Podcast #163 — New World of Travel Insurance; Getting Medical Help on the Road

I think I put off finding a doc too long

Though I’m still locked down on the shores of Lake Michigan, data shows that people are starting to do short car trips. What will people need to feel comfortable to do more extensive travel — spacing in aircraft, we talk with Erik Josowitz of insuranceQuotes.com about trends in travel insurance, and a story about finding medical attention while traveling through Southeast Asia. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

Here is the transcript of TravelCommons podcast #163:

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • Coming to you from the TravelCommons studio in Chicago, Illinois, probably 10 lbs heavier, half of which is beer (my doing) and the other half baked goods courtesy of Irene. While the coronavirus restrictions are beginning to ease in some parts of the US and Europe, everything is still locked down here on the shores of Lake Michigan. So my travels since the last episode have mostly been between the kitchen and the couch, and occasionally out in search of carbohydrate comfort foods — to grocery stores in an endless and fruitless search for King Arthur Bread Flour, and then running a circuit of Chicago microbreweries using curbside no-contact pick-up to collect 4-packs of whatever is new that week. A couple of breweries are even doing curbside sales of ⅙ barrel kegs — tempting, but seems a bit of overkill for a 3-person flat, though Amazon claims they can get a kegerator to me next week. Must be on Amazon’s essential items list. 
  • But with the lockdown easing in non-urban places like the exurbs of Nashville, I’m starting to prep for my first post-Corona trip that I talked about in the last episode, a drive down to Spring Hill, TN to see my mother. Got the oil and tires changed on the BMW to avoid any unplanned stops. Figure I’ll pack a lunch which’ll let me do the drive with just one gas stop. I also tuned up my Trek Madone road bike — cleaned and lubed the gears, re-wrapped the handlebars — to take that down with me. Haven’t been able to ride much after Chicago shut down the lake shore path, and so riding solo on small country roads would seem to be a pretty good match for “social distancing” criteria.
  • All this spare time has allowed me to be a bit more “planful” as one client used to say, one of those ugly adjective constructions meant to turn an activity “we need to do more planning” into a quality “we need to be more planful”. But anyhow, whether the lockdown allows me to be more planful about the podcast or to do a bit more planning, it has. Which, for this episode, means you’ll hear less of me, and more from informed people. First up is Erik Josowitz, an analyst at insuranceQuotes.com. Erik and I did an old-school remote interview — using Skype instead of Zoom — talking about what travel insurance looks like in the post-Corona world. And then Allan Marko returns with his wife Chris, following up our conversation in the January travel planning episode with a story from their Southeast Asia sabbatical last year; how they tracked down a doctor in Thailand when his wife became ill; a topic that could weigh on us more when we venture out into the post-lockdown/ pre-corona vaccine world that we’ll be in for the next 18-24 months.
  • But right now, for my Tennessee trip, I think I’m less concerned about finding a doctor, and a bit more concerned about reconnoitering open drive-thru Taco Bells along I-65.
  • Bridge Music — Sunset Boulevard by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: Siobhan Dakay, unreal_dm

Following Up

  • Videoconferencing is having its moment during the pandemic. Maybe it’s because people are looking for more of a connection in their lockdown isolations, or because we know that everyone is sitting at home in front of a video-equipped laptop and has no excuse not to video, nothing like “Can only call in because I’ll be running through airport security then.” I haven’t done a straight conference call in forever. Doing interviews for this episode, I hit the videoconference trifecta  – Skype with Erik, FaceTime with Allan and Chris, 
  • and then Zoom to be on the other side of the microphone on Steve Frick’s Back & Gone Again podcast.  This is the 15th year of TravelCommons; I started in May 2005, and here Steve and I talk about that first episode.
  •  We had a lot of fun, telling travel stories and talking about our current life-off-the-road. Give it a listen. There’s a link in the show notes, on the TravelCommons Facebook page, and in the Twitter feed.
  • Cate Rose left a comment on the Facebook page on the April episode.
    • “I don’t travel nearly as much as you do Mark but I enjoy your podcasts. These are unprecedented times. We arrived home from a month long rail trip from Italy, up to Sweden at the end of January just as this whole thing was blowing up. And now people, including us, are locked down all over the world. Unbelievable. And here you are with plenty of time to write, but no place to go! We are on Week 4 of social isolation in Western Australia and the novelty is wearing off a little 😉 but it seems to be working so all for the greater good. Thanks for keeping up with the storytelling and letting a crack of life into home isolation! Stay safe.
    • Cate – thanks for that note. Sounds like you just got out of Italy in time. If I remember correctly, they started locking down Italy in mid-February. Glad you made it back home safely. And it sounds like Australia and New Zealand have done the best in crushing the Covid curve.
  • In that same episode, when we talked about post-corona trip planning, I said I thought the first post-lockdown trip most people would take would be a car ride — more flexibility; easier social distancing. Turns out I was right — at least according to the company Arrivalist, a “visitation intelligence company” that has started publishing a Daily Travel Index measuring consumer road trips of 50 miles or more using data drawn from GPS signals. Road trips on Friday, May 1 were almost back to the pre-pandemic levels of February, with the number of trips in the 100-250 mile range higher than February’s number for the first time since the lockdowns started. You can go to Arrivalist’s website and play with the data yourself or read an analysis by Phocuswright, a travel research firm. Links are in the show notes and my Twitter feed.
  • I got yet another email survey, this time from United asking me what would make me comfortable to fly again, and to rank some of their plans. For me, it was pretty easy. I’m not excited about standing in a packed gate area, hearing the gate agent say “This is a completely full flight”, and then spend 2-3 hours shoulder-to-shoulder with a complete stranger, in effect letting that person into my family’s corona exposure space.
  • A couple of weeks later (not implying causation, only correlation), all the major US airlines announced that passengers and crew will have to wear masks, they’re moving to strict back-to-front boarding schemes to reduce the number of passengers passing one another, and that they’re blocking/not booking the middle seats, reducing capacity from what had been running over 80% at the beginning of the year down to the 60’s. It was then interesting to watch what happened after Frontier’s CEO did a round of TV interviews at the beginning of this week, saying that they too would block the middle seat — if a passenger bought a More Room seat for at least $39. Today, after getting a blizzard of red challenge flags from Washington, Frontier reversed course. Just kidding – “It was never our intent” they said, “to profit… from safety”. “ We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space.” Yup. Frontier continuing to position their brand as the Ryanair of the US.
  • And if you have any travel stories, questions, comments, tips, rants – the voice of the traveler, send ’em along — text or audio comment to comments@travelcommons.com — you can send a Twitter message to mpeacock, post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page or our Instagram account at travelcommons — or you can post comments on the web site at TravelCommons.com.
  • Bridge Music — Memories (infiniti loop) by Vidian (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: TheDice

New World of Travel Insurance

  • Interview with Erik Josowitz, an analyst at insuranceQuotes.com
    • Mark: Eric, thanks for joining us on the TravelCommons Podcast. Could you just give us a little background on yourself?
    • Eric: My name is Eric Josowitz. I’m an insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes. We publish in-depth studies, data and analysis related to auto, home, health, life, and small business insurance. And my role is to study the insurance industry and provide tips and advice and insights that are relevant to consumers and small business owners.
    • Mark: The reason I asked you to join us today is, in the past couple of episodes, we’ve been talking about travel planning. If we continue this thread, what do travelers need to think about from an insurance standpoint in the upcoming post-lock down but pre-Coronavirus vaccine world, which depending on who you read, we’re gonna be in for the next 18 to 24 months.
    • Eric: Travel insurance was kind of a nice to-have pre-pandemic, except in cases of very, very large and elaborate trips where the investment and potential loss was substantial. And I think coming out of this, travel insurance is much more important. There are really two things that travel insurance gets you. One is protection for cancelations that might occur before you actually take the trip, which with the level of uncertainty, that’s pretty important. And the second thing, travel insurance provides benefits if things happen while you’re on the trip, ranging from interruptions and delays to medical issues that may pop up while you’re actually traveling.
    • Mark: When people are looking and thinking about travel insurance going forward, what are some of the key things that they need to look for and think about given in the past it was kind of a nice-to-have. It was a check box that showed up on the bottom of a website that three quarters of us ignored. And now we’re gonna pay a lot more attention to that.
    • Eric: I think that’s a great question. And I’m glad you mentioned checking the box or not checking the box before. I think as this crisis started to build and spread from the rest of the world into the US, I talked to a lot of people that had travel insurance but didn’t actually know what it covered because they had just checked the box. And so, I think one thing that that needs to happen moving forward is travelers need to actually look at the specific coverage and specific exclusions associated with travel insurance policy before they purchase it. And so those exclusions in many cases turned out to include communicable diseases; turned out to include cases where, for example, the US State Department has issued travel warnings or travel bans. Many people were also surprised to learn that if they decided to cancel a trip because they were afraid of traveling to an area that had higher risk, that their travel insurance didn’t actually cover cancelation in cases of fear. And so, one thing I would encourage everyone to look into is what’s called a cancel-for-any-reason rider or endorsement on their travel insurance policy. And what that in most cases will buy you is the ability to cancel for any reason, no questions asked. You know when you’re traveling, what you wanna look at on the travel insurance policy is to make sure that any medical issues or interruptions or delays that could occur while you’re traveling are covered, even though there’s been a declaration that this is a pandemic by the World Health Organization, there have been these warnings by the US State Dept. Make sure that those things are not specifically excluded in terms of the coverage that you can receive
    • Mark: As people need to read the coverage more closely now, any tips on how they should click through or where they ought to look for guidance on those terms?
    • Eric: I’ve had people say to me that they’re not able to easily find the specific terms and conditions when they’re using the click-thru form on, you know, a booking website. And so if they feel that they can’t easily access those terms and conditions, I would encourage them to actually search separately for travel insurance policies. And there are major carriers that offer travel insurance coverage on a regular basis who have packages of policies available for different types of travel, and they do have good frequently asked questions pages on their websites. They do have clearly outlined terms and conditions
    • Mark: Searching using the control-F function on your browser for things like communicable diseases. Try saying that three times fast and cancelation for any reason, as you mentioned before is probably some good search terms. Are you seeing any trends in pricing and coverage and riders? Has the travel insurance market reacted to Covid-19 coronavirus yet or is that still a work in progress?
    • Eric: Well, many companies have stopped offering travel insurance temporarily. And so, one of the indications that it’s perhaps safe to travel again is going to be the ability to actually purchase travel insurance coverage at that time. Now there are certain companies that are continuing to offer policies and many of those policies don’t have exclusions in the case of communicable disease, but they are pretty explicit about what they do and don’t cover right now. So that yes, the insurance companies are reacting to this crisis in near-real time.
    • Mark: Eric, thank you very much for joining us on the TravelCommons podcast. Great insights, good information, good suggestions. Again, thanks for joining us.
    • Eric: My pleasure, Mark. Have a great week.
  • Bridge Music —Dawn at the Top of the World ft. copperhead & Robert Seikawitch by Ivan Chew (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Getting Medical Help on the Road

  • Back in January, long-time TravelCommons listener Allan Marko talked about the planning he did for the 9-week SE Asia sabbatical he and his wife Chris took last year. Fast forward 4 months, and health care on the road will now become much more important when traveling in the post-lockdown/pre-vaccine world. So let’s continue our conversation with Allan, joined now by his wife Chris, to talk about how they thought about getting health care when they were half a world away from home.  It started with the research before they left home…
  • Interview with Allan Marko and Chris Chufo


  • Closing music — Pictures of You by Evangeline
  • OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #163
  • I hope you all enjoyed this podcast and I hope you decide to stay subscribed.
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