The advantage of postdeparture policies: cost

By: Wayne Wirtanen
This item appears on page 50 of the April 2018 issue.

Following is a testimonial that an ITN subscriber, Thomas Selgas of San Diego, California, wrote to his travel insurance broker, Dan Drennen, relating to an experience that he and his wife, Anne, had with their post-departure policy.

Thomas wrote, “I should tell you that the insurance that we had for our trip to Cyprus was great.

“Unfortunately, Anne fell and had a concussion. She was taken to the emergency room and was there for an hour. When they found out that we had insurance, another ambulance took her to a private hospital, where there was a very good surgeon.

“Two nights in the hospital. End of trip. Very stressful time. It could have been worse.

“I called the insurance company, and they handled everything. We did not get one sheet of paper. Everything was done. Could not ask for better service. I am forwarding your contact information to a good friend. He is taking a trip and needs some insurance.”

Thomas had purchased a Travel Select plan with Travelex (800/228-9792, www.travelexinsurance.com), and it provided $50,000 per person in primary-payer coverage and $50,000 for emergency-medical-evacuation coverage.

I asked travel-insurance broker Dan Drennen about this, and he stated that medical evacuation was not necessary in Anne Selgas’s case, but if it had been, Anne and Thomas would have been delivered to the front door of their home under this insurance plan. 

For the two of them, the amount they had paid for their insurance was $138. 

The post-departure policy

A policy that provides coverage like this — which is a post-departure policy or a no-trip-cost policy — I refer to as The Betty James Travel Insurance Strategy or, simply, a Betty James policy, a term I coined after hearing the experience of ITN subscriber Betty James of Fort Meyers, Florida, who fell and broke her hip on a South America cruise. 

Betty’s policy paid some $80,000 for her medical treatment. It also covered her travel partner’s hotel room until Betty was able to return home, at which point it covered business-class air tickets for both her and her partner. She got no paperwork to fill out and, of course, no bills.

I have been writing travel insurance articles for ITN for 26 years. If you’d like to read about Betty’s experience (or any other travel insurance topic), go to www.intltravelnews.com and click on “Departments,” then “Columns,” then “Eye on Travel Insurance,” then on the index (at right). Betty James’ experience appeared in the September 2010 issue.

A Betty James policy is more economical than full-feature travel insurance policies because it eliminates the trip-cancellation and trip-interruption features while retaining all of the other policy features, such as coverage for baggage loss, trip delay, etc. 

If travelers and their immediate family members do not have any obviously anticipated health problems, then they should consider one of these post-departure policies. Most travel insurance companies offer them but do not advertise them, preferring to sell the more expensive full-feature policies.

If you’re interested in purchasing a post-departure policy, there are two things you should be sure to do: 

1. Get a “primary-payer” policy. This will insure that your claim is paid immediately, with little paperwork.

(Compare that to a less-desirable “secondary-payer” policy, under which, usually, your bills will be paid only when it can be demonstrated that you have no other insurance that covers the incident for which you are filing a claim. Generally, you must pay your bills up front, keeping receipts [in English] and getting reimbursed later. Much extra time and paperwork are involved with a secondary-payer policy, and, as medical costs can be high, you had better be traveling with two credit cards with large balances available.)

2. Make sure to get a waiver of the preexisting-condition clause.

Waiver of the preexisting-condition clause — full-feature policies

In full-feature travel insurance policies, there are two different “look-back” periods in which it must be demonstrated that the traveler had not shown symptoms of the medical condition relating to the claim. One period is for the trip-cancellation coverage and one is for trip-interruption coverage.

The look-back period for trip-cancellation coverage is typically the six months prior to the purchase of the policy.

The look-back period for trip-interruption coverage is typically either 60 or 180 days prior to the date of departure (depending on the insurance company).

However, if a preexisting-condition-clause waiver is in place, none of the look-back restrictions apply. That is, the policy will pay regardless of the preexisting medical condition.

As described in the September 2017 issue of ITN (page 60), a traveler bought a travel-insurance policy without a waiver of the preexisting-condition clause. Shortly before his trip, his father was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Had the traveler canceled his trip, his policy would have paid his claim because his father had not had symptoms during the look-back period of the trip-cancellation coverage.

Since the father’s condition seemed stable, the traveler decided to take the trip. However, while he was traveling, his father took a turn for the worse, so the traveler returned home, later filing a claim for trip interruption. His claim was denied because his father’s symptoms had manifested themselves during the look-back period of the trip-interruption coverage.

Waiver of the preexisting-condition clause — post-departure policies

In an earlier article (September 2010 issue), I stated that, at the time, these post-departure policies did not provide for a waiver of the preexisting-condition clause.

Several insurance companies now offer policies that automatically waive the preexisting-condition clause if you meet their conditions of purchase, typically, if you purchase the travel insurance within a stated number of days from the time you pay the first deposit on the cost of the trip. Also, you must not be “disabled from travel” (i.e., you do not have or are not in a condition that prevents you from traveling) at the time your premium is paid. 

Those policies and the companies that offer them are as follows: the Classic plan, from TravelSafe Insurance (888/885-7233, www.travelsafe.com); the Preferred plan, from Global Alert (877-452-5378, www.globalalerttravel.com); the iTravelInsuredSE plan, from IMG (800/628-4664, www.imglobal.com/travel-insurance); the Choice plan, from April Travel Protection (855/277-4587, AprilTravelProtection.com), and the Advantage Bridge plan, from TripAssure (800/423-3632, www.tripassure.com).

If you want more information regarding post-departure travel insurance policies, contact Dan Drennen of Travel Insurance Center (8420 W. Dodge Rd., Ste. 501, Omaha, NE, 68114; 402/343-3621).

Happy trails.

Readers with questions are welcome to contact Wayne Wirtanen (4341 Shangri-la Lane, Placerville, CA 95667; 530/644-1084, email wayne@innercite.com).