LAST UPDATED: JULY 22, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some Canadian travel insurance providers - including Snowbird Advisor Insurance – are taking the following action with respect to coverage:
- Exploring new travel medical insurance coverage options specifically designed for COVID-19, and
- Clarifying when and under what circumstances their existing travel medical insurance policies will cover COVID-19.
While this is good news for snowbirds and other Canadians who are considering travelling again, it’s important for travellers to make sure they are aware of any coverage limits or restrictions related to COVID-19 contained in these policies.
To help you make an informed decision about your travel insurance coverage and travel plans, we’ve created the following overview of what the current landscape looks like for COVID-19 travel medical insurance coverage for Canadians.
You can also find details about Snowbird Advisor Insurance's COVID-19 coverage terms here.
Possible New Coverage Options for COVID-19
While we cannot speak for other providers, we can tell you that Snowbird Advisor Insurance is working diligently with our travel insurance partners to offer a robust travel medical insurance option in time for the upcoming snowbird season that would include coverage for COVID-19, regardless of the travel advisory level for your destination.
While we can not guarantee it at this time, we are hopeful that we will be able to offer this coverage option in the near future.
In the interim, we greatly appreciate your patience and promise to keep you updated as soon as we have more information about the details of this COVID-19 coverage option, if and when it becomes available.
Policies with Travel Advisory Restrictions for COVID-19
Snowbird Advisor Insurance, as well as some other travel insurance providers, have recently confirmed that their existing travel medical insurance policies will cover COVID-19 related expenses, as long as the official Global Travel Advisory issued by the Government of Canada for your travel destination(s) is Level 1 or Level 2 at the time of your departure.
For reference, the Government of Canada issues 4 levels of travel advisories for travel destinations outside Canada, with Level 1 being the lowest risk and Level 4 being the highest risk:
- Level 1 – Exercise Normal Security Precautions
- Level 2 – Exercise a High Degree of Caution
- Level 3 – Avoid Non-Essential Travel
- Level 4 – Avoid All Travel
In some cases, these policies will also cover you for Non-COVID related medical expenses for destinations where Level 3 travel advisories are in effect, so long as those travel advisories were implemented solely due to COVID-19, but be sure to check with your provider first, as travel advisory restrictions related to COVID-19 can vary from provider to provider.
As of July 22, 2020, travel advisory levels for all destinations were Level 3 or Level 4, with cruise ship travel having a Level 4 advisory.
However, in the coming weeks and months, travel advisory levels for some destinations may be reduced to Level 1 or Level 2, depending on the COVID-19 situation in that destination.
Keep in mind that while travel advisories are often issued on a country by country basis, they can also be issued for regions or specific states/provinces within a country. For example, one U.S. state could have a different travel advisory level than another U.S. state.
You can find up-to-date Travel Advisory Levels for specific destinations on the Government of Canada website here.
At Snowbird Advisor Insurance, our policies provide up to $10 Million of emergency travel medical coverage and will cover COVID-19 related expenses, as long as the travel advisory for your destination(s) is Level 1 or Level 2 at the time of your departure.
Our policies also include coverage for Non-COVID related medical expenses for destinations where Level 3 travel advisories are in effect, so long as those travel advisories were implemented solely due to COVID-19 and not for some other reason.
Be Careful of Blanket Claims About COVID-19 Coverage
Some travel insurance providers may be making blanket claims that their policies cover COVID-19, when in fact their policies are subject to the same travel advisory restrictions outlined above or other limits or conditions.
If you come across a provider making a blanket claim that they cover COVID-19 without being clear and upfront about limits and restrictions that may affect your coverage for COVID-19, we suggest you exercise a high degree of caution. Carefully review their policy wording for any travel advisory restrictions, coverage limits or other conditions that they failed to clearly disclose to you in their marketing materials or on their website.
Fully Refundable Purchase Protection
Snowbird Advisor Insurance, as well as some other providers, are now offering travellers the ability to purchase travel medical insurance policies that are fully refundable any time prior to your departure date (for single trip plans) or prior to your policy’s effective date (for multi-trip annual plans).
This helpful feature provides the benefit of allowing you to lock in current pricing and avoid possible future premium increases by purchasing your policy now, while also providing the flexibility to cancel your policy at any time before your departure date and receive a full refund (or push back the start date of your policy at no cost).
Take the following example:
Let’s say it’s July and you’re a snowbird who plans on departing Canada for your winter destination on November 1st.
However, you’re unsure if you will feel comfortable traveling this winter due to COVID-19 concerns, preferring to take a “wait and see” approach and evaluate how things are looking closer to your departure date.
A fully refundable travel medical insurance policy would offer a win-win situation, allowing you to lock in current pricing and avoid possible premium increases between now and your departure date if you do decide to travel, while also giving you the option to cancel your policy prior to your departure date and receive a full refund if you decide not to travel.
A Word About U.S. Travel Insurance Providers
In recent weeks there has been a growing push by U.S. travel insurance providers claiming to include COVID-19 coverage for Canadians travelling to the U.S.
If you are considering one of these policies, here are some important issues to consider before purchasing a policy from a U.S. insurer:
- Generally, these policies offer very low coverage limits, commonly in the $25,000 - $100,000 USD range for all conditions combined, and usually in the lower end of this range for older travellers.
- These policies may contain restrictive terms and conditions that are not clearly disclosed up front, which may allow the insurer to deny your claim.
- If a U.S. insurer denies or refuses your claim, you would have limited recourse to have your claim denial reviewed or overturned. However, if your claim were denied by a Canadian insurer, there are established procedures in place in Canada that allow you to dispute denied claims.
The Bottom Line
Here are a few additional tips to help you when searching for and comparing COVID-19 travel medical insurance from different providers:
- Look for providers that offer clear and transparent information about the terms of their COVID-19 coverage in their marketing materials and on their websites. As a consumer, you shouldn’t have to hunt down this information or read between the lines – insurance providers should be proactive and upfront in providing it to you.
- Always call providers and speak to one of their agents to receive a clear explanation of any conditions, restrictions or limits that apply to their COVID-19 coverage.
- Look at how individual travel insurance providers treated their clients during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.
For example, some providers were very strict, forcing their clients to return to Canada within a very short period after the initial outbreak and cancelling coverage for those who didn’t comply.
Other providers, including Snowbird Advisor Insurance, were more accommodating, providing clients with more time to return to Canada, allowing them to extend or top-up their coverage when necessary and continuing to provide coverage for clients who couldn’t get home, including coverage for COVID-19.
While past behavior isn’t necessarily an indication of future behaviour, it is something to consider.
Disclaimer: The material provided in the Snowbird Advisor Insurance Learning Centre is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute insurance, legal, financial or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should speak with a qualified professional to assist you.