With news of the Zika virus dominating current news cycles, it’s not surprising that top travel insurance providers are fielding a high volume of calls from policyholders concerned about the virus’ potential to impact their upcoming travel.
“We have seen an astronomical increase in the number of policyholders calling our 24/7 Assistance team asking about their plans’ coverage and how the benefits apply to the Zika virus,” said Jason Schreier, CEO April Travel Protection.
“We’ve received about 300 calls from customers who are concerned about Zika and want to know how travel insurance can help,” added Dan Durazo, director of communications for Allianz Global Assistance.
Generally, travelers who purchased “cancel for any reason” policies prior to the virus’ outbreak may cancel their travel plans over concerns regarding potential infection. But providers say to date there’s been no noteworthy increase in this area. Durazo said Allianz has received about 100 claims related to Zika.
Beyond cancel-for-any-reason policies, the Zika virus outbreak is not covered under most “trip cancellation” plans sold by travel insurance providers. “The Zika virus outbreak doesn’t alter policy guidelines for trip cancellation,” said Schreier. “Per the Centers for Disease Control, the virus alert is set at level 2, which means policyholders can still travel to the affected destinations and practice enhanced precautions.”
The Zika virus’ risks are most serious for pregnant women, as the birth defect microcephaly, which health officials have linked to Zika, was recently declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization. Durazo notes that “Some Allianz travel insurance products do allow customers to cancel their trip if a member of their party becomes pregnant after the insurance is purchased.”
He added, “Customers who do have cancellation coverage could receive a refund for the pre-paid, non-refundable travel payments that they might otherwise lose.” Durazo advised Allianz policyholders with additional questions to contact the company.
Schreier said pregnancy “is not a covered reason for trip cancellation,” even if a physician statement preventing travel is submitted. However cancellation of travel to a Zika-affected destination due to pregnancy would be covered under an optional “Enhanced Unforeseen Events” upgrade to the April’s “Choice” policy package.
To date, neither official has observed a surge of policy purchases in connection with travel to Zika-impacted regions. Schreier has noticed only a “slight increase in the number of trip cancellation and Choice policies booked through our aggregator partners.”
In addition, The Caribbean Tourism Organization issuing a statement Wednesday saying its 28 member destination report “very few cancellations as a result of Zika.”
Both Allianz Global Assistance and April Travel Protection are advising policyholders to monitor Centers for Disease Control notices and contact their hotlines should they become ill during their travels. “Allianz customers who become ill with the Zika virus may also be covered for emergency medical treatment,” said Durazo. “Customers who are traveling and need help should call our Travel Assistance department.”
Schreier added, “If a traveler contracts the virus while traveling, April would cover and coordinate all assistance for emergency medical, medical evacuation, and trip interruption.”