Injuries sustained at mass shootings covered by travel insurance

NICK EAGLAND | Vancouver Sun

Canadian travellers injured in mass-casualty events such as Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas could face financial devastation without travel insurance.

Six Canadians were among more than 500 people who were injured in the deadly attack Sunday night, including 21-year-old Sheldon Mack of Victoria. Mack was in intensive care Monday after he was shot twice and suffered a ruptured colon and broken forearm.

Also injured were Jan Lambourne of Teulon, Man., Jody Ansell of Stonewall, Man., Steve Arruda of Calgary, Alta., Carrie-Lynn Denis of Leoville, Sask. and Ryan Sarrazin of Camrose, Alta.

Will McAleer, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, said a typical travel insurance policy, which can cost a few dollars per day, will “absolutely” cover emergency treatment for significant trauma such as gunshot wounds, which can require intensive surgery, rehabilitation and air evacuation, otherwise costing upwards of US$300,000.

McAleer said travel insurance is also important because it provides assistance services that help people navigate health care systems abroad, where they may need someone advocating for them and acting as a point of contact for family members at home.

He recommends travellers carry copies of their policies with them at all times or use their smartphones to photograph their policy number and insurer’s emergency contact information.

McAleer said it’s vital to plan ahead and protect yourself with insurance when travelling, no matter the destination.

“The sad part, that I think we’re facing, is that this is sort of becoming the new normal,” McAleer said.

“We think, ‘Be careful before you travel to a risky place,’ maybe the Middle East, et cetera. But now, whether it’s Orlando, London, New York City — whether it’s Edmonton — these things are happening with increased frequency.”

Global Affairs Canada advised anyone in Las Vegas who needs emergency consular assistance to call the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles at 1-844-880-6519 or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa directly at 1-613-996-8885.

— Nick Eagland with files from Canadian Press

Drinking while travelling? Your insurance may not cover that

Drinking while travelling? Your insurance may not cover that

CBC News Canada

A Kitchener, Ont. man who ended up in hospital while visiting family in the United States has learned the hard way that drinking alcohol can nullify your claim to insurance coverage.

Ernie Ceres flew down to New York on Sept. 18 for a family funeral and spent the first evening visiting with his brother, whom he hadn’t seen in several years.

According to his girlfriend Lucy Reis, who stayed behind in Cambridge, Ont., Ceres was drinking with his brother before he left to spend the night at his son’s house.

“Ernie told his son to go ahead, because he’s a little bit slow,” Reis said. “The next thing he knew is his dad had fallen down at least ten to 12 stairs.”

Ceres was unconscious and was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where doctors discovered bleeding in his brain.

Ceres has been in hospital since Sept. 19, and his girlfriend said that the last she checked his hospital bill was $100,000. (Lucy Reis)

His son called Reis with the news and she immediately booked a flight down to New York. Then she called the Canadian Automobile Association – Ceres’s insurance provider – to file a claim.

Ceres was a frequent traveller and Reis said that for the past four or five years he had been buying CAA’s multi-trip annual plan travel insurance.

Alcohol exclusion clause

A few days after calling them, she says she was told that the claim had been denied, because Ceres had too much alcohol in his blood at the time of the fall.

According to CAA’s travel insurance policy, the provider does not have to pay medical expenses in the case of “alcohol related sickness, death or injury or the abuse of medication, drugs, alcohol or any other toxic substance.”

Also, according to the policy, “alcohol abuse includes having a blood alcohol level in excess of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.”

Exclusion not stated up front

It is unclear what Ceres’s blood alcohol level was when he was admitted to hospital; however, if it was over 0.08 per cent, it would give CAA cause to deny his claim.

‘You’ve got to know what you’re buying.’– Marvin Ryder, professor of marketing and entrepreneurship

But Reis said that CAA did not tell Ceres that drinking could nullify his claim to insurance coverage, and for that reason the company should pay for the health care he is receiving in the United States.

“He’s purchased a product and not been informed,” she said. “I understand that some of it was his responsibility to read the fine print, but let’s be serious, people buy insurance all the time and you just expect the person you’re buying it from is selling you a product that they’re going to stand by.”

Consumer responsible to know

When asked whether CAA was obligated to tell Ceres that drinking could affect his insurance eligibility, industry experts all agreed that the company was not liable.

According to the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, it is the traveller’s responsibility to know what their policy does and does not cover.

“You need to understand your policy and you need to take time to read that policy document,” said association president Will McAleer. “In this case, I certainly would have thought there would have been the opportunity and responsibility to take a look and see whether or not there is an exclusion related to excess alcohol consumption.”

Insurance industry experts say travellers need to be aware of what their policies do and do not cover, and that means reading the fine print.

You must read fine print

The policy document for CAA’s travel health insurance is more than 50 pages long and is available online. The exclusion related to alcohol is on page 14.

“Is it realistic to read all of this? Maybe it’s not,” said Marvin Ryder, a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship with the Degroote School of Business in Hamilton, Ont. “On the other hand, you’ve got to know what you’re buying. You can’t assume that what you’ve bought or what you think you bought is what you actually did buy.”

‘No one says in these things that you can’t have a drink. The problem is the magic word ‘drunk’, ‘intoxication.”– Marvin Ryder

And he said that reading through insurance policies is actually a lot easier than it was 30 or 40 years ago, when they were written by lawyers.

“Unless you had a law degree you wouldn’t understand it,” he said. “Today, though – 2017 – all these insurance companies have hired communication specialists to take the legalese, if you will, and try to translate it into more basic English so that people would understand.”

‘Drunk’ is the problem

As a result, he said consumers are expected to read, understand and know what to expect from their insurance provider.

If your provider is CAA, that means your blood alcohol content can’t be higher than 0.08 per cent, which is used as the criminal impairment level for drivers in Canada, although Ontario considers a level of 0.05 per cent as reason to take a driver off the road. Ryder said the limit may be different for other providers. And currently the federal government is consulting with Queen’s Park to lower the impaired driving legal limit to 0.05 per cent.

Marvin Ryder says having a drink while on holiday shouldn’t be a problem, but getting drunk could nullify your claim to insurance. (YouTube)

“No one says in these things that you can’t have a drink. The problem is the magic word ‘drunk,’ intoxication,” he said. “If you’re planning to get intoxicated – then you need to know that those actions could nullify your insurance.”

And Ryder said that having alcohol in your blood could nullify your insurance claim even if your injury or sickness was not related to drinking.

‘There’s all those maybe, could-have, should-haves. So, that’s why they’ve drawn this line this way. If your alcohol level is too high in your blood stream, your insurance is cancelled.’– Marvin Ryder

“In other words, if you have a heart attack while intoxicated, but the intoxication didn’t cause the heart attack – nonetheless your insurance is null and void,” he said.

The reason is that in medicine, it’s hard to know what is a contributing factor. A person might trip, fall and end up in the hospital, but would the person have tripped if they had a lower blood alcohol level? Ryder said that’s a difficult question to answer.

“There’s all those maybe, could-have, should-haves. So, that’s why they’ve drawn this line this way. If your alcohol level is too high in your blood stream, your insurance is cancelled.”

CAA says claim is open, not denied

In theory, high alcohol in Ceres blood could give CAA cause to deny his insurance claim, but a spokesperson from the company told CBC News that the claim would be considered if alcohol was not the cause of the fall.

In fact, Director of Corporate Communications Tony Tsai said Ceres’s claim had not been denied, but that it was still open.

“It really depends on what was the cause of the injury or what was the suspected cause of the injury,” he said. “We’re still waiting to get all that data back from them.”

Although Ceres did have alcohol in his blood when he fell, Reis said doctors are suggesting that the fall was caused by pre-existing bleeding in his brain. If that was the case, it may be the information CAA needs to approve the claim.

In the meantime, Ceres remains in a New York hospital, where his expenses continue to accumulate. Reis said that the last she checked, the hospital bill had reached almost $100,000.

There are cases where buying travel insurance might leave you bereft of coverage. Here are a few examples.

Read more

CDN snowbirds will face higher insurance costs even if unscathed by Irma

By 

Canadian snowbirds who were lucky enough to escape property damage from Hurricane Irma will still face higher costs as insurance providers jack up premiums and condo associations levy special assessments, say Florida insurance experts.

“We’re probably looking at an across-the-board 15 to 20 per cent increase in property insurance costs over the next year,” says Brad Hubbard, the Tampa owner of an insurance agency and an engineering consulting firm specializing in flood risk.

He said the higher premiums could come from greater insurance losses and reinsurance companies determining there is a statistical increase in the risk that future storms will be more frequent and severe.

Hurricane Irma is expected to be one of the most costly storms in history, with losses estimated at $20 billion to $65 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars), including up to $50 billion in the U.S., according to risk modelling software company AIR Worldwide.

Additional insurance costs will be borne by all insured Florida homeowners, including the estimated 500,000 Canadians who own Florida properties.

Condo owners could also face special assessments if their building sustains heavy damage that isn’t fully covered by insurance or its policy has a high deductible.

“Your condo can be fine but at the end of the year you could receive a bill that says $3,500,” added Martin Rivard, an insurance broker in Boynton Beach originally from Shawinigan, Que.

The situation could be especially acute in areas like the Florida Keys, where 25 per cent of homes were destroyed by heavy winds and storm surge.

Rivard said he’s always amazed by homeowners — especially Canadians who purchased second residences when they were extremely cheap during the housing collapse — who decline to take out a policy because of the increased cost.

“I’m hoping that Irma was a wake-up call,” he said in an interview.

The average price of homeowner’s insurance in high-risk wind areas of Florida is $2,055 or $1,500 if you buy through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a state-run provider. Flood coverage premiums average $450, providing coverage of $250,000 on the structure and $100,000 for the contents, says the Insurance Information Institute.

Canadians are eligible to buy homeowner’s insurance from Citizens Property Insurance and flooding insurance from the federal National Flood Insurance Programs. Only 16 per cent of Americans purchase flood insurance and less than 10 per cent have no insurance at all.

Canadians were eager to buy insurance after Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida in 1992, but Rivard said the concern has waned because the state hasn’t experienced a big storm in about a decade.

Renee and Dino Picchioni are relieved their mobile home north of Tampa was spared because they didn’t carry any insurance.

“It’s too expensive to pay for insurance down there for four months out of the year,” Renee said from Windsor, Ont.

Since they don’t own the land where their mobile home is parked, the couple was prepared to walk away if the unit was destroyed.

Rivard expects many others will do the same if their insurance doesn’t cover repair costs.

Realtor Jass Tremblay of Marathon said most of the Canadian customers she knows in the Keys don’t have insurance. While people with a mortgage are required to have insurance that covers wind, they can roll the dice if they pay cash.

Tremblay, a Quebec City native, said she hopes those without coverage would have put money aside so they can face such a disaster.

“Some of them lost everything. They’re probably panicking,” Tremblay said from Deerfield Beach where she holed up during the storm.

Brent Leathwood, a realtor in Sarasota who is originally from Burlington, Ont., said about 80 per cent of his Canadian customers are fully insured even though tougher building codes after Hurricane Andrew have helped to minimize damage.

“Canadians tend to be, I would say, sober and pragmatic in their assessments of things and they’re a little less inclined to take big, crazy risks like some of the people in the States are.”

Florida’s insurance system has been strengthened since Hurricane Andrew as the number of people living in coastal areas surged 27 per cent between 2000 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We feel that we’re in the best position we can be in at this time,” said Michael Peltier, spokesman for Florida’s public insurance provider.

“I want people to know that you need to get out-of-province insurance,” she said.

Read more
Canadian Millennials Most Likely to Travel Uninsured

Canadian Millennials Most Likely to Travel Uninsured

According to Allianz Global Assistance (Allianz), more than forty per cent (43.4%) of Canadian travellers who report not acquiring travel insurance every time they leave the country, were younger Canadians, aged 18 – 34.

The data, gathered for Allianz by The Conference Board of Canada, gives insights into the reasons why these millennial travellers chose to travel uninsured. For those surveyed who weren’t otherwise protected, 15.8 per cent felt travel insurance was unnecessary, while 15.3 per cent thought it was too expensive, and 14.9 per cent felt their trip was too short to warrant getting insurance.

“Seeing the results of these consumer insights paints a very clear picture about the need for better understanding among young Canadians regarding travel insurance,” said Dan Keon, Senior Director, Market Management, Allianz Global Assistance. “Factors such as the length of a trip don’t necessarily make anyone safer or less accident prone, or for that matter, lessen the resulting medical bills if something happens while on that trip.”

The statistic is unexpected when compared to internal claims data reviewed by Allianz which shows that from 2014 to 2016 people under the age of 30 made nearly 32 per cent of all claims submitted, the highest demographic bracket, while buying 21 per cent of all Allianz policies.

“Millennials and other young Canadians make up the majority of Destination Canada’s ‘Free Spirits’ category – travellers looking for adventure and more ‘authentic’ experiences. But the off-the-beaten-path travel experiences can also result in increased risks regardless of age,” added Keon. “When you boil it down, accident probability isn’t determined solely by age, time or the destination of your trip. Risk exists as a part of life and travel and everyone needs to be prepared to ensure they aren’t stuck with a much larger vacation bill than planned.”

About the Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance Consumer Insights by the Conference Board of Canada

Survey data was collected from 2,159 Canadians and weighted to the population by age, gender, and province of residence.  Of the Canadians surveyed, 78.8 per cent had travelled outside of Canada in the past five years (2013-2017).  Of these respondents, 81.5 per cent reported being covered by a travel insurance policy in addition to their provincial health care plan. While outbound trips by respondents were evenly split for the U.S. and destinations in other countries, Canadians heading overseas were somewhat more likely to have insurance coverage.

Allianz Global Assistance (Canada)

For more than 50 years, Allianz Global Assistance has supported travelling Canadians when they need it most with value-added travel insurance and assistance services. More than 800 employees support long-term partnerships with some of the best known brands in the travel and financial services markets. Allianz Global Assistance also serves as an outsource provider for in-bound call centre services and claims administration for health insurers, property and casualty insurers and credit card companies. Allianz Global Assistance is a specialist brand of Allianz Worldwide Partners for assistance and travel insurance, and is the registered business name for AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd. For more information, visit www.allianz-assistance.ca.

Allianz Worldwide Partners

Dedicated to bringing worldwide protection and care, Allianz Worldwide Partners are the leader in assistance and insurance solutions in the following areas of expertise: assistance, international health & life, global automotive and travel insurance.  Known for embracing innovation and change, the Group offers a unique combination of insurance, service and technology. These solutions are available to business partners or via direct and digital channels under three trusted commercial brands: Allianz Global Assistance, Allianz Worldwide Care and Allianz Global Automotive.

This global family of over 17,500 employees is present in over 76 countries, speaks over 70 languages and handles 44 million cases per year, protecting customers and employees on all continents.

For more information, please visit www.allianz-worldwide-partners.com

SOURCE Allianz Global Assistance

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