Tripped-Up Travel Insurance

On October 8, 2012, in British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver Island, by Rosalie McLachlin

DATELINE: Gold River, BC


Confusion on Medical Questions Results in Denied Claims

Attention snowbirds, backpackers, and other travellers: if the cooling weather is turning your thoughts to warmer locales, scrutinize your travel health insurance policy. Your answer to a qualifying question on the medical check-list could give an insurance company an excuse to deny your claim.

Just ask Bill and Tracy Jennings. They bought travel  insurance from Manulife for their Florida getaway and trusted that they were covered when Bill was rushed to hospital for an emergency heart operation. As they told CBC’s Marketplace in an investigative piece on travel insurance, six months after their return, Manulife told them their claim for the medical expenses was denied. They would not be repaid the $346,000 they paid while in the USA.

According to the Marketplace report, insurance companies can compare the answers you provide in the qualifying questionnaire to your doctor’s records. Manulife told Bill he hadn’t provided accurate-enough information about documented, pre-existing medical conditions.

A person can make mistakes

“But the questions on the questionnaire set people up to fail,” suggests Susan Eng of CARP, a non-profit advocacy group. “A person can make mistakes on a form that they could not possibly have done correctly. It takes both a doctor and a lawyer to interpret the form properly.”

According to a related CBC news story, “…of the 500,000 travel insurance claims made every year, 15,000 are denied for a variety of reasons.”

Says Eng, “Ordinary people are out thousands and thousands of dollars because they did not get the protection they thought they had—only because they made a mistake on the form that they could not possibly have done correctly.”

To learn more, watch “Tripped Up”, a CBC Marketplace investigation on how average Canadians’ travel insurance claims are denied when they become sick, injured, or disabled while vacationing in another country.

If you have been denied a disability claim related to travel, get a second opinion. For a free lawyer referral, call toll-free at 1-855-843-9729.

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