for any reason’ as your backup coverage.
5. Get to know the exclusions
Every insurance plan has exclusions and travel insurance does too. We recently heard of a traveler who cancelled their trip because of a job loss, but their claim was denied because they hadn’t worked the required minimum time at the company (1 to 2 years is standard). Understandably, the traveler was angry but the policy was clear. The traveler just hadn’t read it thoroughly. If she’d had ‘cancel for any reason’ her trip would have been covered.
Stop and read the exclusions listed in your travel insurance plan document and think about the things that can go wrong. The exclusions are typically contained in an easily identified part of the travel insurance plan documents, so they’re not too hard to find.
6. If something happens, get all documentation you can
Often, travel insurance companies are forced to deny claims because of a lack of documentation. Many travelers expect their travel insurance company to take their word that the flight was delayed or that their passport was stolen and it’s just not reasonable.
If something happens on your trip and you believe you’ll need to make a claim, get written documentation to prove that loss. If you’re sick, go to the doctor and get a diagnosis in writing – even if it’s the flu and you know how to treat it. Otherwise, the travel insurance company won’t have proof and your claim will be denied.