Insurer launches overseas and domestic road trip coverage for pandemic-era travelers

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Travel insurer Seven Corners has started two new products  tailored to vacations in the age of coronavirus: one policy specifically covers medical expenses incurred due to Covid-19 infection while traveling overseas, and another helps motorists as road trips replace flights and cruises as the preferred means of summer and fall travel.

“Travel trends, in general, have changed,” said Jeremy Murchland, president of the Indianapolis-based company, which sells both comprehensive travel insurance policies and medical coverage-only plans.

“A lot of people are electing to take road trips for the summer as opposed to air travel,” he added. “We also took the opportunity [of the pandemic] to develop a ‘plus’ line of travel insurance that provides a specific coverage for Covid-19.”

When pandemic lockdowns brought worldwide travel largely to a halt this spring, many travelers who had purchased trip insurance — whether itinerary cancellation coverage, a medical plan or a policy including both — found themselves unable get paid on  Covid-19 claims.

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“Some people bought insurance thinking they knew what it was, but then went to file a claim and realized they don’t have coverage,” said Murchland.

In fact, online trip insurance marketplace Squaremouth.com found that many providers stopped covering coronavirus-related losses as early as Jan. 21, when the Centers for Disease Control issued its first alert, according to spokesperson Kasara Barto. (Squaremouth.com offers policies from 31 providers, including Seven Corners.)

Seven Corners, for its part, continued to sell medical coverage plans for overseas travel and comprehensive trip-cancellation insurance policies, the latter with some restrictions, as the pandemic unfolded. In fact, a total of seven providers on Squaremouth.com still offer at least some medical benefits for Covid-19 on new travel policies purchased, according to Barto.

Seven Corners’ new Liaison Travel Plus plan, however, is the only policy specifically designed to protect travelers from coronavirus-related issues, according to Murchland.

“We’re the only ones out there I’ve seen, to this point, that have ‘named’ Covid-19 coverage,” he said, noting that competitors may hedge by, for example, including or not specifically excluding coronavirus-related coverage — except when national, state or local governments issue a travel warning.

That, in effect, Murchland said, means such claims are not covered right now.

“That can confuse consumers,” he said. “We’re doing our best to put something in front of consumers that’s simple to understand and very specific, and I believe we’re the first to market with that.”

Barto at Squaremouth.com said that she, too, is “not aware of any other providers that offer medical plans specific to Covid-19.”

Some people appear to be starting to book travel again — whatever travel they can.

Jeremy Murchland

president, Seven Corners

Liaison Travel Plus includes a benefit that will cover medical expenses if a policyholder becomes ill with Covid-19 while traveling outside their home country.

“Essentially, if you happen to get sick with Covid-19 overseas — once overseas travel resumes — this provides coverage for any medical care you need up to $100,000,” Murchland said. The benefit covers medical expenses for “Covid-19, SARS-Cov-2 and any mutation or variation of SARS-CoV-2,” according to Seven Corners.

There’s an additional $500,000 in emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage, when medically necessary.

“There’s no other exclusions for other pandemics or travel warnings,” Murchland said. “For a little extra cost, somebody can ensure they’ve got coverage and these type of things aren’t excluded when they travel.”

An online quote search at Sevencorners.com for Liaison Travel Plus coverage abroad in January 2021 for a traveler aged 45 turned up a price of $33.10.

Meanwhile, Seven Corners’ new insurance plan for road trips within North America, called ARMOR, does not include coronavirus coverage at all. That’s because the bulk of Covid-19 treatment is conducted on an outpatient basis and most domestic travelers ill with the virus would be able to return home relatively easily for such care, according to Murchland.

“This is more for major accidents or medical events, such as when someone has a heart attack or they break a leg or another major injury that prevents them getting home,” he said.

ARMOR, valid for road trips of up to 30 days more than 100 miles from a policyholder’s home within the U.S., Canada and Mexico, does provide for emergency medical evacuation from remote destinations such as national parks. Its other major benefit is the return home of passengers, pets and/or vehicles in the event of driver injury. An online quote search for an August trip within the U.S. by a single driver aged 45 revealed a $50 premium.

The product debuts as interest in road trips rises. A recent “sentiment survey” by Seven Corners found  road trips score highest for comfort right now among travelers, more than half of whom say they plan to use motor vehicles for their next journey.

Going domestic

That trip, not surprisingly, is likely domestic, according to Squaremouth.com data. The website found that 40% of its customers plan to travel domestically after Covid-19, compared to 11% in previous years. AAA Northeast, meanwhile, reports that 68% of its members say American road trips and “a rediscovery of domestic destinations will be their first forays,” beginning this summer.

Initial sales of both products are encouraging, said Murchland, who said “everything points to a very reasonable increase in people considering travel insurance.”

“It’s been hairy but we feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “Some people appear to be starting to book travel again — whatever travel they can.”

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