TORONTO — While Canadians looking to travel this winter have a few hurdles to clear – namely the 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada, and potentially pre-departure testing, depending on the destination – they are able to purchase COVID-19 travel insurance coverage.
Many of Canada’s biggest insurance companies launched COVID-19 coverage back in late summer and early fall.
Travelweek checked in with Manulife, Allianz Global Assistance and Blue Cross Ontario, to find out what questions they’re hearing most often from customers, and travel agents, about their policies and coverage.
We also got the three most-often asked questions from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), a trade association whose member companies account for 99% of Canada’s life and health insurance businesses.
1. Is Manulife promoting travelling abroad?
“Our top priority remains the health and safety of our customers, employees, partners and communities and, as the largest travel insurance provider in Canada, Manulife understands that some Canadians may have family, business and other important reasons for travelling. Today, more than ever before, they need specialized coverage that helps protect them in the event they fall ill due to COVID-19.
“We strongly encourage you to adhere to the recommendations of the Government of Canada and medical professionals around the world during this time. For those who decide to travel, Manulife supports the health and safety of Canadians by offering specialized travel insurance for COVID-19.”
2. Do I have to purchase another policy & then add the COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan?
“No, this is a stand-alone policy that can be purchased on its own, although, we highly recommend that travellers consider the purchase of a Non-Medical Package Plan or Trip Cancellation Plan to protect against circumstances if unable to travel as planned prior to departure. For example, contracting COVID-19 prior to your departure date.”
3. Does this plan provide coverage regardless of the destination?
“Manulife does not exclude any specific destinations worldwide. At present the only exclusion is for Cruise Travel however, we are exploring possibilities for future updates in this regard.”
4. Can this policy be combined with other coverages for COVID 19 being provided by travel suppliers?
“Yes. If the clients booking includes any type of complimentary coverage from the travel supplier, adding the Covid-19 Pandemic Travel Plan will provide the client with a combined aggregate of the two policy coverage amounts.”
ALLIANZ GLOBAL ASSISTANCE
1. Do you have COVID-19 coverage for travel outside of Canada and what does it cover?
“Yes, Allianz Global Assistance offers COVID-19 insurance and assistance for clients who test positive for COVID-19 while travelling. We offer it through our broker and travel agent partners or directly through our call centre. This policy provides coverage for COVID-19 related medical and interruption expenses. The benefit maximum is $1 million and includes coverage for hospital and medical expenses, transportation, and quarantine. This policy does not provide coverage for non-COVID related medical expenses, however, we can also provide coverage for other travel insurance needs.”
2. How do Government of Canada travel advisories apply to the COVID-19 Insurance and Assistance Plan?
“Allianz Global Assistance recommends that everyone follows all Government of Canada advisories. The COVID-19 Insurance and Assistance Plan provides coverage for COVID to destinations with a Level 3 advisory on the date of departure. This coverage is not available for travel within Canada, cruises or any destination included in the cruise ship itinerary, or destinations with a Level 4 advisory. As with every trip, clients are encouraged to review and adhere to any Government of Canada travel advisories and understand the risks for their destination.”
3. Can clients purchase a policy after they’ve already left on a trip?
“No. Clients must purchase their policy prior to departing on their trip. Additionally, if they are purchasing a policy extension, they must do so prior to the expiry date of their COVID-19 policy.”
4. How do refunds work if the trip is cancelled or if a client has to come home early?
“Clients can request a refund provided they: a) cancel their policy prior to departing on their trip; or b) they return to their province or territory of residence before the expiry date of their policy and a claim has not been incurred (partial refund).”
ONTARIO BLUE CROSS
1. Will I be covered if I get COVID-19 while on a trip?
“Ontario Blue Cross has not added specific coverage for COVID-19 to their contracts. This condition was already covered under the Emergency Medical Care insurance, in the same way as any sudden illness that would occur on a trip. The same conditions, reductions of coverage and limitations apply.
“As with most travel insurers, Ontario Blue Cross Emergency Medical Care insurance can cover emergency repatriation if this service is considered necessary and safe by the travel assistance medical team and the attending physician at the destination. Decisions are based on several factors, including the medical condition of the insured. At all times, the assistance service is dependent on the availability of care and services needed to return home.
“Anyone planning to travel abroad should take the time to properly assess the essential nature of their trip before making any plans. We encourage clients to contact us to get more clarity on the applicable conditions, if necessary.”
2. Can you provide written proof that I am covered for COVID-19?
“Yes, we are able to provide written proof of coverage.”
3. Will you cover the plane ticket if I need to return to the country after a travel advisory is issued?
“Trip Cancellation or Interruption insurance covers you only if you must interrupt your trip for a reason beyond your control and which was unknown at the time your insurance contract took effect.
“To be eligible for a reimbursement, your Trip Cancellation or Interruption insurance must have been purchased or your trip must have been booked:
Before a level 3 (avoid non-essential travel) or level 4 (avoid all travel) warning has been issued by the Government of Canada for your destination.
Before March 12, 2020, on which date we consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be a known and uninsurable cause.
THE CANADIAN LIFE AND HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION (CLHIA)
1. Should I stay or should I go?
“This question first started to be asked in August as snowbirds began to consider their options for travel south to their winter homes. Of course, Canadians need to make this decision for themselves. But insurers answer this by identifying the risks to health and healthcare that exist in today’s environment. This includes not only contracting COVID-19 but also becoming ill and needing treatment when hospital resources are dedicated to sick COVID-19 patients. To help with some of these questions, we recently issued this public advisory.”
2. Why is trip cancellation insurance not available now?
“The Government of Canada continues to maintain its global travel advisory telling Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel. When a travel advisory of level 3 (Avoid non-essential travel) or 4 (Avoid all travel) has been issued for a destination, trip cancellation policies for that destination cannot be sold, even for essential travel.”
3. I’ve decided to stay in Canada but because I’ve been out of the country too long, I’m not immediately eligible for the provincial health plan. What alternatives do I have?
“Individuals can purchase ‘visitors to Canada’ insurance to cover the gap between your return to Canada and the period when you become eligible again for provincial plan. Most health insurers offer ‘visitors to Canada’ policies.”