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cherylandtk

A Tale of Two Insurance Policies

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Some of you may recognize my user name as a longtime poster on these Travel Insurance boards....I say that only to restate that I know all about the fine print on Trip Insurance policies, I read them, I understand the limits, I pay attention to details as obscure as knowing "Reasonable Expenses" can be limited to Hotel and Food expenses in one policy and will be Hotel, Food, Rental Car, replacement clothing and toiletries in another.

 

Several times a week the regulars on this board are asked "which insurance policy is best"....and the usual (and correct) reply is "it depends". The specific amounts and types of coverages will depend on what you need covered. That is still true, but I do have direct, personal experience that may be useful to anyone who is looking for a place to start, and perhaps wants a short list of good, reliable policies, as well as a couple that make you jump through hoops when you have a claim. If you don't want to read through the rest of the details (and I apologize, it is a lengthy post), jump on down to the last few paragraphs starting with Takeaways.

 

If you don't mind reading through the background, here we go. First, in my opinion travel Insurance recommendations are a little like getting a recommendation for a dentist. You also have to ask what work they have had done; if they just see the hygienist for a tooth cleaning twice a year, they don't know much about having a crown or a root canal. With travel insurance, you may get a lot of recommendations by people who have not actually had a claim. This post is all about our two VERY different experiences in claim processing, and who we will and will not use in the future. I hope you find this information helpful.

 

Claim number 1.

March 2009. Insurance purchased through Trip Insurance Store (our favorite broker, which we use and still recommend). Policy by TravelGuard, I believe it was TravelGuard Gold, but am not positive. We had to cancel our trip three weeks before departure, filed the paperwork which consisted of a five page claim form, including a one-page Physician Statement, submit proof of the cost of the trip (TA invoice) and 18 days after mailing we had a check for $3800 in hand.

 

Claim number 2.

April 2015. Insurance purchased through Trip Insurance Store, policy was Global Alert. Medically advised to cancel trip and have surgery on 4/10/15. Filed paperwork with TripMate (processor for Global Alert policy). This was also a 5 page claim form, but 13 additional pages were required to include Proof of trip insurance purchase, proof of cancellation, proof of trip cost, copy of tour cancellation policy and a copy of trip itinerary. (Not onerous requirements, but very comprehensive, especially since they wanted proof of purchase of the insurance, which was purchased from THEM). Mailed to them on April 18. And waited. Followed up one month into the process and found they had requested my entire medical file from my surgeon on 5/19/15. Surgeon faxed file to them on 5/21/15. And we proceeded to wait again while the file wandered its way back to the claim processor on 5/27/15. Heard nothing more so called again on 6/9/15. We were told the claim would be processed in 5-7 business days and that we would receive a call as to the 'outcome'. Of course, 7 business days went by without a call and no change noted online. So we called again on 6/19/15. This time we cannot even speak to a person; after waiting on hold for about 5 minutes 'for the next available representative' because ' our call is important to them' we get transferred to a message center that tells us to leave our name and phone number and we will be called back no later than the end of business the next day. Didn't happen.

 

By this time I am armed for a fight, but know enough not to get angry, but to enlist an army. So I called the Trip Insurance Store, spoke with Kim and she looked up the claim and said she would look into what they could do. Steve did call Trip Mate on Friday and followed up our claim.

 

This morning, my brilliant husband looked up Arch Insurance Company, the underwriter for the Global Alert policy and called them directly. He was put through without difficulty to the Senior VP of Travel Products, left her a short message with our name, claim number and dissatisfaction at the slow processing (60 days today) by Trip Mate of what should be a straightforward claim.

 

MAGIC! An hour and a half later, we received a call from Global Alert that our claim had been completed, the checks for the full amount would be cut today and in the mail tomorrow. Lest you think it was coincidence, we were called back on his cell phone number, which he left with Arch Insurance. ALL other contact with Trip Mate on our claim used our landline number.

 

TAKEAWAYS

1. When we buy third party insurance, I like to work with Trip Insurance Store because I know they will prescreen policies and as Steve says " I like to sleep at night". They no longer sell the Global Alert policy, but they do sell two other policy families processed by Trip Mate. I will be following up further with Steve on this, because I personally will never again purchase a policy that would be processed by Trip Mate in the event of a claim.

 

2. TravelGuard, Travel Insured, CSA, RoamRight and Travelex plans do NOT use TripMate to process claims. MHRoss, TripMate, TravelSafe and Global Alert do. It is safe to say I will never purchase one of those latter four brands as long as they use the Trip Mate processing (or any other brand that uses Trip Mate).

 

3. Arch Insurance company (who is the one that actually pays out on our substantial claim) was fantastic in this process and I would willingly purchase a plan underwritten by them as long as it is not processed by Trip Mate in the event of a claim. I know Roam Right brand meets both criteria. There may be others.

 

4. When purchasing Trip Insurance, it is smart to check the POLICY, the UNDERWRITER and the CLAIM PROCESSOR before purchasing. This information is usually highlighted on the first page of the Description of Coverage. Trip Insurance Store makes it easy to read these DOC before purchase, not all brokers or even the policy companies themselves make them easy to find.

 

5. If you run into a slow claims process, don't hesitate to enlist help. Your broker, the underwriter, and your state insurance commission. In my state, insurance companies who fail to pay within 45 days owe interest, for example. If yours has a similar provision, use it.

 

If you have managed to get through all of this, my thanks to you for reading it. I only hope our experience will serve to steer future purchasers to those policies that deserve your business. There may be other policies out there besides the ones that I list above that are worthwhile, but that is my short list for the time being.

Edited by cherylandtk

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Thank you for the comprehensive review and sharing your experience. I will follow your lead in this.

 

bo1953

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Thank you for posting...I am saving this for future reference.

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Thanks. This is the kind of info that is truly helpful to us. I recently booked a tour with Overseas Adventure Tours and had to decide if I wanted their insurance (Trip Mate) or use my usual company (Travel Insured). Something told me to stick with what I know (3 small claims). Think I dodged a bullet!

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I am currently shopping for insurance. I was wondering - there doesn't seem to be any cruise-specific language in any of these policies. The only one i found is Travelex which says "Missed Cruise Connection."

 

So - are all of these plans cruise-friendly?

 

I am looking at Travel Insured Worldwide plus or regular, Travelsafe Classic, or Travelex Travel Select.

 

I've never been on a cruise before so I just don't know how insurance companies handle cruise-specific incidents. Thanks

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The various brands have several different types of plan names, and some of them are specific to cruising (Nationwide has two), most do not have cruise-specific coverages. That said, all plans work well for cruising, but it does depend on what you personally want to insure.

 

If your biggest fear/risk is missing the cruise departure due to flight problems, you may find cheaper 'coverage' by flying a day early and purchasing a hotel room. If time limits prevent that, you would want to get the plan with higher coverage for the least amount of hours of delay AND with the least restrictions for the cause of that delay. The cruise-specific provisions I see do not really cover a late flight unless it is caused by weather and complete cessation of ALL airlines for over three hours. That doesn't help in most cases. So you would be just as well off to go with a 'regular' plan which covers any reason for a common carrier delay after 5 or 6 hours.

 

Of the plans you mention, my choices would be between the Travel Insured Plus and Travelex Select. But my needs are likely not the same as yours, so take it for what it's worth.

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Thank you.

 

I am not really worried about flights. My flight gets in the night before and I have a hotel. But if there's a hurricane or something then yes I would be worried about compensation for the trip.

 

I just want to be protected in case something medically happens and evacuation is a must. Does evacuation include being helicoptered off of a ship to a USA hospital?

 

Let's say there is a hurricane and I couldn't get down to Florida or the Caribbean until a day after the ship departs. What happens then?

 

What happens if I am on a shore excursion and I miss the time to be back to the ship? Do these plans cover this as well?

 

Thanks.

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Most evacuation coverage is to the nearest hospital that can provide care. If you want to choose the hospital, you should look into something like MedJet on an annual basis. It will transport you from a hospital anywhere in the world to a hospital of your choice. You must be hospitalized to use this service, not just injured or sick. Also, helicopter evacs are very rare because they are so dangerous; most cruise evacs occur from a pier to a local hospital.

 

As for hurricanes, this is something people worry about the most, but need insurance for the least. In a hurricane, the ship will not sail into a hurricane, and that includes departure ports. If hurricane is coming to a departure port, cruiselines will change ports or delay/extend the cruise by a day or two. Every time they have done that, they allow passengers to cancel without penalty, usually with credit to rebook OR to take the modified cruise with substantial credit for the change in itinerary. The cruise ships will depart the port before the airport closes almost every time.

 

So, let's say the worst happens, the hurricane is due to hit the port late Friday, you have a Saturday departure. You have a Friday flight to the port, with a hotel booked. It is probable that the cruiseline will delay the trip by a day, and depart on Sunday, but they won't announce that, or the rebook options, until Just a few days before. So you just have to be patient and keep updated and try not to panic.

 

If the airport closes, and all flights are cancelled for 24 hours, your insurance covers you up to the policy limits. BUT, the airlines are usually pretty good about allowing cancellation without penalty when this happens (they would rather allow this than have to rebook all passengers over the next week).

 

So that puts you at free cancellation of the cruise, free OBC or % off on your next booking, free cancellation of the flight with full refund. The bad thing is you are not on the cruise. The good thing is you have no losses to claim on insurance, and you have some discounts to use on a rebooking. Knowing this upfront, many people just rebook for a week or two later if they have that flexibility. And insurance does not really come into play except for incidentals, such as if the hotel was NR.

 

If you don't have that flexibility and you really want to catch up to the cruise, you can use your insurance to book a flight to the next port and claim for the missed days. BUT, pay close attention to the policy limits to make sure the coverage is high enough to pay for a last minute flight to the first port.

 

Travel Guard Gold is pretty good in this regard, Inclement Weather does not have a 24 cessation requirement, just any severe weather that prevents your common carrier (airline or cruise) from getting you to your destination. And then it falls under the full Trip Interruption, not just Trip Delay.

 

If you want to learn more, I suggest you go over to TripInsurance Store.com and read up on what trip insurance is and is not. They have quite a few links and helpful pages explaining the differences and pitfalls.

Edited by cherylandtk

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You have been very thorough and helpful; for my very first experience on Cruise Critic, you have gotten me off to a great start. Many thanks.

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Forgot the shore excursion question. Generally, no it is not a covered reason unless the tour provider is a Common Carrier (scheduled public transportation for which you buy a ticket). Some are, some aren't. And you are welcome...glad to be of help.

Edited by cherylandtk

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We had a similar experience with Travel Safe and Trip Mate.

 

We thought that they prolonged payment as long as they could. Every time we saw the doctor for surgical follow up he would ask - have they paid yet?

 

Thanks for the list of other companies they do the processing for. I'll make a note and avoid them.

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Some of you may recognize my user name as a longtime poster on these Travel Insurance boards....I say that only to restate that I know all about the fine print on Trip Insurance policies, I read them, I understand the limits, I pay attention to details as obscure as knowing "Reasonable Expenses" can be limited to Hotel and Food expenses in one policy and will be Hotel, Food, Rental Car, replacement clothing and toiletries in another.

 

----------------- snip snip snip snip snip snip -----------

 

Hello - once again, perchance do you know which of the 'Primary/First Payers' will pay directly to the hospital upon contacting them when the emergency occurs?

 

TIA - bo1953

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Hello - once again, perchance do you know which of the 'Primary/First Payers' will pay directly to the hospital upon contacting them when the emergency occurs?

 

TIA - bo1953

 

This one is "it depends".

If you have a small issue, say a fall results in a broken leg that is easily casted and you can simply fly home, you may be told to use your own credit card then submit for reimbursement. OTOH, if you have a heart attack or stroke, and need extensive care or an airlift back to the US, they may work with providers directly.

 

It will be on a case by case basis for them to pay directly. For this reason. We always travel with a high limit -low balance credit card, just in case.

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Bo, to add to what Barb said, Steve's website states that all the policies he sells can advance payment to a hospital to secure admission if necessary EXCEPT for CSA (which is also secondary coverage). But that payment may be just an initial deposit, not full payment for all needed care.

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I wanted to come back to follow-up and say two things. One, the policy that paid out in 2009 was Travelex, not Travelguard. I had Steve look that up when I spoke with him just a few minutes ago. Two, he also expressed disappointment with the Trip Mate slow processing of this claim and indicated he will be meeting with them next week and has promised to go over the handling of this claim while he is there.

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Thanks for the great information. The gals at TripInsuranceStore narrowed down our choices with 3 co's in 1 day to make our choice. Went with Travel guard Gold with the $10 add-on that covers cancel for work reasons, extra 500k in med expenses & hospital of our choice. Also covers spouse/companion coverage.

Wife is a FT Wheelchair user with MS. Despite being stable we were sure an ins co would find a way to deny any claim but we purchased 3 days after booking & they assured me it would be fine so long as she is well enough to travel the day of booking- which she is,

Btw- Price was the same as going thru co directly but really helped narrow our choice to fit "our" needs.

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Thank you for a most informative post with excellent guidance. I appreciate your insights and will keep this in mind when looking into insurance for my upcoming trip.

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This was great and I bought out travel insurance thru "trip insurancestore" and researching on my our and on CC and reading everything on Steve's website. I was still confused.....

I called and got all my answers and concerns. If you have question they really can educate you!

 

Great thread thank you :)

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I just got off the line after a very enlightening conversation with Steve at Tripinsurancestore. He has been so highly recommended by so may on this board that I decided to give him a try. Most all the information I needed was on his web site but I still had some questions. I had done my homework but still had some doubts about some of the details. Steve could not have been any more helpful. We talked. He took my order over the phone. He emailed me the "paperwork" within a few minutes. Task completed.

Edited by Lazy K

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We have just purchased Travelguard Gold for our 12 day Grand Med. Cruise in Sept. on the Island Princess. Do any of you have experience with this one and think it is good or are there others that are better.

 

Thanks!

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Most policies have a 10 day "Free Look" period. Your needs may be different than someone else's so it's hard to know. Travel guard is a reputable company.

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With TravelGuard, the pre-existing conditions clause extends to family members who are NOT travelling with you. That is why it doesn't work for me. If you did not buy the policy in the time frame specified to get the waiver, and you think this might be a problem for you, call the insurance company or agency (not your travel agent) and get them to explain exactly how it applies to you. You can still cancel the policy if you are in the free-examination period.

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There are many many TravelGuard policies with different terms and benefits. Your policy due to you state of residence may be different than my policy because of insurance laws are different in each state.

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There are many many TravelGuard policies with different terms and benefits. Your policy due to you state of residence may be different than my policy because of insurance laws are different in each state.

 

Certainly true. That is why it is hard to answer a vague question like, "Is this a good policy?' - too many variables. Perhaps someone who asks such a question is not aware of the intricacies and doesn't know the questions to ask in order to avoid the pitfalls.

 

Just a heads up to consult someone knowledgable if in doubt.

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