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Travel Insurance: Find out if your policy provides coverage due to Coronavirus outbreak

Sunil Dhawan
Coronavirus, Flight cancelled , loss of baggage, passport , medical, travel insurance policy, fine print

The coronavirus outbreak is taking its toll and the virus is known to spread across several other nations outside China. For those who are planning to travel during the coming weeks and months, there are genuine concerns-what if the flight gets cancelled or what if there is a medical emergency abroad owing to coronavirus? In all likelihood, one would have bought a travel insurance policy, but will it cover a cancelled flight due to the coronavirus outbreak? Let’s find out from the insurance industry experts.

Typically, a travel insurance policy will cover medical exigencies in addition to your flight-related uncertainties such as loss of baggage, passport etc. "Travel insurance safeguards you from specified uncertain and unexpected situations occurring while you are travelling. It assures that a passenger is able to handle and financially cover medical services in case of accidents, injury, health condition or any sudden event, faced during the travel," says Parag Ved – Executive Vice President & Head – Consumer Lines at Tata AIG General Insurance.

The impact of coronavirus on your travel plans could be financially damaging. There could be cancellation or rescheduling of travel dates, hotel stays etc. "Outbreaks like coronavirus not only result in medical expenditure but may also require the traveller to be evacuated back to his home country which entails a significant cost.  These expenses are generally covered under Travel insurance on a cashless basis," says Parag Ved – Executive Vice President & Head – Consumer Lines at Tata AIG General Insurance.

However, at times, not all policies may provide coverage in cases such as the coronavirus outbreak. "Coverage depends on various factors, such as the type of policy, insurer, and policy inception date. There are a few insurers who have announced that policyholders will be covered if they are impacted by the outbreak of the viral disease. However, it will vary on the travel advisories and their respective governments to take a call on this as such cases of epidemics and pandemics are usually excluded," says Rakesh Goyal, Director, Probus Insurance Broker.

If you are travelling abroad, it could be compulsory to get travel insurance before you fly to some specific countries. "Travel insurance policy is a mandatory requirement for travellers who need to apply for a Schengen visa. Also, for passengers travelling to other countries, it is equally important to have the most comprehensive overseas travel insurance to safeguard you from medical and other exigencies.," says Ved. Remember, the cost of hospitalisation in most foreign countries especially in US, UK and Europe is very high.

And, if you are considering to buy travel insurance before taking your family to an international trip, you can either buy a family floater or buy a cover separately for each member. "It is prudent for travellers to buy individual travel insurance as the coverages under a group policy may be restricted or may have a sum insured which are insufficient to meet any exigency," says Ved. For someone going on an official trip, one may want to skip buying a separate cover. "One when travelling internationally for work purposes, it is suggested to have an individual policy too even if you are covered under a group plan. Furthermore, it is crucial to check inclusions and exclusions of a policy from the insurance company, as it may vary from insurer to insurer,’ cautions Goyal.

Reading the fine print is very important to make an informed buying decision. It is better to go through the inclusions and list of exclusions in the policy document. One may even contact the insurer and get it in writing about the specific coverage.