by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 01, 2016

Communicable diseases
In recent months, as the spread of the mosquito-born Zika virus spurred the World Health Organization to declare a global public-health emergency, travelers with plans to visit destinations on the hot list -- including Brazil, Peru and much of the Caribbean -- reached out to travel insurance companies with concerns and questions about cancellation coverage.

The news for most travelers wasn't very good. Unless they bought a policy that included a "cancel for any reason" provision, they essentially had no effective coverage and no recourse to make a claim for a trip they bought and backed out of, according to Dean Sivley, president of Stevens Point, Wis.-based Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Only about one in 10 travelers buys that kind of comprehensive policy, he estimates.


Jack Buttine
John Buttine Insurance

There is good news for meeting planners, however. When buying event cancellation insurance, they can add on a communicable disease rider, particularly if they are headed to a destination that is on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention watch list. But the time to buy is now, while the option still is being offered. "If you wait, and the threat of the disease becomes catastrophic, you won't be able to buy it," cautions Jack Buttine.

According to Aon Affinity's Seth Fleischer, communicable disease coverage so far remains an option, but underwriters are looking at pre-existing conditions in determining loss, and not offering such a rider for certain locations. "Fear or threat of a communicable disease is not enough. It has to be an actual and serious enough threat that the CDC or some authority like the World Health Organization is advising people to not travel to a certain country," he says. "In that case, an event with coverage taking place in an identified risk country could make a valid claim for reduced attendance."

What it costs. Jack Buttine began offering his meeting and event customers communicable disease coverage after the 2009 H1N1 virus outbreak, as an add-on to his ShowDown Event Cancellation Insurance program. As an example, the surcharge for a $1 million gross-revenue event, with a $3,000 premium for event cancellation insurance, could turn out to be as little as $250. "It is very modest and affordable," he says.