The “Million Dollar Baby” Awakens the Media to Travel Insurance

Judging by media reports, the only time travel insurance gets space in print or on the air is when a traveller’s claim is denied, as has recently been the case with Saskatchewan’s “million dollar baby.”

Then, everybody has an opinion.

Well, I surely don’t, because I have not seen the medical evidence upon which the insurer based its denial, and I understand the family has not released the letter detailing those reasons. Without that, all you have is speculation, and that’s a breeding ground for much of the media cynicism about travel insurance.

Welcome, therefore, is data from the first independent survey of the travel insurance industry’s claims experience, released November 24, 2014, by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.

Related: Claim Denied! How Sonja and Others Fought Back

The survey,* which was done by accounting firm KPMG and commissioned by THIA, indicates that 95 per cent of claimants surveyed had their claims paid, and five per cent had their claims denied. Respondents to the survey also indicated that the claims paid to more than 103,000 insured travellers exceeded $138 million.

Referring to the five per cent claim denials, THIA President Alex Bittner said: “insurance is designed to pay claims. Our goal is to see an increase in these high rates of successful claims.”

The survey also revealed that 18 per cent of respondents inadvertently provided inaccurate information on their applications for insurance, and 14 per cent admitted that they had deliberately provided inaccurate information on their applications, with half of those admitting that they did so to get a cheaper premium.  Only 33 per cent said they reviewed their medical applications with their physicians.

Related: Insured Travellers Can Benefit from Accessible Medical Records

The top two reasons for claims being denied were medical nondisclosure and unstable pre-existing conditions.

“Responding accurately to medical forms is the best way to have a carefree holiday and ensure that unexpected medical expenses will be covered by insurance,” said Bittner. “Provincial health plans only pay for approximately 9 per cent of out-of-country medical costs. If there is a medical questionnaire, it needs to be taken seriously.”

*The national online survey of 1,007 Canadians was conducted from September 11–12, 2014.

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