An Agent’s Guide to Snowbird Insurance

After the first snow falls, snowbirds will soon be jumping on a plane to escape another cold Canadian winter. Before heading south, many of them will be looking for insurance to protect them during their time away.

Planning to dive into the snowbird market this season? Give our Agent’s Guide to Snowbird Insurance a read first!

 

Who can sell snowbird insurance?

  • Insurance Companies
  • Insurance Agents
  • Associations & Groups
  • Travel Agents
  • Banks

 

What to look out for when making a sale

  • Age. Those over the age of 75 (and especially those 80 and over) have fewer choices in the marketplace. (Keep in mind, Ingle offers insurance for any age group—so give us a call if you’re stuck!)
  • Pre-Existing Conditions. Those with high-risk conditions might be faced with limitations and exclusions on their coverage. It is important to ask your clients if they are being treated (e.g., taking medications or receiving care) for any medical condition (even those considered minor). In certain cases, a medication used to treat one condition is required in the treatment of another. For example, Lipitor, which is often used to treat high cholesterol, is commonly prescribed to diabetics.
  • Low Premiums. The lowest costing policy is not always the smartest way to go—especially for snowbirds. You can’t avoid the reality that premiums will go up for older and/or high-risk clients. Be upfront with your clients, and explain to them how a higher premium now could save them tens of thousands of dollars later.
  • Gaps in Coverage. Clients who forget to purchase travel insurance until after they’ve left the country or those who need to return home in the middle of their trip will find that there are a limited number of providers that cover these types of scenarios—especially if pre-existing condition coverage is needed. (Not to worry! Ingle has the product you are looking for, so give us a call!)
  • Stability. Most snowbird products include a stability requirement for clients with pre-existing conditions. In general, the term “stability period” refers to a period of time (indicated on the policy) during which your clients have had no changes to their medical condition (e.g., medication or treatment) in order to cover emergencies related to that condition. Be aware that each provider has their own definition of “stable,” so it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the definition before suggesting a product to your client.

 

What to do now to avoid problems later

  • Ask as many questions as possible.
  • Go the extra mile. Make sure your clients have completed their medical questionnaire accurately.
  • Shop around to find the best product for your clients’ needs and the most affordable price for their budgets.
  • Call our Partner Services Department if you have any questions! You can reach us at 416-644-3662 (toll-free: 1-800-292-9460), or by email at agent@ingleinsurance.com.

 

Don’t take everything clients say at face value—always dig a little deeper

Customers often like to play doctor and/or underplay the realities of their conditions. The problem is that customers don’t realize that, when it comes to a claim, non-disclosure is grounds for denial. If this happens, your clients may find themselves in a situation where they are forced to mortgage their home to pay off the medical bills they thought were covered in the first place. Their vacation will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

If you want to make sure that your clients avoid this type of unfortunate scenario, become familiar with the ways they may unknowingly provide you with the wrong information. Below, you will find some common misleading statements a snowbird might make when purchasing insurance.

 

“I am perfectly healthy; I have no pre-existing conditions.”

A pre-existing condition can be defined as any condition for which the insured presented symptoms in the past or is currently undergoing any kind of treatment (e.g., medication or care). Clients may be unaware that taking prescription medication means that they have a pre-existing condition.

 

“I take Aspirin—but that’s because I’m old. It’s not related to the heart attack I had 3 years ago.”

We all know that Aspirin is regularly used to treat fever, pain, and inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. However, a less commonly known fact is that Aspirin is widely prescribed to prevent heart attack or stroke in patients at high risk (e.g., those with longstanding diabetes, vascular disease [previous heart attack or stroke and/or poor circulation to the legs], or angina). If your client was previously diagnosed with heart disease or is living with any of these conditions, this would need to be indicated in their medical questionnaire.

 

“I lowered my diabetes meds last month, so my condition is stable.”

Unfortunately, any change to a pre-existing condition, whether positive or negative, will be considered unstable. Keep in mind, stability requirements are placed on the majority of snowbird products, and depending on your clients’ conditions and how long they plan to travel for, the stability period will change (they can range anywhere from 90 days to 1 year).

If your clients undergo a change in their medical treatment (e.g., prescription medications) during the stability period indicated on their policy, their condition will be considered unstable and will thus be excluded from coverage. In this case, other options may be available, such as submitting a medical underwriting form (completed by a physician) to the insurance provider’s medical underwriting department for review.

 

“We are driving through the US to get to Mexico. We want coverage, but just for the drive there and back.”

Clients can purchase insurance for as short a period as one day, which means coverage is available for the drive to their destination. The drive back, however, is a little more complicated. It is important to note that only a limited number of insurance companies offer after-departure coverage, and that the insured must meet the eligibility requirements for insurance purchased after departure. This means that those with pre-existing conditions may have limited options when it comes to after-departure coverage. In most cases, it’s in the best interest of your clients to be insured for the duration of their trip (including the time spent at their destination)—as medical emergencies can happen anywhere.

Contact us for more information and we’ll be able to assist you in finding the right provider for a special case such as this one.

 

“I take a puffer—but only when I need to.”

Any medication, whether prescribed as needed or used once a day, is still being used to treat a condition. It must be indicated which condition is being treated in the medical questionnaire. Although asthma, for example, might result in a higher premium, assure your client that this is a small price to pay when considering the astronomical hospital bill they could incur otherwise.

The scenarios above are just a few examples of misleading statements you may encounter when selling snowbird insurance. With all of the extra rules and limitations, sometimes it can be difficult to make a sale with confidence in this market. The most important thing to do when selling travel insurance to snowbirds is to take your time, ask the right questions, and listen. And, of course, make sure to contact Ingle if you have any questions, or if you need assistance finding the right product for your clients!

 

Find out more about snowbird insurance on the Partner Portal, or contact us at 1-800-292-9460 or agent@ingleinternational.com.

For more information on travel tips and travel insurance, visit the Ingle International blog page.

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