Enough reasons for haze to be covered by insurance

I was shocked to learn that reputable insurance companies such as Ace Group and MSIG Insurance (Singapore) have refused to pay out claims related to the haze, while other companies such as NTUC Income and Aviva do accept haze-related causes for claims ("Travel plans hit by haze? Some insurers won't accept claims"; yesterday).

I found it strange that the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) does not comment on how insurers should deal with the haze issue.

The haze was among the biggest issues for Singapore last year, and has been a big issue in previous years. It affected everyone here and around the region, whether they are residents or travellers.

The haze's impact was far-reaching and disrupted the travel plans of many when flights were cancelled due to low visibility. It caused serious health problems for millions and cost the economy billions of dollars.

These reasons should be enough for the GIA to give insurers clear direction on how to deal with this "man-made" phenomenon such that public interest is protected.

In short, the haze affected everyone, and for those who were travelling, it was a very good reason to buy insurance, given the health problems and travel disruptions that could result.

Given that the haze problem has plagued the region for many years, and is a problem for several months almost every year, it is incomprehensible that it is not included under all basic travel insurance plans.

If insurers are to continue excluding the haze from coverage, then this must be clearly highlighted upfront, in bold.

Otherwise, it would lead to a lot of unhappiness when travellers find that they can't claim for haze-related travel woes.

After all, it is reasonable for most travellers to assume that flight delays or cancellations, even if they are caused by the haze, are part of risks covered by standard travel insurance.

I look forward to a more proactive effort by GIA to get its members to be more upfront about the haze exclusion clause and to educate consumers about it, and not bury it in small print or shroud it in legalese.

I am confident that most consumers, like me, will not mind paying a higher premium if we know what the extra premium is for.

Chan Teck Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline 'Enough reasons for haze to be covered by insurance'. Print Edition | Subscribe