Your insurance in corona virus times – Frequently asked questions

The corona virus crisis has brought with it a host of questions on the matter of insurance. What if I land in hospital whilst I’m abroad? What am I covered for? Is my travel and cancellation policy still valid if I set off on a trip despite negative advice from the Foreign Office? Some answers will come as no surprise, others are less obvious. Expat & Co puts them all together in a handy reference guide.

Am I insured if I’m admitted to hospital in a foreign country?

Virtually every hospitalisation policy will pay out on the costs incurred in being admitted to hospital abroad. If there’s provision to that effect in your policy, you will get reimbursement for the medical expenses you incur. No distinction is drawn between a corona virus infection or any other illness or accident.

We are aware of one US insurer that, in light of the corona virus crisis, terminated some policies and abandoned its clients without cover. No European insurer would be able to do that.

What about repatriation?

If you can be repatriated to a hospital in your home country, this should be done in consultation between the doctor who is treating you and the doctor at the assistance coordination centre. However, not all hospitalisation policies provide for repatriation. It can nonetheless be reimbursed if you’ve taken out separate travel assistance insurance or if it is included as a form of cover under your hospitalisation policy (dependent, of course, on it being at all possible to fly).

I’m not sick but I want to get out of the country as soon as possible owing to a worldwide pandemic. Can I claim the costs of my departure under my travel assistance insurance?

Your travel assistance insurance will only pay out in the event of actual (medical) problems. The risk of falling ill is not therefore a valid ground for an early return home and so your travel insurance will not refund you the costs of your coming home early owing to the pandemic.

Is someone still covered if they travel abroad despite negative Foreign Office advice?

Yes, they are, unless the travel policy contains an exclusion in such cases, and certainly in the case of illness or accident. Some policies may provide that cover is excluded in the event of negative travel advice and the policyholder nonetheless decides to travel or not to return home. In that case, it has to be included in the policy in terms of a limit on the insurer’s liability.
Things could well be different under an Assistance policy, since the underlying principle is also different. In Assistance, you don’t collect invoices requiring to be reimbursed, but instead a service is rendered, such as medical evacuation from a remote island. It has to be physically possible in such cases to render that service. A war or pandemic may, for instance, prevent that. It can also be problematic to arrange repatriation from countries against which sanctions are imposed, such as Iran or North Korea, because no international payments are possible to such countries.

The country where I am is closing its borders. I have no way of getting out and must therefore extend my stay here. Are the additional costs of my stay covered by my travel assistance insurance?

Some assistance insurers include this in their standard cover, others only add it into more-extensive policies. But in most cases, it’s limited to a certain maximum amount and/or maximum number of days.

What if the Foreign Office issues negative advice for the country I want to travel to? Can I invoke my travel cancellation insurance in such cases?

Foreign Office travel advice and lockdowns are not as a rule listed as insured risks, and so the insurance company will not pay out in such cases. Some insurers acquiesce for negative advice when it changes suddenly but certainly not if the travel advice has been already publicised for some time.

Many insurers stopped selling travel insurance during the corona virus crisis. As a policyholder whose travel insurance is expiring, could I end up being affected by this fact during an unexpected extended stay in a foreign country?

If travel is no longer possible, it’s logical that insurers won’t sell any new travel insurance given that nearly no services can be provided. There are no more flights, the hospitals are filled to overcapacity or are no longer admitting foreigners. Reaching deals with hospitals and airlines, which is usually a matter of an hour, now takes several days. And even with the most expensive of health insurance policies, it can happen that you end up in the corridor instead of the single room you’d normally be entitled to under the policy. In exceptional times, the standards that apply are also exceptional.

You’re therefore best advised to return home as quickly as possible when you get wind of a pandemic or global crisis, if you still have a place to stay there. Because it gets very difficult, if not impossible, to repatriate or evacuate people. Even governments were unable to get all their citizens back to their home country.

If your question isn’t answered here or you’d like information on your own insurance portfolio, be sure to give your Expat & Co adviser a call (+32 2 463 04 04 or info@expatinsurance.eu).

 

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