More than ever, travel insurance products are giving customers in less-than-perfect health opportunities to leave home, visit friends and relatives in distant countries, and even indulge themselves in leisure activities that would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago.
Even for the elderly, given their normal range of chronic conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, heart flutters, diabetes, artery or vein disorders), coverage may be available so long as their health has remained stable for specified periods (three months, perhaps six) and they have completed their medical questionnaires accurately and haven’t “shaded” the truth to gain a slight reduction in premiums.
Such attempts at “savings” can turn into financial catastrophes if the insurer is forced to deny a claim for emergency medical services because you failed to fully or accurately disclose that you had been “checked out” for a respiratory condition within the past three months, or that your medication for diabetes was recently changed, or that you were referred for a heart murmur that your cardiologist said was OK for now but should be rechecked when you returned from Florida.
Such “minor imperfections” may seem routine and unworthy of mention on a questionnaire, but they can be vital signs to medical underwriters that further information about your health is needed. Underwriters have no information available to them when gauging a patient’s health but what they see on the questionnaire. And they have no other way to determine the risk of offering coverage, or if you are ineligible for the plan level you are seeking but might be better placed in a different level.
Claim denials are rare, but take your application seriously
Though claim denials for Canadian travellers are extremely rare, when they do occur they can be devastating to a family’s finances. And non-disclosure of pertinent information on one’s medical questionnaire is one of the most frequent reasons for claim denials.
It’s one thing to say you answered the questions as best you knew how and “in good faith.” It’s quite another to say your answers were accurate. And though questionnaires tend to be loaded up with medical terminology, you should take the time to look up the definitions of terms used. If they’re not included with the questionnaire or in your policy—demand them. Example: the definition of “Internal condition” may include gallbladder disease, kidney disorders (including stones), liver or pancreatic disorders, prostate or urinary disease, and so on. If you’re being asked if you have been diagnosed or treated for an internal condition in the past 24 months, you need to know what the insurer considers an internal condition.
And if you’re completing an application with the assistance of an agent, perhaps over the phone, have the agent read the questions one by one as they are printed on the questionnaire, and have any pertinent definitions explained to you. Take your time… it’s your policy and it’s your money. And when you receive your Confirmation of Coverage (which explains the details of coverage, the price paid, the dates and conditions of coverage)—read it all, especially the completed questionnaire, to make sure your Yes or No answers are correctly recorded and consistent with your medical record.
If there’s any doubt in your mind about your medical record, or why you underwent certain tests a few months ago, or why you’re taking certain drugs, ask you physician for help—perhaps even to look over your application.
Remember: The agent is there only to assist. If there are any losses resulting from faulty information, they will be yours. Not the agent’s—“good faith” notwithstanding.
Insurers want your business. They don’t want to deny a claim any more than you want to see it denied. They are constantly looking for ways to design products for their varying markets in all age groups and with all health profiles. But it requires some effort from you.
Do not consider travel insurance a casual, routine purchase. And though you have seen many entreaties to “sign up… it just takes 30 seconds,” unless you are in perfect health and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, take your time. Don’t wait for the day before your departure. And if your application is medically underwritten, allow for any additional time it may take for your physician to review it.
It’s your application. It’s your time. And it’s your money.
© Copyright 2020, 2021 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.