Demand for travel insurance spikes amid coronavirus outbreak

Personal finance

Kenneth Montgomery is the head team physician with the New York Jets, as well as the president and co-founder of OrthoNations, a nonprofit aimed at training surgeons in developing nations around the world.

Each year, Montgomery and his group travel to countries like Vietnam, where they’re headed next, to teach medical professionals a range of procedures from shoulder replacement to elbow and wrist arthroscopy. The coronavirus outbreak now threatens their plans.

“Normally, if you are planning to go on a trip to China and something like this happens, you postpone your trip,” Montgomery said. However, in this case, “the hospitals are planning on this and we really want to go.”

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As a precaution, “I instructed everyone to get travel insurance,” he said.

In general, travel insurance will reimburse you should an unforeseen event happen before or during your trip. That can include medical expenses, having to cancel your plans, lost baggage or even flight delays.

Researchers at the travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip reported a 60% jump in policies sold since the first travel-related case of coronavirus was detected in the U.S. last month.

OrthoNations president and co-founder, Dr. Kenneth Montgomery, regularly travels with a team of doctors to countries like Vietnam to train medical professionals there. The coronavirus now threatens their upcoming trip.

Source: OrthoNations

“We expect this growing demand for travel insurance to continue to rise until the coronavirus outbreak stabilizes,” said Meghan Walch, a product manager for InsureMyTrip.

Still, in the case of coronavirus, many policy protections may not apply.

Check the coverage

“The devil is in the details,” said Erik Josowitz, an insurance analyst at insuranceQuotes.com. “If you decide to cancel, that’s not typically covered by the standard policy.”

If you do decide you just don’t want to go on your trip, you would need a “cancel for any reason” rider, which lets you off the hook up to 48 hours before departure.

Buying the “CFAR” benefit also costs extra — expect to pay about 50% more than a typical travel insurance policy. In return, you’ll get about 75% of your trip reimbursed.

For travelers “who are devoting a significant portion of their savings to a trip, it can be a good addition,” Josowitz said.

“People need to think about where they are traveling to and the likelihood they will want to cancel, then look at the cancel for any reason rider if it’s available.”

Raj Goel, 49, recently purchased travel insurance for his family’s December cruise from New York to Bermuda.

“I’ve gone on lots of trips and I’ve never looked at or cared about travel insurance, but this time around I’m seriously considering how we can back out of this trip,” he said.

However, although Goel purchased a nearly $300 policy through Arch Insurance, it did not include a “CFAR” rider.

Weigh the alternatives

You may not necessarily need trip cancellation insurance. In some cases, you can pay a change fee with your airline or cancel your hotel for no penalty if it is within a certain window.

As of now, given the coronavirus outbreak, some airlines are even relaxing their policies and some major hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees. “Start there,” Josowitz said.

Your credit card may offer benefits, as well, such as flight delays or cancellation protections, and sometimes basic medical coverage.

“See what’s covered,” Josowitz said. “Some have travel insurance just by purchasing with that card.”

If you are in the market for a travel insurance policy, shop around.

“You may not have all the options for travel insurance when you book your flights,” Josowitz said.

Companies such as include Allianz, Travel Guard International and Travelex Insurance Services all sell comprehensive trip insurance.

You can compare policies, inclusions and prices on websites such as insuremytrip.com and Squaremouth.com.

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