Traveling always comes with inherent dangers. We usually prepare for these dangers by receiving the proper immunizations and vaccinations, taking extra precautions to stay safe, and purchasing travel insurance for unforeseen injuries or illnesses. However, when a serious medical outbreak or epidemic occurs, like the recent Ebola outbreak, travelers like us need to be aware of our actual risk and how the outbreak will affect our insurance coverage. You may be wondering, “Will my travel insurance plan cover Ebola?”
Your medical coverage will vary by insurance company, plan, and plan level. Few plans will actually exclude Ebola specifically from coverage. More likely is the possibility of some of your insurance benefits becoming limited or unavailable because of travel advisories being issued for areas to which you are traveling. Even if some of your benefits are limited due to the Ebola travel advisory, you are still covered by your insurance plan for other unrelated injuries and illnesses.
Ebola-related advisories currently only exist for specific countries in Western Africa.There is a Level 3 Travel Warning issued for the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, because of “unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recommend to avoid all unnecessary travel to these countries. A Level 2 Travel Alert has been issued in Mali, recommending travelers to practice enhanced precautions due to the possibility of the virus spreading further into the country.
Which Benefits Matter?
Several of your travel insurance benefits could be affected by these types of travel advisories, including Ebola-related medical benefits, emergency medical evacuation, and trip cancellation. If you are traveling within the CDC and FCO recommendations, you would most likely have cover (if you contracted Ebola in the US or UK, for example). However, if you contract the disease in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, or Mali, your coverage may be void because of the travel advisories. Keep in mind, you would still be covered for other injuries or illnesses unrelated to the travel advisory. If you caught the flu in Liberia, for example, you would be covered as usual.
Most travel insurance plans allow a certain amount of time (about 5-10 days) to evacuate if you are in-country at the time a travel advisory is issued. If your plan becomes effective after the advisory is in place, however, coverage for the forewarned illness is likely invalid.
The same is true if you cancel your trip because of Ebola. If you purchase your ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ trip cancellation insurance before the advisory is issued, you can likely recover some portion of your non-refundable trip expenses to cancel. If you purchase your plan after the advisory is in effect, however, it would not be a viable claim.
How are Insurance Companies Handling Ebola?
Insurance companies are approaching Ebola in different ways. Some are trying to decide whether to include it as part of their coverage, while others are limiting coverage options to countries impacted by the disease. In the meantime, many insurance companies are releasing statements to clarify their insurance coverage for this particular disease. Here are some examples of common travel insurance plans and how they are handling Ebola in different situations as of December, 2014.
| HCC Medical Insurance Services (HCCMIS)
HCCMIS the plan administrator of our Atlas Travel plan, issued this statement to explain how their long-standing travel medical plan covers illnesses related to travel advisories, like the ongoing Ebola epidemic:
“The Atlas Travel policy offered by HCCMIS provides travel medical insurance and emergency travel assistance to members traveling outside of their home country and covers illnesses contracted while abroad, including but not limited to, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF).
While Atlas Travel coverage includes these illnesses, it is highly recommended that you check for any travel or health advisories that might be active for the region or countries that you may be visiting and take necessary precautions. In countries for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Warning Level 3 (avoid nonessential travel), the medical condition that prompted the CDC warning is excluded. All other eligible medical expenses are covered as usual. For members in-country at the time of the CDC warning, 10 days are allowed for departure before the condition becomes excluded.”
Travelex Insurance Services released the following statement regarding Ebola:
“…in order to be eligible for coverage due to EVD, the protection plan should have been purchased prior the event being foreseen (July 25th, 2014). In the event EVD causes an unforeseeable loss to occur after the effective date of the plan you have purchase coverage may be considered in the following areas: Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption Coverage, Trip Delay Coverage, Emergency Medical Coverage, 24 Hour Travel Assistance Services, and Policy Transfer Options.”
| Seven Corners
Seven Corners, a reputable insurance provider and administrator of the Roundtrip series of emergency medical and trip cancellation insurance plans, also released a statement in light of the Ebola epidemic:
“Emergency medical care and medically necessary evacuation coverage is available if the illness occurs during your travels. As it relates to Trip Cancellation, unless a traveler meets the specified criteria listed under the Trip Cancellation section of their Description of Coverage or policy, Trip Cancellation benefits are not available.Customers who purchase RoundTrip Economy and RoundTrip Elite plans are strongly encouraged to review coverage, terms, conditions and exclusions.”
Check your policy!
Every policy is unique, with different terms and conditions. Be sure to check your policy or contact your insurance company to see if you’re covered for Ebola. For more information regarding travel advisories and their affects on your health insurance plan, check out this article.
For more information about travel medical insurance plans or trip cancellation insurance plans, visit our Insurance Explained page.