WARNING: Many Insurance Policies Including Health Insurance Not Covered BY Epidemics Like The Coronavirus
Individuals, travellers or tourists and companies facing problems due to disruption caused by the coronavirus
epidemic in China, risk meeting a cold shoulder from insurers, many industry experts warn. From travel to health insurance
to even business insurance, there are lots of fine print that excludes epidemics such as the current coronavirus
Many insurers are saying that basic travel insurance
and health insurance
policies are unlikely to cover epidemics. However, individuals are being advised initially to consult their credit card or travel providers to get refunded for cancelled bookings, and for medical costs.
For businesses such as hotels and airlines that are now ripping up their China plans, there may be no recourse from their insurers, according to Clarissa Franks, risk management placement leader at insurance
broker Marsh in London.
She added, "The devil really is in the details because business interruption policies, contingency policies, can cover communicable diseases. However, policy language will quite often exclude this type of disease."
epidemic in China has now suffered more deaths from the new strain of coronavirus
than during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, and cases are cropping up around the world.
The hotel, airline, retail, conference and meetings, exhibition and restaurant industries are all expected to be hard hit due to the coronavirus
However, the reinsurance market at Lloyd's of London has not seen any untoward activity from traditional insurers looking to hedge their exposure to risks arising from this outbreak, two sources in the underwriting trade said.
Unfortunately in China itself, the outbreak "will likely weigh on Chinese insurers' earnings and revenues in 2020", S&P Global Ratings said, pointing to factors such as volatility on financial markets and reduced face-to-face meetings with customers.
Entities that are not covered for communicable diseases specifically will however be checking the fine print as ripple effects flow through their China operations and global supply chains, following Beijing's decision to quarantine entire cities.
Just like SARS and other pandemics of recent years such as swine flu, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the insurance
industry will be "paying very close attention to this", Association of British Insurers spokesman Malcolm Tarling said.
The association’s spokemand cautioned individuals and companies: "If someone travels (to China) against government advice, then most policies from travel to health insurance
policies will be invalidated. If you believe your trip is essential, you need to talk to your insurer first."
To date, the closest analogy is SARS, which first broke out in China in 2002 and led to a slew of disputes between companies and their insurance
However many health insurance
companies never paid up as there were exclusions of epidemics in their contractual policies and many customers were not aware of this during te SARS epidemic.
It was seen that for the travel industry alone, the impact of SARS was estimated by the World Travel and Tourism Council at $30-50 billion.
However China's economy accounted for five percent of global gross domestic product then, compared to nearly a fifth today, according to World Bank data.
These days more Chinese now travel abroad than any other nationality, and they spend the most on average while away.
Currently, the number of infections from the new coronavirus
stands at more than 23,000, and the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. But health experts stress its mortality rate among patients is lower than for SARS at about 2.2 percent.
In an article online, Risk Management Solutions noted that several sporting and cultural events have already been cancelled in China, "and all risk stakeholders will be anxious over the number of months before 2019-nCoV (the novel coronavirus
) is contained".
British insurer Aviva said customers need to have specific coverage for "travel disruption" as part of their policy to be sure of reimbursement for changes to their plans.
Aviva spokeswoman said told Thailand
Medical News, "We're monitoring the situation closely, but so far the overwhelming majority of claims relate to customers who are travelling to and from China."
German insurer, Allianz said the first port of call for individuals suffering disruption should be their airline or travel agency, rather than their insurer. The insurance
company said the outbreak was "clearly a very urgent alert" but at this stage, normal terms and conditions of insurance
For hotels, airlines and other companies in the firing line, communicable diseases will typically only be covered if they have taken out specialist coverage. But that would come at a cost that probably outweighs the risk-benefit return.
Franks at Marsh said, "Traditional insurance
can't cover everything and non-traditional insurance
will tend to carry a significant cost and require a thorough process to determine what an individual company needs. It will be a very bespoke product."
In terms of Thailand health insurance
Medical News strongly recommends using the services of Krungthai-AXA Life Insurance
Company Limited as it has many reasonably priced packages with low affordable premiums but optimized coverages. The customer service is excellent and claims are very easy and on time.