The new coronavirus epidemic is almost certain to become more deadly as the death toll in China alone crosses 2200 mark. However, does your insurance policy cover you for this deadly virus?
In the past few years, the world has experienced various deadly virus outbreaks such as Ebola, Zika, Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), most recently Nipah, and now Corona. The new coronavirus epidemic in mainland China is almost certain to become more deadly as the death toll crosses 2200 mark. There are around 70,000 cases recorded in China, out of which more than 6000 are in severe condition. In India too, some cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed. So far only two deaths have been reported outside mainland China. Though it is an isolated incident in India, it is important for you to understand if your insurance policy covers you for this deadly virus.
Your health insurance covers you for a virus outbreak, which requires hospitalization and so it will cover you for coronavirus outbreak. The symptoms of coronavirus infection are quite similar to that of common cold and typically affect the upper respiratory body. Being a new strain, it does not have any vaccination or cure as of now. Most of the patients who have died due to the coronavirus infection were above the age of 60 or even older and had serious health problems before they came down with 2019-nCoV infections. No matter which type of health policy you have, it can still cover you for hospitalization, irrespective of the disease you are diagnosed for. Health policy covers you for all the infections, despite the fact how dangerous it is and corona is one such infection. The coverage will be available in almost all the health policies from the day of infection.
As new diseases like corona does not fall under pre-existing illness, these will be covered under your base health policy. Hence, all covers such as in-patient treatment, pre and post-hospitalization, and ambulance cover will be available for you with your existing health plan, in case you happen to seek treatment for corona.
The process for claim will remain the same; you can either take reimbursement or go for the cashless method (where the bills are directly settled by the insurer to the hospital). The most preferred way of claim settlement in health insurance is cashless facility these days. Under this, the insured is not required to pay hospital bills upfront as the insurer settles the bill directly with the hospital, provided the hospital should be in the network list of the insurer. Though you may have to pay charges such as non-medical item expenses, doctor and admission charges. However, one can also face situations where the insurance company may not be able to provide cashless facility. This is common when the hospital is not listed with the insurer or if the policy does not provide cover for cashless settlement.
It is a little tricky to answer whether your travel policy will cover the coronavirus outbreak or not. It will largely depend upon the type of policy and the level of coverage. As of 3rd Feb 2020, coronavirus has been recognized as an epidemic by both WHO and centers for disease control and prevention and many travel protection plans exclude coverage for losses incurred directly or indirectly by epidemics. If one plans a trip to China against the government advisory, then your insurance company is not liable to cover you for the losses. However, if one catches the virus during transit, then the insurance provider might cover you for the health conditions. Travel protection plan mostly excludes losses incurred by the events that were known or foreseeable at the time the plan is purchased.
The virus outbreak is not covered in most standard travel insurance plans. However, if you have opted for “Cancel for any reason”, then some level of trip cancellation protection may be available. Some of the major airlines and hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees or providing some discounts on cancellation, but recouping all the losses associated with trips canceled due to coronavirus fears are far from guaranteed.
Those who are considering buying travel insurance will notice that insurance companies have excluded the coronavirus outbreak coverage due to the significant increase in prevalence. However, for those holding their existing travel insurance policy should contact their insurance providers to find whether their plan offers coverage for coronavirus outbreak or not.
(By Amit Chhabra, Head-Health Insurance, Policybazaar.com)