ST. PETE BEACH, FL June 11th 2009 — Americans who bought travel insurance hoping to be covered for emergency treatment if they develop swine flu while on vacation could find their cover is limited now that a global flu pandemic is officially underway, Squaremouth.com, the country’s fastest growing comparison website for travel insurance, reported today.
Exclusionary clauses in some travel insurance policies allow insurers to get out of paying medical claims related to swine flu in the case of an officially declared global pandemic or epidemic. But not all policies void medical coverage during disease outbreaks – in fact, most do not — so it’s critical for buyers to find out directly from their insurer, or from a website like Squaremouth.com, what protection they still have, said Squaremouth’s chief executive Chris Harvey.
“Companies may choose to overlook their own pandemic or epidemic exclusion policy on a case by case basis,” Harvey said. “The lesson here is always to check the policy’s fine print.”
As of Thursday, there were at least 28,000 confirmed cases of the new H1N1 swine flu virus, and more than 140 deaths reported in 74 countries, the World Health Organization reported, including at least 13,217 cases in the US.
Following the WHO’s decision Thursday to move to Level Six, the highest alert level, Squaremouth has fielded many calls from customers worried about whether policies they bought previously remain valid – and in most cases, they are.
Claims typically won’t be paid where a trip was canceled or cut short out of fear of contracting the swine flu. Medical benefits do, however, continue to apply for policies that don’t have a pandemic clause.
Only four carriers available on Squaremouth feature pandemic or epidemic clauses excluding travelers from some or all benefits during a pandemic: Elvia (also known as Mondial), HTH Worldwide, Global Alert Administrators and TravelSafe.
• HTH Worldwide has confirmed that it will provide no benefits related to the pandemic for holders of its TripProtector and TripProtector Preferred plans. Medical benefits related to H1N1 on the company’s TravelGap medical policies will continue to apply.
• Squaremouth has not yet received an update from Global Alert Administrators, or Elvia/Mondial. These will be posted as soon as they are received.
• TravelSafe currently reports that it will not provide medical benefits related to swine flu following the declaration of a pandemic, due to its specific exclusion for epidemics and pandemics. Updated information will be provided if TravelSafe’s position changes.
Pandemic information for individual travel insurers listed on Squaremouth is continuously updated at Squaremouth.com. Travel insurance agents should visit the travel partners section at squaremouth for updates.
Customers are also asking whether they should continue to buy travel insurance for medical emergencies during this pandemic. Again, “the vast majority of policies are going to be fine,” said the CEO.
Those who want the option of canceling ahead of a planned trip can also still buy “cancel for any reason” upgrades, though these typically pay out less than 100% of a claim, and only to within two days of departure. They may, or may not, continue to apply during this pandemic, depending on the insurer.
The H1N1 virus, which originated in Mexico and the US, was deemed to have jumped from epidemic proportions – meaning it affected a few localized regions and populations – to a full-blown pandemic, or global outbreak, after recent reports of its swift spread through Australia, Europe and Asia.
Declaring the first flu pandemic in 41 years also means countries will be setting in motion nationwide pandemic plans, which may mean they issue travel warnings or even halt travel to and from their countries, Harvey said. For information about countries’ pandemic preparedness and how travelers can protect themselves, visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/swineflu.
Squaremouth is America’s fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, helping customers instantly quote, compare and buy policies from every major carrier. Squaremouth has web sites in the US and UK, and an extensive network of partner sites worldwide. The company is headquartered in St Pete Beach, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Visit Squaremouth.com or Squaremouth.co.uk.
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