Travellers should check insurance coverage twice amid changing rules, experts say

By Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

Travel industry experts are warning Canadians to double check their insurance coverage before embarking on a trip this holiday season amid tightening travel restrictions. 

Holiday travel has been upended by the latest COVID-19 variant sweeping the globe, prompting some travellers to postpone or cancel trips. 

For those determined to travel, experts say renewed travel advisories may have altered their insurance coverage.  

“Travellers who don’t check with their insurance provider before leaving the country may end up stranded,” said Martin Firestone, president of Toronto-based Travel Secure Inc. “You don’t want to wait until you file a claim to find out you don’t have coverage.”

Certain plans specifically exclude some coverage as a result of the advisory, he said. 

“You’ve got to check and see whether the travel advisory negates potential coverage for COVID-19,” he said. “If it did, you’ve got to run quickly to get either a rider to cover COVID-19 or find a new provider.”

Some policies may offer a so-called rider, an insurance plan add-on that offers optional extra coverage for COVID-19 medical and quarantine expenses, Firestone said. 

Omar Kaywan, co-founder of Vancouver-based Goose Insurance, said so far most of the company’s clients are continuing with their travel plans. 

“Our customers still want to go,” he said. “There’s pent-up demand and revenge travel is still happening.”

The No. 1 concern among travellers today is whether their insurance could be voided if the federal government continues to raise the travel advisory level, Kaywan said..

The answer to that question depends on their policy, he said.

“If you are purchasing with us, we have a COVID-19 specific policy,” Kaywan said. “It’s a great add-on to some of those legacy policies that wouldn’t offer you COVID-19 coverage.”

For travellers who are on the fence about buying travel insurance, Kaywan said it’s a fraction of the overall cost of a trip and an essential investment during a pandemic.

“Travel insurance is not that expensive. I think that’s a misconception.”

The federal government cautions travellers to verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of an insurance policy before leaving Canada.

“If you have to travel abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, know that your ability to obtain individual travel health insurance where we advise against non-essential travel may be limited,” the government says on its website.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec.17, 2021.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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