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Trip insurance: report on good experience

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Oct 19th, 2005, 02:02 PM
  #1
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Trip insurance: report on good experience

Our last planned trip to Italy was booked on-line on Expedia for September. We booked with the airline Swiss International. One of the last Expedia screens asked if we wanted trip insurance, at $35 each. I asked Margie, "What do you think?", and she answered, "Sure, take it."

In August, Margie had a medical problem that required surgery. She's fine now, but the recuperation lasted through September, and we had to cancel the trip. I downloaded claim forms from the insurance carrier, Berkely Care. I also phoned them to get some assistance with the forms, and they were easy to reach, and very helpful. I mailed in the forms 9/19, and received full payment for the canceled, non-refundable flights about two weeks later (a total of $1,336.10). In our case, there were no other lost expenses. I was able to cancel all the hotel reservations without penalty.

Overall, I was very glad we had opted for the insurance, and very happy with the service we received. One thing I was told along the way is that Swiss International is particularly strict about their policy on non-refundable tickets. Apparently, in case of illness, there are some airlines that might allow "non-refundable" tickets to be used within a year, with a $100 or $200 change fee. But with Swiss International, at least, non-refundable tickets are completely valueless the instant you cancel the outgoing flight for any reason (which was what I expected; that's what "non-refundable" means, after all).

Some might think I had nothing to report here, but I thought some Fodorites might be interested in this one experience with trip insurance. I hasten to add that I have no connection with Expedia or Berkely Care. This is just a report on a single experience. I'd report to the Fodor's Forum if I had problems, so I thought I should also report when, as in this case, it worked well.

- Larry
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Oct 19th, 2005, 04:26 PM
  #2
rex
 
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Glad to hear your experience.

<<I'd report to the Fodor's Forum if I had problems, so I thought I should also report when, as in this case, it worked well.>>

But this kind of anecdotal reporting is what insurance comapnies count upon.

What you would likely never report... is when you were one of a cohort of 100 people, each paying $35 per person (i.e., total of $3500 paid into the insurance company), and someone else was the one and only person collecting a benefit of under $1500.

It doesn't mean that the insurance company is bad, nor that insurance is a bad idea.

But if you're going to take a hundred trips (or a hundred car rentals, or many other occurrences of low risk of a "modest" monetary liability) - - and yes, I consider $1300 a "modest" financial liability... then you might consider it a "problem"... when you do throw the money down a hole on an insurance purchase.

I'm not criticizing you. Just presenting an alternative mathematical perspective on your experience.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Oct 19th, 2005, 08:27 PM
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Hi, Rex. I appreciate your mathematical perspective, which you stated clearly.

I'm quite familiar with the concept of "expected value" (I have a Ph.D. from MIT, actually). And I usually turn down most insurance, extended warrantees, etc. based on exactly that argument. Since the insurance companies make money in the long run, I'll usually do better in the long run by playing the odds. So insurance ought to be reserved for risks that might be hard to cover (like the loss of a home or a life). Although I must say that the price offered by Expedia seemed a good deal - I'd break even if I had to cancel only one trip in about 38, which seems not all that unlikely with two travellers over the age of 60. Only one of the two has to get sick, and then you both collect.

I figure everyone can do the math, so the informative part of my report was more the fact that the company didn't give me a hard time about collecting. They didn't try to weasel out of paying using some fine print in the contract, or make me jump through hoops to collect. I had a good experience with the process. I wasn't trying to imply that means everyone should take the insurance.

- Larry

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Oct 19th, 2005, 08:50 PM
  #4
rex
 
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Wow. A cogent reply, on an insurance thread. That never happens.

Two thumbs way up for you. And your description of process.

It had occurred to me that - - on the basis of your screen name - - maybe your costutcome ratio is more favorable than some. Maybe already beaten the odds for a hundred trips taken at an earlier age, and not so much planning on a hundred yet to come.

Whatever the case, good post.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 09:23 AM
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I would agree that the main value is to comment on the responsiveness of Expedia's insurance, rather than necessity, etc.

However, I think that is a good price because it is extremely limited in its benefits and coverage in comparison to what most people think of when they buy trip insurance. It might be useful to say exactly what this insurance covered, because I suspect it might not really cover the trip. It sounds like it only covers the value of those nonrefundable airline tickets if you had to cancel before you went. I'm sure it says somewhere on Expedia what it covers, but it sounds like you didn't even find out what it covered before you bought it (maybe your story is shortened).

YOur flights were rather expensive and given your situation, it does sound like a good choice for you.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 01:58 PM
  #6
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Christina, you are correct in guessing that when we booked, we knew almost nothing about the coverage provided by the insurance. That's because it suddenly popped up at the end of the process - click yes or no. We could have done some more research, but usually, if you take too long on any screen while booking flights, the process times out, and you have to start over (and then sometimes, the flights you were working on are no longer available). It was only $70 total, so we just made a (lucky) snap decision and clicked "accept".

We later looked at the details of the plan in our Expedia itinerary, and I was surprised at what was covered for a mere $35 each. I clipped the following from the plan details:

In addition to coverage of trip expenses, in the event of a medical emergency while traveling, the plan provides reimbursement for medical expenses as well as coverage for emergency medical transportation. Benefits are also provided for baggage and personal effects that are lost, stolen or damaged during your flight.

The Flight Protection Plan covers expenses related to:

- Flight cancellation or interruption, up to US$800, depending upon destination

- Medical expenses up to US$5,000
Emergency medical transportation up to US$15,000

- Travel Accident Protection of up to US50,000

- Loss of baggage and travel documents up to US$1,000


The claim form made it clear that entire Cruise/Tour packages are covered, not just the flights. On the other hand, even reading the much more detailed document, I'm not sure if they would have covered any non-refundable hotel charges that I had booked outside of Expedia (and in any event, the total cancellation coverage is limited to $800 each).

I'm a bit surprised you consider our flights to be expensive. They were absolutely the best we could do with a lot of web searching, four months in advance. The same trip booked now for May would be about $200 more each. Well, gasoline has gone way up. We actually did just re-book the trip for May, but this time using American Airlines frequent flier miles.

- Larry
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Oct 20th, 2005, 02:54 PM
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I may be going to France a couple of times next year. If I find a good rate through Expedia, I will definitely keep the ins. coverage in mind. Thanks for the tip.

In my case, my second trip may last several months and buying insurance seems to be almost out of the question. I already have good medical coverage, so this seems to fit the bill.
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Oct 21st, 2005, 04:00 AM
  #8
rex
 
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The comments on the price of the fare(s) evoked a "say what!?" response from me too. For one thing, we know almost nothing about the booking except that it was to Italy in September and totaled about $665 per person. From where? Departing/returning on a weekend? or weekday? with one connection? two, or none?

The price could have been average or the deal-of-the-year.
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