Is it too late to buy insurance for the coronavirus?

Here are your insurance options if you're worried about coronavirus.

Updated

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COVID-19 is having a huge impact on how we live our daily lives, which definitely includes the insurance realm, as people scramble to figure out what they could be covered for. The question is, with COVID-19 already declared a full-blown pandemic, is it simply too late to be looking at taking out insurance?

We answer this for four common types of insurance you might be considering:

  • Travel insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Income protection insurance
  • Business insurance

Is it too late to buy travel insurance?

In most cases, it’s too late to buy travel insurance if you hope to get coverage for COVID-19. However, if your policy was purchased before COVID-19 became a known event – around 31 January – then you have a chance of getting coverage for health and maybe even cancellation claims while overseas.

If you end up cancelling your trip and insurance won’t cover you, you may still be able to recoup some costs. Airlines sometimes have a refund or rescheduling program for flights cancelled due to travel bans or COVID-19 concerns as do some hotels. COVID-19 cancellation policies are currently all over the place, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.

It’s a good idea to talk to your travel agent, airline or hotel directly to try and negotiate a refund. If you’ve booked through a third-party app, you’ll need to contact them directly. For example, as of March 23rd, Airbnb is offering full refunds on any bookings made on or before the 14th of March.

But during these uncertain times, you should verify any relevant cancellation policies for your travel plans frequently to get the latest updates.

Is it too late to buy health insurance?

In short, it’s not too late. However, keep in mind that getting private health insurance may not really benefit you if you’re only getting it to get covered for coronavirus. Currently, COVID-19 patients are being kept and treated in isolated wards in specific hospitals and locations. In most cases, whether you have private health insurance or not, the government and health professionals will decide where and how you will be treated, likely in a medicare-run facility.

If you want a health insurance plan for lung and chest illnesses anyway, you may only have to serve a 1- to 3-month waiting period or so before coverage kicks in. This is likely to be still relevant for a COVID-19 outbreak expected to last up to 6 months according to the senior adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Bruce Aylward, but this is subject to change as further developments occur. This means that if private health insurance does become relevant to COVID-19 treatment, you will have already served the waiting period and be able to use your insurance.

In this specific instance, private health insurance’s usual benefits of choosing your room and doctor may not apply. As a result, private health insurance is generally not recommended for COVID-19.

Is it too late to buy disability income insurance?

At this stage, it shouldn’t be too late to purchase disability insurance for yourself. Short-term disability insurance is designed to help you out when you are forced to take time off work, including cases where you are sick with the flu or other illness. There do not appear to be any policies at present that exclude COVID-19 specifically.

The other good news is that some companies are waiving the regular waiting period on your policy for COVID-19 cases. With the ever-evolving response to COVID-19, your best option is to check with your insurance provider to make sure you get access to its most up-to-date benefits.

Additionally, you may find that your policy has specific exemptions for cases where you “knowingly or willingly” expose yourself to sickness. This could lead to you not being covered if you’ve traveled to a country with a travel advisory warning from the Government of Canada due to COVID-19.

Is it too late to buy business insurance?

Purchasing a business insurance policy now is likely to be no different to already-held policies with regards to COVID-19. Business interruption insurance is designed to help your business out when a catastrophe interrupts your usual operation, such as a fire that burns down the premises. Unfortunately, you may find it rather hard to claim for business interruption in this specific case, for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s often hard to claim business interruption for infections and diseases because it’s hard to prove they’ve taken place on the premises of the business itself. You can rarely claim for interruptions that have taken place any distance away from the premises.

Further, infectious diseases have been a common exemption in business insurance within the past decade, since the risk pandemics pose is almost impossible to account for. So while you can still take out a business insurance policy, talk to your potential insurance providers to see whether it would actually help you in case of COVID-19 interruptions.

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