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COVID-19: Travel insurance for Snowbirds

September 18th, 2020  |  Travel

This is typically the time of year when Snowbirds turn their attention south.

But this isn’t just any year – the pandemic has changed everything. How does a Snowbird even get to their destination and can they find travel insurance that includes Covid-19 coverage?

Canada still has a travel advisory in place that all non-essential travel outside this country should be avoided, including on cruise ships. All Canada-U.S. land borders are closed for recreational travel until at least Sept. 21 and that could be extended. The restriction was first introduced in March.

Can fly to U.S.

Canadians who do choose to travel abroad, including to the U.S., are required to quarantine or either self-isolate upon their return. (Essential workers, including health-care professionals, airline crews and commercial truckers continue to be exempt from quarantine measures.)

But while Canadians are currently barred from driving across the border to the U.S. for leisure purposes, they can still fly there. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told CBC News recently that its travel restrictions apply only to Canadians trying to enter the U.S. at land border crossings, which includes travel by car, train, ferry and pleasure boats.

Canadian air passengers can still enter the country as long as they haven't visited Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or 26 European countries in the Schengen Area 14 days prior, the CBC reported.

That being said, you are advised to contact the airline to find out if they fly to or near your preferred destination. And your decision must also consider the risk of contracting COVID-19 where you may be headed.

So, what if Snowbirds still decide to fly the coop to their winter roost - can they get travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage?

Many Canadian travel insurance companies are not offering coverage at all, or some coverage, but choosing not to include Covid-19-related illnesses while the ‘Avoid All Non-Essential’ travel advisory is in place. Other insurers declined to cover such illnesses months ago since the coronavirus was now a “known event.”

However, there are a few already advertising COVID-19 coverage under the current travel advisory. The list below is not exhaustive so if you are planning to head south, speak with your broker to get the latest information.

SafetyWing

SafetyWing, through Nomad Insurance, offers plans that cover Covid-19. According to their website, the coverage – as of Aug. 1. - works the same as any other illness if COVID-19 was not contracted before the coverage start date, and it does not fall under any other policy exclusion or limitations. Testing for COVID-19 will only be covered if deemed medically necessary by a physician. The antibody test is not covered.

New policies already include the coverage and active policies can be upgraded to include it.

HeyMondo

All travel insurance plans, according the heymondo website, cover medical assistance and expenses even in the event of infection by COVID-19.

Medipac Travel Insurance

Medipac, endorsed by the Canadian Snowbird Association, extended its decision to provide coverage for COVID-19 to any policies that are still in effect, in addition to any policies purchased through the Early Bird program (by Aug. 31). If you purchased coverage during the 2019-20 travel season that has not yet expired, your policy will provide coverage for COVID-19 subject to its terms and conditions.

Green Shield Canada

Green Shield has updated all standard travel plans to include coverage for emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 for the period of Aug. 15, 2020 - June 30, 2021, up to the existing maximums and limitations within each plan, according to a GSC FAQ.

This additional coverage will apply to all global destinations – regardless of the COVID-19 travel advisory being in place or reason for travel (i.e. leisure, work, school). It is subject to all other terms, conditions, and limitations of the benefits plan, including the requirement that the traveller must be symptom-free, in good health, and that all pre-existing conditions must be stable for 90 days prior to departure.

Other considerations

If you choose to travel despite the federal government’s travel advisories, the Government of Canada reminds you that:

Most importantly, to be sure you are covered for COVID-19 while travelling, speak with your broker and know the fine print of your policy.

RELATED READING: COVID-19: Tool helps navigate travel

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