Insurance follow up: The latest from Allianz, Manulife and the CLHIA

TORONTO — Now that Blue Cross Ontario and Blue Cross Quebec, along with B2C insurer Medipac, have introduced COVID-19 coverage into select policies, travel advisors are watching to see if others others will follow suit.

Allianz reconfirmed that its policies will not include coverage for COVID-19 until the federal government drops the travel advisory against non-essential travel.

“I can confirm that Allianz Global Assistance Canada’s out-of-country medical coverage offered through our travel agency partners will not cover costs for treatment abroad related to COVID-19, until the international travel advisory is withdrawn,” says Dan Keon, Allianz’s Vice President, Market Management.

Keon adds: “To clarify further, if Global Affairs Canada begins lifting the travel advisories for individual countries, and no advisory is in place for a policyholder’s specific destination on their date of departure, the policyholder will be eligible for medical treatment related to COVID-19 while on their trip.

“We will continue to take every measure possible to keep our valued travel agency partners fully informed on how travel insurance coverage works in this new era of travel, so they can protect their customers and help them get back to exploring the world with confidence,” he adds.

Manulife’s Director, Global External Communications, Gillian Earle, confirmed that Manulife’s stance remains as it was from the beginning of the pandemic in March. “As of March 13, 2020, the Government of Canada issued a level 3 Travel Advisory for the world (i.e. avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada),” said Earle. “When it comes to Manulife Individual Emergency Medical Coverage, if the Government of Canada has not issued a Level 3 or higher Travel Advisory for your destination prior to departure and you incur medical expenses related to COVID-19, those costs would be covered in accordance with the terms and conditions of the individual travel insurance you purchased.”

On July 22 Blue Cross reopened out-of-country travel insurance sales for Ontario Blue Cross and Quebec Blue Cross, and its emergency medical care benefit now includes coverage for COVID-19, providing the insured person does not show signs or symptoms of COVID-19 prior to departure.

Meanwhile direct-to-consumer insurance provider Medipac has released its Early Bird Travel Insurance promotion for 2020 – and it includes coverage for COVID-19.

Travelweek’s interviews with Blue Cross and Medipac can be read here.

In promoting Medipac’s Early Bird Travel Insurance, J. Ross Quigley, CEO, Medipac International Inc. said that COVID-19 “is like the flu, mind you a very serious flu.”

An industry insider says: “Medipac is trying to grab cash and early bookings. Their CEO says in their CSA (Canadian Snowbird Association) magazine that COVID is like a flu! And that most of us will get it anyway. Totally irresponsible in my opinion. Especially since snowbirds are all high risk groups.”

Medipac sells direct to consumers, primarily snowbirds, and does not sell through travel agents.

Joan Weir, Director of Health and Disability Policy for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), says it came as surprise to the CLHIA that insurers have started to cover COVID-19 with select travel insurance policies, but she adds that fall and winter are approaching and snowbirds are wondering about travel plans. The Canada-U.S. border remains closed until at least Aug. 21.

“We don’t have an official position [on whether or not travel insurance providers should respect the travel advisory]. It was surprising to us that this happened,” says CLHIA’s Weir. “But we also understand that with snowbirds, it’s a less risky environment – most drive themselves, most are capable of quarantining. From that perspective it makes sense. We do understand that snowbirds are starting to think about winter travel.”

Weir notes that insurance sales are overseen by the provinces as well as a national network of regulators, and points to the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCR). “They do require fair treatment of customers,” ensuring that policies are clear and clauses are easily understood, among other things.

“We tell consumers, make sure you contact your insurer to find out what your policy covers,” says Weir. “The marketplace is very different from insurer to insurer. Absolutely, it is buyer beware.”

Earlier this month the CLHIA posted this public advisory, with tips and advice, for consumers starting to think about travel outside Canada.

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