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Travel insurance is a way to financially protect against issues that may arise during a planned trip. But sometimes, it can be challenging to figure out what exactly your policy covers. And failure to fully understand the policy means you could be missing out on potential reimbursements. So, we’re here to help you sift through the noise and understand the different sections of a travel insurance policy document.
Why Should You Review Travel Insurance Documents?
The primary reason to review travel insurance documents is to know what is and isn’t covered by the policy. And as important as it is to review documents thoroughly, it’s just as important to review them in a timely manner.
Travel insurance companies typically grant you a free look period of around ten days following purchase. That means you’re often allowed to review the documents and potentially cancel the policy for a refund if you don’t feel it covers what you wanted.
A thorough review also grants an opportunity to ask questions, clarify coverage, and ensure that it aligns with your expectations. Be sure to get in touch with your travel insurance provider if there’s any confusion or misunderstanding about what your policy documents mean.
What’s Included in a Travel Insurance Policy?
While each travel insurance policy might use slightly different words, the following sections generally appear in some form in most policies.
- Declaration of Coverage: This section includes primary plan details, including plan name, policy number, insured persons, dates of coverage, and a high-level summary of benefits.
- General Definitions: A list of commonly used terms to use as a reference throughout the policy document.
- General Provisions: The general provisions section of a policy document includes legal requirements for things like when coverage technically begins and ends and how claims are paid following a loss.
- Coverage: Likely the most significant part of the policy document, this area breaks down each kind of coverage, like trip cancellation or medical evacuation, and under which specific circumstances you may be eligible for reimbursement.
- Coordination of Benefits: If your travel policy has a medical benefit and you have existing health coverage, this section breaks down the responsibility for payment between the two plans.
- Policy Limitations and Exclusions: This section covers what is not covered by your travel policy.
- Additional Sections: Certain policies may have additional sections as needed, including state-specific language and contact information.
Declaration of Coverage
The first section of most policy documents is the declaration of coverage. This critical piece of the document outlines information such as:
- The name of the plan purchased
- Names of policyholders
- Dates of coverage
- The policy or order number
- Summary of benefits
The benefit summary section will outline each applicable benefit, like lost baggage, trip delay, or trip cancellation, and show the per-person limits for each benefit. This information may be expressed as a percentage (ex: 100% of trip cost insured) or a dollar amount (ex: $500 per person for baggage delay).
The declaration of coverage is designed to offer a brief overview without going into explicit detail. It works closely with the definitions, provisions, coverage, and exclusions (outlined below) to form a complete picture of the maximum coverage resulting from any qualifying loss.
The general definitions section aims to define common terms to make sure the policyholder fully understands the vocabulary used throughout the policy document. For example, the list of terms may include items like “medically necessary” and “family member.”
It’s critical to understand these terms as they will be relevant if you need to submit a claim in the future.
The general provisions section further defines common terms from a legal standpoint. It may define such terms as “legal actions,” “notice of claim,” and “proof of loss.” It’s in this area of the policy document where you’ll find information about how claims will be legally handled and the parameters by which you need to abide to give your claim the best possible chance of reimbursement.
For example, general provisions may state that proof of loss must be a detailed, sworn statement filed with the company within 90 days of the loss. Understanding the timeframes and requirements of general provisions is critical to give you the best chance of having your claim covered.
The coverage section of a travel policy details each type of coverage you may be eligible for under the plan. It will break down events that are eligible for reimbursement and which expenses are deemed reasonable.
For example, a policy with missed connection coverage may view a weather delay as a covered event. And the coverage section would then outline which types of reimbursements are eligible, like additional travel expenses or nonrefundable deposits.
The coverage section is critical to review, especially if you expect the policy to cover a unique scenario around which you have concerns.
Coordination of Benefits
If you purchase a travel policy with medical benefits and have other health insurance, the coordination of benefits section will discuss how the policy and your existing health plan work together. It may cover:
- Which benefits will be used first: To avoid confusion, the travel insurance policy will outline which coverage is primary vs. secondary.
- Allowable expenses: The policy will outline any unique situations that are not allowable expenses. For example, the cost between a semi-private and private hospital room might not be allowable unless medically necessary.
- How long you have to submit a claim: Also referred to as the “Claim Determination Period,” insurers will outline the period after the event in which you can submit a claim. The standard period is one calendar year but varies per insurer.
Policy Limitations and Exclusions
As critical as it is to understand what’s covered by your policy, it’s equally important to know what types of things will not be covered. The policy limitations section will outline what the policy will not cover for each subset of coverage, like emergency evacuation or trip interruption. That might include things like:
- Exclusions for baggage delay that don’t cover household furnishings, personal computers, or tickets.
- Limitations for any loss caused by insects or war.
- Exclusions for trip delay caused by pregnancy and childbirth or reconstructive surgery.
Each insurance company’s policy document may be slightly different. There are typically a few sections at the end of the document that include:
- State-Mandated Language: Here, you’ll find specific information to be added or removed as requested by individual states. States may also include unique addresses or contact information for complaints or disputes. Be sure to search for your state to catch any state-specific changes.
- Contact Information: The final pages of many policy documents outline all the contact information for the insurance company. There are often contacts for travel assistance and for claims filing and assistance.
Do I Need to Bring My Travel Policy On My Trip?
While you may not necessarily need to lug a complete printout of your travel policy on vacation, it’s best to pull out some key components and keep them handy for easy reference. Be sure to write down:
- Emergency contact information: Most travel insurance companies provide a phone number for 24/7 contact for emergencies. This number is vital to have on hand for any issue during travel, big or small.
- Policy number: If you need to contact the travel insurance company, the easiest way to reference your policy is by providing your policy number. This number is typically located in the Declaration of Coverage section of your policy, where the policyholders and coverage dates are.
If you plan to have your phone with you during travel, it may be beneficial to keep a digital copy close by. That way, you can easily reference the document if you find yourself in a situation wondering if you have coverage.
The Bottom Line
Travel insurance policies are designed to protect you from loss. But if you fail to understand what’s covered and how to file a claim, you might miss out on the benefits. Taking time to read, understand, and know how to access your policy documents means a greater likelihood of using the policy to its fullest extent.
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