In March, when the virus began its global spread and Canada advised against non-essential travel abroad, travel insurance providers stopped selling COVID-19 medical coverage.
Now, several insurance providers have resumed offering the coverage along with their regular travel insurance plans. For snowbirds, and those with vacation homes abroad, this is great news. However, navigating these policies may be tricky.
Who’s offering coverage?
Manulife announced it’s covering in October.
The plans vary. For example, not all providers cover daily expenses if an infected traveller is forced to quarantine abroad.
Each company said it offers medical coverage for all ailments, including COVID-19, for up to $5 million — with the exception of Manulife, which has capped COVID-19 coverage at $200,000.
Some travel insurance providers have recently confirmed that their existing travel medical insurance policies will cover COVID-19 related expenses, as long as the official Global Travel Advisory issued by the Government of Canada for your travel destination(s) is Level 1 or Level 2 at the time of your departure.
For reference, the Government of Canada issues 4 levels of travel advisories for travel destinations outside Canada, with Level 1 being the lowest risk and Level 4 being the highest risk:
- Level 1 – Exercise Normal Security Precautions
- Level 2 – Exercise a High Degree of Caution
- Level 3 – Avoid Non-Essential Travel
- Level 4 – Avoid All Travel
In some cases, these policies will also cover you for Non-COVID related medical expenses for destinations where Level 3 travel advisories are in effect, so long as those travel advisories were implemented solely due to COVID-19, but be sure to check with your provider first, as travel advisory restrictions related to COVID-19 can vary from provider to provider.
As of July 22, 2020, travel advisory levels for all destinations were Level 3 or Level 4, with cruise ship travel having a Level 4 advisory.
However, in the coming weeks and months, travel advisory levels for some destinations may be reduced to Level 1 or Level 2, depending on the COVID-19 situation in that destination.
Keep in mind that while travel advisories are often issued on a country by country basis, they can also be issued for regions or specific states/provinces within a country. For example, one U.S. state could have a different travel advisory level than another U.S. state.
You can find up-to-date Travel Advisory Levels for specific destinations on the Government of Canada website here.
Be Careful of Blanket Claims About COVID-19 Coverage
Some travel insurance providers may be making blanket claims that their policies cover COVID-19, when in fact their policies are subject to the same travel advisory restrictions outlined above or other limits or conditions.
If you come across a provider making a blanket claim that they cover COVID-19 without being clear and upfront about limits and restrictions that may affect your coverage for COVID-19, we suggest you exercise a high degree of caution. Carefully review their policy wording for any travel advisory restrictions, coverage limits or other conditions that they failed to clearly disclose to you in their marketing materials or on their website.
Airlines Offering Coverage
- Flight Centre and the airlines are providing free coverage only for COVID-19 illnesses and related expenses, such as quarantine costs. The offers are available for a limited time — ranging from the next seven months to a year.
- Customers booking vacation packages with Flight Centre, Air Canada Vacations and WestJet to select destinations — which exclude the United States — are covered for up to $100,000 in medical bills. WestJet provides the same coverage for international flights, excluding the U.S.
- Sunwing will cover up to $200,000 in COVID-19 medical expenses for passengers booking any of its vacation packages and flights departing on or after Oct. 16.
- Air Canada (which is separate from Air Canada Vacations) currently provides the same $200,000 coverage for customers purchasing international flights, including to the U.S. Air Canada said that passengers wanting extra protection can consider purchasing an extensive travel insurance plan.
What About Snowbirds?
If you are considering one of these policies, here are some important issues to consider before purchasing a policy from a U.S. insurer:
- Generally, these policies offer very low coverage limits, commonly in the $25,000 – $100,000 USD range for all conditions combined, and usually in the lower end of this range for older travellers.
- These policies may contain restrictive terms and conditions that are not clearly disclosed upfront, which may allow the insurer to deny your claim.
- If a U.S. insurer denies or refuses your claim, you would have limited recourse to have your claim denial reviewed or overturned. However, if your claim was denied by a Canadian insurer, there are established procedures in place in Canada that allow you to dispute denied claims.
The Bottom Line
Here are a few additional tips to help you when searching for and comparing COVID-19 travel medical insurance from different providers:
- Look for providers that offer clear and transparent information about the terms of their COVID-19 coverage in their marketing materials and on their websites. As a consumer, you shouldn’t have to hunt down this information or read between the lines – insurance providers should be proactive and upfront in providing it to you.
- Always call providers and speak to one of their agents to receive a clear explanation of any conditions, restrictions or limits that apply to their COVID-19 coverage.
- Look at how individual travel insurance providers treated their clients during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Other Options for COVID Insurance Providers
1. SafetyWing is very affordable (more than 50% less than other coverages).
Cost of SafetyWing
For 4 weeks of coverage:
- 10-39 years old $40.04
- 40-49 years old $64.68
- 50-59 years old $101.64
- 60-64 years old $137.76
2. HeyMondo will cover Covid-19 related illnesses, despite the current travel advisory from the Canadian government.
Cost for HeyMondo
For 4 weeks of HeyMondo coverage for a Canadian (any age) travelling anywhere in the world excluding USA/Canada:
This includes up to:
- $100,000 medical expenses
- $500,000 repatriation
- $1,700 luggage
- $450 travel delay
- $2,500 trip cancellation
Go straight to HeyMondo’s quote page to get all info on costs and inclusions. HeyMondo allows you to customize the policies, adding more coverage where you personally need it.