Travel insurance may not cover losses arising from coronavirus: Industry association

A Health Alert Notice is placed near the Changi Airport T1 Arrival Immigration on Feb 2, 2020.
A Health Alert Notice is placed near the Changi Airport T1 Arrival Immigration on Feb 2, 2020.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Travel insurance is unlikely to cover losses from the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, depending on when the policies were activated.

Coverage of certain parts of mainland China may also be affected as the outbreak situation develops, said the General Insurance Association in an update on Tuesday (Feb 4).

It added: “Most insurers consider the (virus outbreak) a known event and have issued consumer advisories on travel insurance claims.” 

A known event usually means a civil commotion or natural disaster that threatens policyholders’ health or disrupts their trip, and it is usually publicised through media reports, among other channels.

The association urged consumers with policies or claims due to the outbreak to check with their insurers on what their coverage entails.

For example, insurer Aviva is allowing its customers who have bought travel insurance policies before Jan 20 to claim for non-refundable travel and accommodation costs and entertainment costs that have been paid.

Customers can submit a trip cancellation request within 30 days from their departure date to Wuhan in central China.

Those who are travelling elsewhere but are affected by the coronavirus can claim for unused and non-refundable travel, accommodation and entertainment costs that they have paid.

They can also claim for a quarantine allowance of between $50 and $500, depending on the policies they bought.

“For policies purchased on or after Jan 20, Aviva will not cover any loss directly or indirectly related to the Wuhan virus since it is a known event,” an Avivia spokesman said.

Similarly, NTUC Income said it will accept travel insurance claims for those who bought their policies before 8pm on Jan 20 for travel to Wuhan and those who bought their policies before 7pm on Jan 27 for travel to the rest of mainland China. 

“NTUC Income is offering customers whose trips are affected by the coronavirus situation the flexibility of cancelling their travel insurance plans to any destination, and get a full premium refund,” it added.
Cancellations must be made on or after Jan 20, and for trips taken latest by June 30. 

“Customers who wish to proceed with their trips, outside of mainland China, will still be covered under the medical expense and evacuation benefits if they contract the Wuhan coronavirus,” it added.

The association’s update comes as insurers are exploring ways to help customers who may be affected by the virus.

Tokio Marine’s life insurance policyholders can receive $5,000 – limited to the first 50 submissions – if they contracted the virus to help them “tide over challenging times”, Tokio Marine said in a statement last Friday (Jan 31).

Policyholders need to submit proof of medical certification from Singapore hospitals specifying the diagnosis of the coronavirus. 

The Health Ministry said last month the Government is footing the hospital bills for all suspected and confirmed cases since their illness is caused by an emerging disease.

A Prudential Singapore spokesman said its private health insurance plan PruShield covers hospital admission and pre- and post-hopsitalisation medical costs that had arisen because of the coronavirus.

PruShield provides additional coverage to complement MediShield Life, the compulsory, basic health insurance plan.

NTUC Income’s Star Assure life insurance plan comes with an optional rider to provide a payout if the insured is hospitalised in an intensive care unit for five days or more due to a serious infection, such as the 2019-CoV.

 

A similar caveat on travel insurance policies is already in place for Hong Kong for claims arising from protests, considered a known event since July 21 last year.

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This article has been edited for clarity.