February 08, 2016
Travel insurance providers are preparing for an uptick in Zika-related inquiries and claims, and are already beginning to field some calls related to it, according to an article in M&C's sister publication Travel Weekly. An excerpt follows:

What most callers will be told is that in most cases only a "cancel for any reason" policy would cover trip cancellations due to Zika, and travel advisories, such as the one issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about Zika have no bearing on insurance policies.

Dean Sivley, president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, said his company had not seen a large amount of calls as of last week, only around 20, and added that no claims had yet been filed. "But we're expecting a lot more calls in the coming weeks," Sivley added. With that in mind, Berkshire Hathaway has trained its call-center employees with information on the virus, including where and how it is spreading. 

As of last week, Allianz Global Assistance had received around 300 calls related to Zika, with about 100 claims filed, according to director of communications Dan Durazo. He said that number of claims was "relatively small." In contrast, he said Allianz received around 1,000 claims after the January winter storm that blanketed the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast in up to three feet of snow.

Most insurance policies would not cover the cancellation of trips to countries where Zika is being transmitted unless they have a "cancel for any reason" policy in place, something that Sivley estimated is added onto policies "less than 10 percent of the time."

However, both Allianz and Travel Insured International offer insurance products that allow travelers who get pregnant after purchasing a policy to cancel their trip without penalty. Travel advisories and alerts on their own do not allow a policy holder to cancel a trip for that reason, unless they have cancel-for-any-reason insurance.

Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations at Travel Insured International, said the company has had a "small increase" in calls related to Zika, but "we have not seen a significant increase in claims filed attributable to Zika.

"The fear of something happening isn't covered in the policy - there has to be an actual incident that occurs," Cymrot said. "The fear of catching Zika isn't a reason for cancellation."

For more detail, read the Travel Weekly story here.