‘Cancel for Any Reason’ Travel Policies Offered in New York as Coronavirus Spreads

March 9, 2020

Six global and national insurance companies have agreed to offer ‘cancel for any reason’ travel policies in New York state after Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday confirmed 11 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total number of cases to 44. The new cases include eight in Westchester County and three in Nassau County.

“If you buy this insurance, you cancel for any reason, including anything related to the coronavirus, you can get the full amount of your airline ticket back and we think that will provide comfort and encourage people,” Cuomo said during a March 6 briefing on the coronavirus.

The six insurance companies that have agreed to offer this type of coverage include Allianz, Nationwide, Starr Indemnity, Berkshire, Crum & Forster and Zurich.

The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued guidance allowing travel agents and travel insurers to offer ‘cancel for any reason’ travel insurance after DFS received consumer complaints that these types of polices were not available in New York state, according to a DFS press release. Many standard travel insurance policies do not cover trip interruption or cancellation due to COVID-19 because standard policies typically exclude coverage for an epidemic, pandemic or similar public health event, the DFS release said.

This move comes on the back of increased concern among New York residents around travel as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, Cuomo said.

“…[P]eople are worried about traveling, not just to the countries on the CDC watch list, but just traveling in general because they’re afraid if they make plans, they may be canceled,” he said. “That is constricting travel, constricting business travel. It’s not good for New York. It’s not good for any state, because it can actually slow the economy.”

DFS’ guidance clarifies that ‘cancel for any reason’ policies are separate and distinct from standard travel insurance, and should not be sold together per New York State Insurance Law. Coverage rates for this type of policy are substantially higher than standard travel insurance and normally only allow up to 75 percent of a refund for traveler expenses due to trip cancellation, DFS’ guidance states. The department urged New York state travel insurance issuers to reach out to individuals and businesses who bought their policies to let them know what is covered.

Cuomo said New York state is continuing to ramp up testing for COVID-19 and inform people who are positive to quarantine themselves so they don’t infect others in order to contain the virus as much as possible.

“It is not a perfect process, but the more people who you can tell are positive and stop them from infecting other people the better,” he said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with this new virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus: COVID-19. The CDC is closely monitoring this outbreak, which was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and continues to expand.

The CDC has warned against all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy – locations that have seen widespread, sustained transmission of the virus. It has also released guidance for airlines and cruise ships on what to look for in sick passengers and cleaning measures to be taken.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. reported to the CDC, with 19 U.S. states reporting, as of noon on Friday were 164, with 11 total deaths.

Of the 44 total individuals who tested positive for the virus in New York state, according to Cuomo’s announcement, the geographic breakdown is:

  • Nassau County: 4
  • Rockland County: 2
  • New York City: 4
  • Westchester County: 34

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