ST. JOHN'S — With travelling a few times a year, an annual travel insurance policy once made the best sense, but Tom Gordon is re-evaluating that logic after dealing with his insurer.
Gordon contacted The Telegram after seeing the story of senior Joan Jackson, who said she was threatened with being reported to the credit bureau or taken to small claims court if she stopped her monthly payment on her MEDOC travel insurance even though she can’t go on a trip while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
Gordon and his wife pay $93.69 a month combined for their policy.
They had planned a spring trip to Cuba, which they cancelled with reimbursement in the form of vouchers for future travel from Air Transat. Those vouchers have a 24-month expiry date.
They also were refunded their airfare from St. John’s to Toronto by Air Canada.
Gordon said he understands completely that MEDOC will not approve a claim if he already received Air Transat vacation vouchers, as that would be double reimbursement.
But the decision made him ask about what his protections were under the policy should it be impossible to redeem the vouchers before they expire.
“The situation of cancelled international travel owing to the pandemic spread is certainly fraught. The decision of the federal government to uphold airlines’ policy to issue vouchers rather than refunds is problematic enough. Consumers are involuntarily in the position of giving long-term interest-free loans to airlines,” Gordon told The Telegram.
When he asked the insurance provider what would happen if Air Transat goes bankrupt or either he or his spouse dies before they can use the vouchers, the answer leaves him on the hook for the $3,000 the couple spent on the trip.
“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel." — Tom Gordon
MEDOC said the claim is closed.
“Federal advisory against travel outside the country; subsequent cancellation of Air Transat flights to Cuba. Air Transat has indicated they will issue a voucher valid for 24 months in lieu of a refund. However, we do not foresee the possibility of utilizing this voucher and need to recoup these costs. We have received full refunds from Air Canada for connecting flights that we had for travel between St. John's and Toronto before and after the Cuba flights,” Gordon wrote on the online form explaining reasons for filing a claim.
“Regarding scenario 1 (the bankruptcy of the airline), since Air Transat has offered you the travel voucher, it is now their responsibility to honour it. As for scenario 2 (a death of either spouse), we sincerely hope that is not one you will need to face. In both cases, your insurance policy does not provide coverage for a travel voucher,” adjusting agency GlobalExcel responded to his inquiry in an email exchange.
“In short, Global Excel contends that because I now hold a theoretical voucher for travel rather than an actual ticket, I no longer have any right to claim regardless of circumstances,” Gordon told The Telegram.
“These circumstances include the cessation of operation of the airline or the death of myself or my spouse — circumstances that are clearly otherwise covered under my policy with MEDOC. … Global Excel has responded unequivocally: the money I paid for a vacation that I may never take is not insured because it now exists in the form of a voucher rather than a ticket.”
The annual travel insurance they once thought was a great idea given their age and amount of and type of travel they do is now being given more scrutiny by Gordon.
Planned vacations to New Zealand and Norway this year are unlikely to go ahead, but the monthly bill continues.
“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel,” Gordon said.
Their policy expires in September and they only took one trip so far, last October.
Given the fact that auto insurance premiums were reduced a little to reflect that people are driving less, Gordon said it would have been nice to see some leniency with travel insurance customers, especially when the annual sums can be more than $1,000 and there’s no place they can go.
In a letter emailed to customers on May 15 — the same day the original Telegram story ran — Johnson Insurance, the broker for MEDOC, reminded clients, similar to information in a statement to The Telegram that week, that thousands of MEDOC customers were helped to get back to Canada and that it continues to provide health insurance coverage for those who could not return to the country.
“The number of travel insurance claims has tripled and our teams are working around the clock to ensure that we serve all members to the standards that they deserve,” the statement said.
“For all customers we understand how this pandemic has impacted your plans. Rest assured that your trip cancellation coverage continues for trips booked prior to the travel advisory. Travel within Canada is also still covered, and your policy is still in force.
“However, we truly understand the concerns of those who are unable to travel and we are reviewing how MEDOC® can continue to provide exceptional value to all our customers now and for years to come.”
In response to the latest story, a spokeswoman for Johnson said the following: "We are not able to comment on individual claims due to privacy. As each customer’s situation is different, they should contact us directly if they have questions regarding their claim."