Snowbirds: Buy Your Travel Insurance Now

If you haven’t bought travel insurance for your winter trip yet, stop procrastinating and do it now. You need to read the fine print—you can’t count on an agent’s assurance that “you’re covered for everything”—and you may have to check with your doctor before you sign your application.

All travel insurance companies ask some questions about your health before extending your coverage. Most (though not all) are getting better at screening out high-risk patients and letting those that have stable medical conditions get reasonably priced coverage. But that works only if you’re fully aware of what’s in your medical records and you answer the medical questionnaires accurately and completely. Fail to do that (even if it’s an honest, innocent mistake) and the insurer will probably deny your claim if you encounter one. I have seen many applicants, in relatively good health, have their claims denied because they were sloppy or neglectful in filling out their applications.

Ask yourself: Could you afford $30,000 to $40,000 for a three-day admission, or a $250,000 claim for a more complicated cardiac event for failing to report a change in your high blood pressure medication?

Many claim denials are caused by carelessness or ignorance, like the client answering “No” because their doctor didn’t fully discuss their condition with them, or they didn’t understand what their doctor said, or they didn’t take the time to think through their answer. Or they thought the application was just a formality, or they couldn’t get to their doctor in time to get a proper answer. And you can’t do that if you buy your insurance the day before you’re scheduled to leave. But it’s no good telling the claims assessors that you made a mistake, or your doctor didn’t explain it clearly, or it was an innocent error, “no harm intended.” That’s your responsibility.

If insurers paid every bogus claim that came along, whether innocent or not, all premium prices would be multiples higher than they are now—and then an awful lot of snowbirds who head south annually wouldn’t be able to do so anymore.

Leave time. This could be the most important purchase of your whole trip. If you’re prepared to spend several hours checking to see if your hotel room faces the beach, you can spend a little more time checking out your travel insurance.

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