Covid travel cancellations: What costs will Swiss insurers cover?

Covid travel cancellations: What costs will Swiss insurers cover?
Getting good Covid coverage before the holidays is important. Photo by Zurich Airport
If you are planning to holiday in a foreign country this summer, you may need a number of documents, ranging from coronavirus test to the health pass. But what about a Swiss insurance to cover you for all kinds of Covid-related mishaps?

In the first months of the pandemic in 2020, insurance companies refused to provide coverage to people who dared to venture abroad. Travel insurances routinely exempted pandemics and epidemics from their coverage.

What is the situation now?

Many rules have been eased but finding a foolproof travel insurance, the one that will cover and refund any and all coronavirus incidents — from quarantines to lockdowns — is still difficult.

As odd as it sounds, catching coronavirus while abroad may be the least of your worries, at least from the insurance perspective.

That’s because in case of illness, your basic compulsory health insurance (KVG in German, and LaMal in French and Italian) will pay for medical emergencies abroad, whether you have an accident, need urgent surgery, or —  as in the case of coronavirus — become ill and require immediate treatment.

Reader question: Will my Swiss insurance cover me if I catch coronavirus abroad?

Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to insurance coverage, not all countries are created equal.

If you get sick in one of the EU or EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) nations, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) — that is, your regular Swiss insurance card — entitles you to receive the same paid services as someone who is insured in that country.

But if you are unfortunate enough to contract Covid and require hospitalisation while in the United States, where the cost of medical care is notoriously high, your LaMal coverage will not suffice to cover whatever costs you incur.

The insurance will reimburse up to a maximum of twice what the same treatment would have cost in Switzerland.    

READ MORE: Covid-19 health pass: Switzerland extends vaccination protection to 12 months

Things get more complicated when it comes to the reimbursement of travel expenses due to Covid

In this case, much depends on which insurance carrier you have.

Consumer site compared benefits offered by various Swiss companies and found that there is no common practice — some offer more inclusive coverage, while others have a number of exclusions.

“Many travel insurers have changed their conditions for the coronavirus. That’s why policyholders shouldn’t blindly choose their coverage but pay attention to details,” said Felix Schneuwly, Comparis’ expert in healthcare.

For instance, if you were in contact with infected people and must quarantine, some companies will not refund the costs of your trip, according to Comparis.

Or if you are planning to vacation in a country or region that subsequently goes into lockdown, some carriers do not cover trip cancellation if you can still get room and board in the hotel at your destination.

“It is precisely because of these limitations in coverage that travellers must check whether the insurance allows them to cancel the booking free of charge at short notice,” advises Schneuwly.

And what happens if the destination is suddenly included on Switzerland’s list high-risk of countries, or if borders are closed?

Certain insurances will not cover such cases.

And then there is a relatively new situation related to Covid certificates.

If your trip falls through because your health pass is not recognised in your destination country, your trip will be be reimbursed by some companies but not by others.

How do you find the insurance carrier that will cover most of the potential travel mishaps?

Comparis’ has looked at major Swiss travel insurance carriers — Basler / Bâloise, AXA, Helvetia, Vaudoise, Zurich, Allianz Global, La Mobilière and Generali — and what each will and will not cover in relation to Covid.

  • You have reserved and paid for your holidays but test positive for coronavirus: Vaudoise and Generali will not refund the cost of our trip; the others will.
  • You paid for a vacation in a country that suddenly closes its borders due to a spike in infections: Zurich and La Mobilière will cover this cancellation. Vaudoise and Generali will not. Allianz doesn’t offer cover for this event. Basler and AXA have provisions based on whether travel ban was implemented by the government.
  • You have contracted Covid before your departure and must remain home: all the carriers except Generali, La Mobilère and Vaudoise will cover this cancellation.
  • Your vacation is booked but you were in contact with an infected person and must quarantine. Bâloise, AXA, Helvetia, Zurich and La Mobilère will cover this cancellation; Vaudoise and Generali won’t. Allianz will reimburse the costs only if presented with official proof of contamination.

To be on a safe side, read all the fine print detailing the coverage and exceptions, before taking out a travel insurance.

And it goes without saying that you have to sign up, and pay for, the insurance ahead of time, not just as your trip is cancelled.

TRAVEL: How does the new EU Covid certificate work and how do I get one?

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