If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Blue Cross says that as of July 22 it has reopened out-of-country travel insurance sales for Ontario Blue Cross and Quebec Blue Cross, and its emergency medical care benefit will include 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. Agents can’t sell it, but after coverage of the new product in the consumer press, they will no doubt get questions about it.
Travelweek caught up with Blue Cross and Medipac. Here’s what they had to say ….
There was some initial confusion in the marketplace as to whether Medipac’s policy did in fact cover COVID-19, as an earlier version of the fine print mentions an exclusion for travel in countries or areas for which Global Affairs Canada has issued a travel warning.
Since mid-March, as the industry well knows, the federal government has been advising Canadians against all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
Medipac’s VP Marketing, Christopher Davidge told Travelweek yesterday that the company’s target market is snowbirds, i.e. Canadians travelling south to destinations like Florida for months at a time over the winter. “Snowbirds head to gated communities and quiet neighbourhoods. They’re going out for groceries and that’s about it. The demographic that we deal with, they’re not hopping on a plane and going to Disney World,” said Davidge. “They can protect themselves and do social distancing and all those things to keep themselves safe, just like they would at home in Canada.”
Asked about the COVID coverage, Davidge was blunt. “We’re going to ignore the travel advisories pertaining to COVID,” he said.
He adds: “We’re getting a lot of calls. Some people are calling to congratulate us for doing it. Others are calling to find out if it’s true.”
Davidge says there has been a slight premium increase this year. Coverage is available up to $2 million with the basic plan, with options to top that up to $5 million. “We’re going to find out how much it costs to cover COVID,” he said.
While snowbirds make up a large portion of Medipac’s business, the company has no age restrictions on clientele, and anyone can purchase the company’s policies.
Asked if Medipac would look at selling through travel agents, Davidge said the company’s model is only B2C. “We only sell direct.”
Here’s a Q&A with Josiane Cousineau, Vice President, Marketing and Public Relations, Ontario Blue Cross and Quebec Blue Cross…
Travelweek: Is Blue Cross is reinstating out-of-country medical coverage for COVID-19?
Cousineau: “We have reopened out-of-country travel insurance sales for Ontario Blue Cross and Quebec Blue Cross only. Our emergency medical care benefit will include coverage for COVID-19 providing the insured person does not show signs or symptoms of COVID-19 prior to departure. Since COVID-19 is a known situation, is it therefore not covered for the Trip Cancellation or Interruption benefit. This coverage is available to clients who are required to travel outside of Canada for essential travel, however we continue to encourage clients to follow government advisories to avoid non-essential travel and the recommendations of health authorities.”
TW: What does this new plan cover specifically? And when will it be made available?
Cousineau: “We have reopened travel sales as of July 22 for Quebec Blue Cross and Ontario Blue Cross. As of July 22nd, an endorsement will be in effect to confirm all changes and clarifications that have been made to our individual travel insurance policy. Please note that no exclusion pertaining to the Emergency Medical Care benefit is applicable in the endorsement. Thus, the Emergency Medical Care benefit covers the insured person even if a government notice not to travel is in place.
“We did not already have a government warning exclusion in our Emergency Medical benefit. However, given the scale of the crisis and the reduced availability of medical resources around the world, our assistance service may be limited in the means to help people in emergency situations abroad.
“Clients should be aware of the risks associated with travelling during this time, including the possibility of limited medical resources at their destination. Clients should be aware of any precautions they must take and all restrictions that could be placed upon them at their destination or on their return home to Canada.
“Furthermore, we consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be a known situation since March 12, 2020. Since Trip cancellation or interruption insurance does not cover situations that were known at the time, the insurance policy was purchased or the trip was booked, COVID-19 is not a covered situation for this benefit.”
TW: Is this new plan available for purchase through travel agents?
Cousineau: “This coverage is not a new plan, we added an endorsement to update all changes and clarifications that have been made to our existing individual travel insurance policy. Our partners, travel agents, have the same trusted travel insurance to offer to their clients that need to travel for essential reasons.”
TW: Can you tell us why this plan is being offered at this time, when Canada’s non-essential travel advisory is still in place?
Cousineau: “Currently, there is a non-essential travel advisory in place, however there is not a level 4 do not travel advisory. Therefore there is a potential that some of our clients will still need to travel for essential purposes. The safety of our clients remains our top priority and we are encouraging those clients that must travel during this time for essential travel to do so safely. Under no circumstances do we want to encourage them to make decisions that could harm their health or that of our communities.
“It is crucial that we remind clients of the importance to avoid all non-essential travel and always respect the recommendations of health and government authorities in times of COVID-19. If our clients must travel outside their province of residence and are diagnosed with COVID-19 while they are away, they will be covered under the Emergency Medical Care benefit in their travel insurance.
“We will continue to adapt as the situation evolves and we will keep you informed of any new development.”