MSNBC travel columnist Christopher Elliott, who also writes travel for CNN, reported on March 9 that “there’s been a dramatic uptick in the number of insurance-relative complaints I’ve received.” The spike occurred, said Elliott, after three related Colorado-based travel protection companies stopped doing business after becoming targets of Colorado and Florida state investigations over whether they complied with insurance licensing requirements. Elliott recommended that consumers ask six (6) key questions before buying travel insurance to make sure the company they select is a legally-compliant provider of coverage:
1. What do they call it? The name of the plan can be a giveaway. Is it a “protection” plan or a “travel insurance” plan? There’s an important difference. Insurance is regulated by your state, according to Steve Dasseos, president of TripInsuranceStore.com. Trip protection isn’t. A clever travel agent may refer to a protection policy as “insurance” but the contract will tell you otherwise. “The phrase ‘travel insurance’ is tossed around, making it sound like every type of protection plan is a real insurance plan,” he says. It isn’t.
2. Is it backed by a legitimate underwriter?
3. Have you shopped around? “Review your options…it is always best to work with a travel professional,” said Elliott.
4. Is it being sold by a licensed agent?
5. Did you read the policy? He notes that only the printed insurance policy, not verbal promises, count when making a claim.
6. Are you aware of any tricky clauses? Elliott recommends checking on each policy’s Pre-Existing Medical Condition coverage and report any unresolved problem to the state department of insurance.