Is this fair? They saved $74, but they lost $10,074

They missed Italy and lost their vacation. / Photo by Ryan Wood - Flickr.
Question: I’m writing on behalf of two friends who booked a trip of a lifetime to Italy recently. They also purchased trip insurance through Access America. A couple days after paying for the insurance, they found out that the husband had to have hip replacement surgery. It was a situation that became chronic within a couple of days.
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Why doesn’t travel insurance cover dad’s illness?

When Jessica Kamzik’s father was diagnosed with stomach cancer last summer, there was no question about what she had to do. Dad’s prognosis was “grave” — the doctors said he probably wouldn’t make it to the holidays — and, “as any loving daughter would do, I immediately cancelled our vacation to stay closer to him,” she says.

Good thing she had travel insurance through Access America, she thought. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about losing the cost of her trip.

But she thought wrong.
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Case dismissed: “The insurance will not cover our tickets”

Beware of the pre-existing medical conditions clause in your travel insurance policy!

Oh alright, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But could you at least pay attention to it?

I mention this because of Ingrid Murray, whose claim against Access America recently crossed my desk and then made its way into the “dismissed” file.
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Case dismissed: “I feel that the insurance is useless”

Marcel Meth’s wife and daughter had plans to visit his recently widowed sister-in-law in Minnesota. As a precaution, they bought a travel insurance policy through Access America.

But they bought the wrong policy.

“Four days before my wife and daughter were to leave for Minnesota, my sister-in-law called us and told us that her son was hospitalized and that he would be remaining in the hospital for a week or more,” he says. “In response to this, my wife needed to cancel the vacation. We obtained all the necessary documentation and filed it with the Access America. They immediately denied the claim, saying that the reason for hospitalization was not covered by the policy.”
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Insurance claim denied after bike accident

Question: I recently booked a trip to Colorado Springs on American Airlines. I paid for the tickets with a credit I’d received after canceling a previous flight, plus $350 in fees. I bought travel insurance from Access America, which is offered through the American Airlines website.

I had a bicycling accident and we could not travel to Colorado. I sent a claim to Access America with complete documentation, including receipts from American Airlines. The receipt shows a payment of $601 plus $350 in fees.

Now Access America says they won’t pay the claim since we used the $601 credit from the earlier trip. Needless to say, I am upset because American advertises Access America on its site and the ticket agent when I rebooked said to call them. Can you help me get my money back? — John Frow, Plano, Texas

Answer: Access America should have refunded your entire ticket, regardless of how you paid for it. Unfortunately, insurance claims are often denied because of a misunderstanding, and that’s what appears to be happening to you.
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Case dismissed? Travel insurance won’t cover my canceled tour

Editor’s note: For years, readers have asked me to write a regular feature on my failures as a reader advocate. (As if my critics need any more ammunition.) So today, I’m doing just that. “Case dismissed” will explore the mediation requests that bombed. Don’t forget to vote in the poll and comment on this case. Your opinion matters!

Catherine Markland was looking forward to her Ecuador trip with Friendly Planet this month. She had a little extra peace of mind because she’d purchased an insurance policy for her flights through Access America.

Maybe she shouldn’t have been so confident. When her plans changed, she discovered a thing or two about her coverage — a thing or two I couldn’t help her undo.

Last week on this site I ran a series about travel insurance. Read the fine print, I said. But what if the fine print doesn’t specifically address a situation you couldn’t even anticipate?
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Is a ‘natural cause’ a pre-existing condition?

Question: I need your help with a travel insurance problem. We booked a trip to Cancun through Orbitz last year, and when we got to the last screen of the reservation, it offered us a travel insurance policy through Access America. We thought it would be a good idea to have insurance, so we bought it.

Afterwards, we received a document with the specifics of our policy. I didn’t read it because I didn’t anticipate having to make a claim. But I was wrong.

Shortly before our trip, my mother died unexpectedly. I called Orbitz, which referred me to the insurance company. An Access America representative told me to cancel the trip and suggested that I reschedule it. They promised they would “take care” of the claim.

A few weeks later, Access America denied my claim for $951, because my mother suffered from high blood pressure. The death certificate listed the cause of death as being from “natural causes.” I didn’t know a natural cause was a pre-existing medical condition. — Cheryl Ellis, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Answer: My condolences on the loss of your mother. I agree with you that a “natural cause” isn’t a pre-existing condition, and I think Access America should have honored your claim.
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How to file a travel insurance claim and what to do if you’re turned down

Editor’s note: This the last in a series of posts about travel insurance sponsored by Access America. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four.

First, the good news: Nine out of ten travel insurance claims are honored according to the US Travel Insurance Association. So if you’re thinking of filing a claim on your policy, it will probably be honored.

Now the bad news: If you’re among the 10 percent who have been rejected, you could face a long and ultimately unsuccessful struggle to have your claim paid.

You don’t want to end up there.

How to avoid it? Make sure your initial claim does everything it should.
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How do I use my travel insurance policy?

Editor’s note: This is part four in a series of posts about travel insurance sponsored by Access America. Here’s part one, part two and part three.

Congratulations, you’re the owner of a shiny new travel insurance policy. Now what?

Conventional wisdom says you wait until something goes wrong and then file a claim. But there’s a little more to it.

Your travel insurance company wants to hear from you – needs to hear from you – if you want to be a successful user of a travel insurance policy.
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When should I buy travel insurance and how much should I pay for it?

Editor’s note: This is part three in a series of posts about travel insurance sponsored by Access America. Here’s part one and part two.

We’ve already reviewed who needs travel insurance and where to find it, but how do you know if you’re getting a good deal?

There’s no authoritative buyer’s guide that can tell you if you’re looking at a bargain policy or a rip-off. That’s because no two travel insurance policies are exactly the same. They vary based on your age, state of residence and coverage.

Travel insurance typically costs between 4 and 8 percent of your trip’s prepaid non-refundable cost. However, a “cancel for any reason” policy can run you 10 percent of the nonrefundable cost or slightly higher. Your policy may be more expensive if you’re older or engaging in a risky activity that makes a claim more likely, but generally speaking, you should be in that range.
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