By now, the majority of agents are offering travel insurance to their customers every time a booking is made. But, all too often, the best laid plans go awry because consumers pursuing a claim perform one or more missteps that cause delays – or cause their claim to be denied outright.
Examining the issues that typically reach its Anytime Advocates customer service center, InsureMyTrip, a travel insurance aggregator, recently published a list of the most common reasons why claims are typically delayed or denied.
It typically takes 30 days from reporting a claim for a final decision. Agents hearing from their clients that there is a delay should keep the following questions handy.
Are you sure your policy covered you for this kind of claim?
We’re all aware of the importance of reading the fine print of contracts. But, too often, travelers don’t read their insurance plan completely. Only after a claim is denied or delayed do they realize they haven’t followed the agreement they paid for, said Julie Loffredi, InsureMyTrip media relations manager.
“Travel insurance can certainly be confusing. And every policy is worded different. But it’s “Travel Insurance Claims 101.’ Check your terms and conditions. There’s a reason behind the insurance rules, and you have to follow them,” she said.
For example, too many policyholders believe even the slightest flight delay qualifies them for a claim, when typically, a delay needs to be for three hours or more.
Another common misconception is trip cancellation due to a storm. During last year’s terrible hurricane season, insurance companies saw a large spike in claims for canceled or delayed vacations. What many vacationers found out was they weren’t covered because they waited too long to purchase their policy, or the storm’s impact wasn’t sufficient enough for a trip to be canceled.
“We see this issue during hurricane season all the time,” Loffredi said. “Someone waited too long before a named event to even purchase their policy.”
Further, a cruise company or airline has to cease service due to weather for most basic coverage to kick in. “Your flight has to have been grounded, or your resort badly damaged. Simply being afraid to visit a destination hit by a storm, when your travel suppliers haven’t been damaged, could delay or deny your claim,” Loffredi said.
“If you are really worried about hurricanes, ask for the most hurricane related coverage your provider offers, which might be 'cancel for any reason' coverage,” she added.
Loffredi recommends that travelers review their policy with a licensed travel insurance expert prior to purchase and make certain they know everything about their covered perils and exclusions.
What was diagnosed by a professional, and when did you report that to the insurance company?
“You may feel sick, and know you have to fly, but you don’t go to the doctor. So now you don’t have proof of your physical condition, but you’re asking an insurance company to believe you,” Loffredi said. “Insurance companies need proof. Without notes from your doctor, you’re probably going to have a problem getting your claim approved.
If you are feeling sick, feeling concerned not to go on trip, call in advance to get some guidance before making a decision and starting a claim process.
Do you have all of your paperwork, and did you file the right claim form?
It’s easy to lose receipts and printouts from doctors, hospitals and others that might have been involved in an event. But the more you follow your travel insurance company’s process, the less likely you will experience a delay, or be denied.
It’s also critical that you follow your insurer’s documentation requirements for things like lost and delayed luggage.
Loffredi remembers one client who called with all of the information documenting a piece of lost luggage, but not proof of travel. “’I still need to provide you with proof of my entire trip?’ the client asked. We said yes, it’s required. If you fail to provide all of the proper documentation, there will be a delay in resolving your claim,” Loffredi said.
When did you seek medical treatment?
Just because you got sick while traveling, doesn’t mean you have documentation to prove it. Seeking treatment prior to returning home and saving all medical documentation is critical to proving both your expense, and the fact that an event occurred.
“Definitely get documentation during the trip,” Loffredi said, and if you forget, seek additional treatment upon return. “Anything you do to get an independent, qualified party to document your case will be of assistance to you during your claim,” she said.
InsureMyTrip’s list also included pre-existing conditions as a common tripwire for claim delays and denials. Loffredi reminded travelers and agents to request a plan that includes a pre-existing medical conditions waiver if this could be an issue.
Important steps to take
Given these missteps, InsureMyTrip advises the following general principles:
- Gather all paperwork and documentation in advance and obtain any claims-related medical documents and/or police reports prior to returning home.
- Understand your travel insurance policy language prior to departure.
- Buy travel insurance as early as possible to increase your eligibility for time-sensitive benefits and to ensure your trip cost is accurate.
- Expect claim processing delays following major travel events, like hurricanes.
InsureMyTrip’s “Anytime Advocates” program offers claims assistance and dispute resolution services for anyone who purchases a trip from them, including helping clients if their claim is denied, and even guiding travelers through the appeals process, if necessary.
The company says it helped recover $1.2 million in claims for clients through the program, which has been around for about ten years. Demand has been so high that InsureMyTrip, this year, is expanding the program with additional resources.