Reading the fine print

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Chana Viljoen takes a careful look at the importance of reading the terms and conditions when purchasing travel insurance. 

Many travellers assume that, by purchasing travel insurance, they are covered in the event of any emergency during their trip, and don’t bother taking the time to read the ‘fine print’ on the policy. “As with all insurance policies, there are exclusions which are all-important in terms of the manner in which the policy will benefit the policyholder,” says Jason Veitch, MD of Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC). He explains that it is important that the policyholder engage the insurer for a better understanding of the policy if they are unsure of any aspect of the policy terms and conditions. Veitch says all policies have exclusions and that’s why it is so important that clients read their policy wording.

“If there’s a unique requirement that doesn’t meet the travel insurer’s standard profile (e.g. participation in adventure sports) they are welcome to contact the insurer to discuss their specific needs.” The reason for the exclusions, according to Veitch, is that some risks are uninsurable. “In order to provide the best possible cover for the majority of our clients, at the most affordable rates, limitations are necessary,” he adds. Claude Vankeirsbilck, Chief Sales Officer, Tourvest Travel Services, says travellers often don’t read the fine print and therefore don’t get a clear understanding of what is actually covered within the insurance policy they have purchased.

Further, he says, that what is considered to be sufficient cover to one traveller would not be sufficient to another. “The recent Ash Cloud event in Europe was a classic example of travellers unreasonably expecting full cover in all respect when this was clearly an ‘Act of God’ and one could not reasonably expect the insurers to cover the event in full,” he says, adding that in most policies a measure of limited cover for curtailment and delays, etc., with events such as these is included. Vankeirsbilck feels that most travel policies do offer sufficient cover for the relatively low costs of travel insurance, taking into account that this is a once-off payment which is made in South African Rand for cover for the duration of the trip, and when a medical claim is processed, for example, this is often paid for by the insurer in Euros, Pounds or US Dollars.

“It is important to understand why travel insurers limit the cover.” According to a spokesperson, some of the main exclusions on some of Regent Insurance’s policies include pre-existing illnesses (unless the cover specifically for

pre-existing illnesses is purchased); cardiac/ cardio vascular conditions for persons aged 70 or older; claims due to the effects of alcohol and drugs; selfinflicted injuries, and hazardous pursuits and manual labour. The reason for these is that the purpose of travel insurance is to be insured for sudden, unforeseen and unexpected events while on a journey.

The spokesperson advises that corporate travellers read the policy wording and ensure they understand exactly what is covered and what is excluded. If the traveller has an illness, they should take precautions to ensure they are healthy on the trip and they should check whether their condition would be covered. Sharon Burgers, Senior Manager – Traveller and Transaction Services for CWT BTC Johannesburg feels that the policies currently on offer are sufficient.

She says that for the most part customers have corporate policies in place or are self-insured. She adds: “We work well with TIC and are trained on a regular basis in order for our travel counsellors to have a clear and knowledgeable understanding of this very important product.” Veitch says: “Travelling abroad can have its perils, should it be a medical emergency, the unfortunate loss of personal items, or an accident. It is therefore imperative to ensure that you are covered by the best product on the market.”

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