Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) sent a pointed message to travel insurance carriers, suggesting their refusal to reimburse consumers could be encouraging COVID’s spread.
The House of Representatives wants to know why travel insurance providers are hesitant to fulfill cancellation and refund requests in the wake of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Hill—and anyone’s observation—the coronavirus panic is exerting a heavy toll on the travel industry. Innumerable travelers have canceled or postponed plans, just as governments across the world have implemented nigh-unprecedented visa restrictions and flight prohibitions.
Travel insurance, in most cases, is meant to protect jetsetters from bearing sole financial responsibility in the event of an unforeseen illness, emergency, or disaster. But insurers–overwhelmed with coronavirus-related claims and deluged by calls—aren’t all keeping their promises.
The Hill reports that Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, asked three big travel insurance providers—Allianz Global Assistance USA, General Global Assistance, and Travel Guard Group—provide lists of cancellation and medical expense claims by Wednesday.
Krishnamoorthi is also requesting that each carrier show monthly sales figures, dating back at least five years.
Krishnamoorthi, adds The Hill, appears concerned that a lack of reimbursement—as well as non-cooperative carriers—may prompt some Americans to carry through with risky travel plans, heightening the chance they might contract and spread novel coronavirus.
“The Subcommittee is concerned that your policy to deny reimbursement to consumers who choose to refrain from travel to protect themselves, their families, and their communities may worsen the coronavirus pandemic,” Krishnamoorthi wrote in a letter to the companies’ chief executives. “Some of these consumers, rather than lose the entire price of their trip, may travel against the advice of [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and increase the risk of infection.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi also wants each company’s CEO to respond to requests for transcribed interviews by Monday, with some concession for executives who may wish to isolate and appear by video-link. He had previously invited them to speak at a past hearing, but all declined to attend.
Several of the companies’ policy directives and reimbursement denial statements run clearly contrary to guidance offered by the federal government. For instance, The Hill found that Travel Guard’s website states that “fear of travel” is not a covered event on most of its policies. Rather than offering to reimburse consumers, Travel Guard only offers premium refunds and vouchers.
But Travel Guard won’t even offer premium refunds to consumers who recently purchased policies, or who haven’t yet started their trips.
“Trip cancellation for concern or fear of travel associated with sickness, epidemic or pandemic, including Coronavirus, is not covered,” Travel Guard’s website says, adding that the company would, of course, pay for diagnosis and treatment-related expenses for adequately covered customers.
Travel carriers have taken similar precautions in Europe. The Guardian writes that several of the United Kingdom’s biggest insurers, including Aviva, are outright restricting premium purchases.
“We envisage this decision […] will be a temporary action,” Aviva said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The United Kingdom enacted a nationwide lockdown on Monday, which prohibits Britons from leaving their homes for most ordinary reasons.
The UK’s restrictions—unlike any the nation has seen since World War II—will be reconsidered after three weeks.