Travel insurance is different from health insurance in that it is designed to cover the needs of people on short-term business or leisure trips outside their home country. Premiums are much lower than those for health insurance plans, and travel insurance plans often do not cover pre-existing conditions. As the old saying goes: “You get what you pay for”. Because travel insurance plans are lower cost, some people will purchase travel insurance even if they are going to be overseas for an extended period of time or living overseas. And while it’s likely that in many (perhaps even most) situations travel insurance will meet people’s needs, we would suggest that novel coronavirus outbreak is not one of those situations. If a person is living overseas with a travel insurance plan then the best they can hope for is, well, just that… to hope that the travel insurer will cover their claims.

An online search of the various ways that travel insurance plans are covering the medical costs related to the treatment of anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 brings up a multitude of different responses. The position of insurers varies wildly from country to country, and company to company. As a general rule, if someone travels to a country against the advice of their government, then their travel insurance will become invalid. This is particularly true if someone travels or buys the plan after the government advice has been released. In fact, the timing of events is critical here. Insurers will classify potential risks into “known” and “unknown”. Travel insurance will cover for events that are unknown such as a cancelled trip resulting from bad weather. But because the COVID-19 is now classified as a “known”, most insurers have already updated their position to say that it is not eligible for cover. If you are currently living overseas with a travel insurance plan, we would strongly recommend that you consider purchasing a comprehensive international health insurance plan as soon as possible or move to a country where you are eligible for national health cover.

As always, if you are concerned that any aspect of the insurance plans that you currently purchase might not be sufficient for your needs at this uncertain time and are interested in us reviewing (free-of-charge, no obligation) your insurance cover to ensure you are fully protected – or can be better protected in the future – please get in touch. We are happy to help. In the meantime, stay healthy.

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