According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the current outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1), more commonly called Swine Flu, has a "strong signal that a pandemic is imminent." In response, the government has declared a public health emergency in the United States. Now is the time to get prepared for any possible occurrence. Among the steps you should take is a comprehensive review of your insurance policies. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance offers the following tips to help prepare a flu response plan:
It's always important to understand your health insurance policy, but with the potential for an increased demand for health care services, you need to be even more aware of your specific plan details.
Answer These Questions:
Get Prepared with the Following Checklist:
On April 27, 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel alert urging Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico. If you have planned a trip to Mexico - or any area with a known H1N1 outbreak - and have travel insurance, you might consider cancelling your trip. However, before you make a final decision, be sure to read your policy carefully.
Major Types of Travel Insurance:
Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if your trip is cut short because you - or a family member - become ill or die, or because of any other misfortune listed in your policy. Covered reasons might include bad weather, airline strikes, terrorism, bankruptcy, jury duty, or damage to your home from a fire or flood.
Travel insurance policy language is typically specific and it may not cover epidemic or pandemic situations. Review your policy and check with the insurance company that issued the policy to see if you are covered. Policies that allow "cancellation for any reason" offer the most flexibility when cancelling or changing plans. "Cancel for any reason" coverage provides a full refund as long as reservations are cancelled before the scheduled time of departure.
If you were planning a cruise, be aware that cruise and tour operators might offer "cancellation waivers." These are not insurance policies. Read the restrictions of the cancellation waiver carefully to know your options.
If you are planning to go ahead with a trip outside the United States and are worried about getting sick while away from home, be aware that domestic health insurance is generally not accepted outside of the U.S. To find out more about the extent of your coverage, speak with your insurance agent or company before leaving home.
|Business Interruption Insurance|
Business owners might be concerned about having to shut down their operations due to an outbreak or absenteeism. Check your business interruption policy to see what eventualities will trigger coverage under your plan. Coverage generally requires the interruption to be caused by physical damage or loss (e.g., fire or weather).
Business interruption policies generally will not be triggered by epidemic or pandemic warnings or alerts from public officials. Business owners will need to rely on existing risk management and business continuity plans to mitigate losses due to emerging public health crises.
The federal government has created a Web site with information on the H1N1 virus: www.pandemicflu.gov
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also has extensive information about the 2009 H1N1 Influenza outbreak on its Web site: www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
Pandemic flu planning checklists for individuals can be downloaded here: www.flu.gov/planning-preparedness/index.html
Checklists for businesses can be found here: www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/businesschecklist.html;
If you have additional questions about insurance and the H1N1 virus, contact the Division of Insurance by calling our consumer hotline - 617-521-7794 - or visit our website at www.mass.gov/doi.