The Travel Troubleshooter: Is a ‘natural cause’ a pre-existing condition?

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Cheryl Ellis thinks her Access America travel insurance policy will cover her mother’s death. But the company has a restrictive definition of 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. Insurance companies take lots of liberties with their definition of a pre-existing condition.

But this misunderstanding might have been avoided. When you bought your insurance policy, you didn’t read the terms before buying it and made the decision to insure your vacation as an afterthought. There’s nothing wrong with buying travel insurance from your agent, but I always recommend doing a little research before purchasing any policy.

It’s as simple as clicking on a site like InsureMyTrip.com and reviewing the terms and costs. Typically, travel insurance is a good idea for big-ticket purchases over $10,000, but in your case, a $951 vacation was definitely was worth insuring.

Insubuy is the premier online marketplace for travel insurance, visitors insurance, international travel medical insurance, international student health insurance, and exchange visitors insurance for individuals, groups, multinational companies, international workers, and others. Visit insubuy.com to get instant quotes, make side-by-side comparisons, and make an instant purchase of most insurance plans.

Always review your policy for pre-existing traps

At the very least, you should have reviewed the terms of your insurance policy carefully before buying it. You might have seen some of the limits about pre-existing medical conditions and had second thoughts, and taken an opportunity to shop around before buying the Access America policy.

Then again, no one expects a sudden death in the family, so you couldn’t have known what was about to happen and it’s unlikely you would have done anything differently. That’s the thing about travel insurance: You don’t know what kind of coverage you’ll need until you need it.

I contacted Access America on your behalf and asked it to take another look at your claim. “Due to the extenuating circumstances, we have made a consideration in this case and have paid the Ellis’ claim in full,” a representative said.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts