All the snowbird couple wanted from their travel insurance was peace of mind, an assurance that if “something happened” they could get back home without losing the remainder of their retirement fund. And if they had to pay a little more to “get the best,” so be it.
They knew there are lots of plans promising “affordable rates,” $5 million worth of benefits, even coverage of pre-existing conditions—so why couldn’t you find one for them?
Fortunately, that’s a dilemma agents rarely face today. Over the past two decades, insurers have found ways to design products to meet almost every need. It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it has required pages and pages of medical underwriting questionnaires just to find the right coverage for that hard-to-fit client. But the expansion of benefits, along with prudent limitations and exclusions, has allowed many thousands of applicants who otherwise would have to remain homebound to escape cruel northern winters and add some pleasant years to their lives. They surely wouldn’t have been able to do that if all they had for health protection were the feeble reimbursements provided by their provincial governments.
However, there still remain applicants—young as well as old—who can’t meet the eligibility standards required by insurers and are forced to stay home, or travel “bare” (without coverage): those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or HIV/AIDS, or cancers of the lung, liver, pancreas, or bone, or who have had heart surgery more than 10 years ago. This last point is particularly interesting as it relies on studies showing that after about 10 years, the beneficial effects of grafts or stents wear out, and the risk factor for this population rises.
It is inevitable that as more types of products come into the travel insurance marketplace to meet the needs of higher-risk applicants, there will have to be more and better medical underwriting and more reliance placed on agents to help their clients get it right. No one wins when a customer’s claim is denied because he or she didn’t understand the medical questions in the application. (Well, maybe the media does when it “exposes” the “meanness” of the insurer.)
There has to be a balance between more exhaustive applications, and the ability and willingness of customers to understand and complete them. The key to achieving that balance might very well be the agents who interact with clients and help them understand the importance of getting it right—getting the most appropriate plan for their client. But even then, there will be individuals who won’t make the cut, whose health is too fragile to assume the stresses of travel, and who must be told, up front, that the risks of covering them are just too great. That’s a big responsibility.
View the rest of the articles on Ingle International for more travel guides and tips.