As the Omicron wave recedes, travel insurance claims creep up

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Prior to the pandemic, Lauren Mack, 44, a New York-based writer, “did not normally buy travel insurance,” she wrote in an email. Covid-19 convinced her otherwise, and of the six journeys she had taken since the outbreak of the pandemic, she had to apply three or twice because of weather delays and once because her fellow passenger had tested positive for the virus. Two are still under assessment and the first took almost two months from the submission of the application to the refund.

Although understanding what is covered by travel insurance and what is excluded still irritates consumers, comprehensive and “cancellation for any reason” principles have emerged as a way to secure non-refundable bookings and seek compensation for travel interruptions, as travel remains subdued. coronavirus waves and uncertainties related to the war in Ukraine. (Most travel insurance excludes war and civil unrest and will not protect your investment if the conflict in Ukraine is transferred to neighboring countries.)

The most recent problem consumers face with travel insurance, whether it has anything to do with Covid or not, has now been a decision – or even an update – on the claim.

“The process of verifying and approving claims has slowed down as a result of the pandemic,” said Kendra Thornton, owner Royal Travel & Tours, a travel agency based in Winnetke, Ill., which is attributing the slowdown to the volume of claims. “Approved claims, which were usually paid within two months, now last up to five months or more.”

When Americans are preparing to travel in large numbers again – Destination analysts, a market research company, recently found that more than 93 percent of Americans were planning a vacation in the next 12 months – many of them considering travel insurance. Depending on the destination, you may need to purchase one; Belize, Fiji, Thailand a Singapore are among the countries that require travel medical insurance to cover your costs if you become infected with the virus during your visit.

Cover Genius, an insurance technology company that includes insurance sales while booking travel on sites like Booking.com and Icelandair.com, saw a six – fold increase in sales in 2021 compared to pre – pandemic data. about WorldTripssales of travel health insurance in 2022 increased by 67 percent compared to 2019. Cestovná poisťovňa Seven corners stated that sales had increased by 200 percent in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

“With Omicron, we certainly have our hands full with questions and phone calls from customers asking what might be involved, and we’ve seen an increase in sales over the last few months,” said Meghan Walch, Product Manager for Omicron. InsureMyTrip.com, an online travel insurance market that allows buyers to filter out policies that cover Covid-19. “People want to get out and learn to travel now.”

Traditional insurance sellers are not the only ones looking for new buyers. In January, Marriott hotels merged with the insurance company Allianz offer travel insurance. When booking the hotel online, passengers will be offered insurance at the box office. In addition to the room rate itself, the insurance may cover the total cost of the trip, which may include ski lift tickets and prepaid non-refundable tours. Insurance costs are charged immediately, although the hotel rate is usually due on the day of travel.

This spring, Airbnb plans to offer travel insurance to cover non-refundable parts of the stay booked through the platform. It also recently launched a protection plan for passengers who are unable to travel due to a COVID-related travel interruption, such as border closures or quarantine requirements that were not met at the time of booking; in these cases, if the Airbnb reservation is not refundable, the company will offer a coupon for 50 percent of the cost of the non-refundable part of the reservation for future use. The program appears to be designed to cover the sharp rise of Omikron, and lasts until April 30 or until its 20 million fund is exhausted.

“People are now better informed about the travel insurance provided by the safety net if they want to travel,” said Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO VisitorsCoverage.com, an online travel insurance marketplace. “There has been a huge leap in sales, but also in demand.”

Although travel insurance is increasingly ubiquitous, timely resolution of the claim remains a challenge.

It varies from the time the passenger submits the claim to the insurer’s first response, but according to experts, it usually takes five to 10 days.

But outbursts of viruses, most recently Omicron, blocked the system. At an online travel insurance retailer Squaremouth, approximately 27 percent of claims have concerned Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Currently, almost 40 percent are related to Covid.

“As an industry, we have seen an unprecedented increase in Covid-related applications over the last two years, which has occasionally translated into backlogs for many member firms that are constantly working to help their customers. The non-profit business group said in a statement provided by the American Travel Insurance Association. “With the sharp increase in the demands of the company, they increase the number of employees; however, new employees must be trained and licensed before they can decide on lawsuits. “

One of them is Seven Corners, which recently hired seven new employees who are trained in claims handling, for a total of 24.

“We’re trying to overtake any wave that comes,” said Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners.

Marc Devens, a software products manager living in Jersey City, New Jersey, remains loyal to Seven Corners based on a fundamental medical claim he and his wife made several years ago during a life in China that was treated effectively. But last fall, he had trouble catching someone in the company to update the rules for a December diving trip to the Caribbean, although this was finally resolved and the trip went smoothly.

“The travel insurance industry is probably on the rise, but with more employees, they certainly did not anticipate it,” he said.

The best way to get prompt attention, insurers say, is to be organized and thorough in filing the required documents. Keep all related statements of expenses as well as any documentation on delays and cancellations of airlines.

As with other conditions, if you become infected with Covid-19 (and covered by your plan) that prevents you from traveling, restricts your travel, or results in quarantine, keep records of your treatment or diagnosis from your healthcare provider. Covid’s home test is not enough for a medical claim; insurers require the results of a test performed by a doctor together with a doctor’s recommendation not to travel.

In case of lost luggage, it can be difficult to remember everything you packed. For this reason, Stan Sandberg, co-founder of the online marketplace TravelInsurance.comrecommends taking pictures of a packed and open suitcase.

Although insurance vendors don’t address claims, many say they take a surprise and help clients get attention. InsureMyTrip.com has a damage assistance program run by agents called “Attorneys at Anytime” who will investigate your case if you have been rejected or asked for more information.

“At a time when we have customers we feel don’t get the attention they deserve, we’ll step it up with our partners,” said Mr Sandberg. “We can use a little pressure, but we won’t help with claims.”

“Although I had to last longer than usual to get my claim settled,” said Mrs. Mack, a New York writer, “it finally worked out.” She now wrote in an email: you never know what might happen during your travels. “

Elaine Glusac writes the Humble Traveler column. Watch it on Instagram at @eglusac.

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