Travel Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the globe with canceled flights and quarantines, travelers’ financial questions related to travel insurance are taking center stage.

We talked to Erik Josowitz, an analyst at, which publishes studies on auto, home, health, life and business insurance, on what travelers need to know about traveling in the age of the coronavirus.

TravelPulse (TP): If a flight is canceled due to coronavirus, will travel insurance cover it?

Erik Josowitz (EJ): Short answer: No, reimbursement for a canceled flight is the responsibility of the airline.

Most travel insurance is designed to provide coverage in the event that you need to cancel a trip, suffer losses or require medical care or evacuation during a trip. If the airline cancels a flight due to coronavirus or for any other reason, it is their responsibility to reschedule or reimburse the costs of the flight.

They may limit that reimbursement in various ways according to rules of the fare that was purchased, so consumers that are concerned should review those prior to purchasing their tickets.

Some travel insurance policies may offer ‘Cancel Any Reason’ additions or flight delay benefits that do provide reimbursement in these situations, but consumers should review the terms of those policies carefully prior to purchase.

TP: If a traveler becomes sick abroad, will travel insurance cover medical costs?

EJ: Short answer: Yes, if the travel insurance includes medical coverage it will cover costs but you need to examine the policy details.

If a traveler requires medical care, hospitalization or a medical evacuation while in a foreign country, a travel insurance policy can provide reimbursement to cover those costs.

There are, however, some important details to consider when evaluating a specific travel insurance policy.

First, consumers should understand whether the policy is designed to be a primary or secondary payer for those medical costs. A secondary payment policy is designed to pay for costs not covered by the travelers’ personal insurance policies. This may mean the traveler has to pay deductibles and co-pays out of their own pocket, though.

A primary payment policy, on the other hand, is designed to be the first payer for any incurred medical costs. All policies will also have limits – a maximum they will pay – and many will also have deductibles or other limitations.

Some policies will also have exclusions for certain situations, dangerous situations like bungee jumping, for example. Travelers should be sure that they understand the limits of any policy, and how they meet their expected needs, prior to purchasing.

TP: Should U.S. travelers consider obtaining a separate health policy (rider) to cover medical travel emergencies?

EJ: Short answer: maybe. A rider can add coverage for things that are excluded from a standard policy – in most cases the standard policy is sufficient.

Riders are supplemental insurance policies that are meant to provide coverage otherwise missing from a primary policy. If, for example, your primary health insurance policy excludes coverage for dangerous hobbies – such as skydiving – you may be able to purchase a rider to extend coverage for injuries.

If your health insurance company offers a rider for foreign medical care costs, you should certainly evaluate that, but in my experience those are rare. For most people, a standard travel insurance policy is going to be their best bet for getting the sort of coverage they need.

Companies that offer these products often have a number of different policies with different levels and types of coverage for differing travel needs. Some have policies specific to cruises, for example, where a medical evacuation to a hospital could be critical.

Other policies focus on adventure travelers or on those people who are concerned about having the flexibility to change their plans. Understanding what is important to you – what you are trying to cover – is really the first and most important step in evaluating travel insurance policies.

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