Friday, 4 July 2008

Travel insurance headaches

Alright - I should have practised what I frequently preach. I should have been more careful when reading the details of my year round insurance policy.

But when the front page of your schedule says the policy covers trips up to 45 days and includes wintersports, most people, I suggest, would make the same mistake. Which was to overlook a line, deeper in the original document sent when I took out the policy in 2006, which said I could ski for only a total of 21 days in a year.

This is Saga. which refuses to extend that maximum even on payment of an additional premium. Three weeks may be enough for most people - it might even be enough for me - but it seems arbitrary and unnecessary.

Besides, what does 21 days mean? For example: last winter I travelled for 16 days to Canada but skied for 12 full days and two half days. Does that mean I used up 13 days of my allowance - or 16 days. And how would the limit affect two friends of mine who, preferring long lunches to long runs, probably actually ski for about half the time I do?

And suppose, for the sake of argument, I book two 14 day trips. If I am seriously injured on the first, I am unlikely to proceed with the second in any case (though I would probably have difficulty claiming for cancellation of the second if it was a package holiday). But what if. for the first trip, being in Europe, I rely on my E1-11 card? Does that render my Saga policy invalid for injuries incurred on the second trip? In any case - though heaven forfend that customers should be disingenuous in their dealings with insurers - how could the number of days a skier had spend on the slopes ever be proved?

Incidentally, my policy also says I am covered for mountain or fell walking only up to 2000 metres. Why? People using Zimmer frames can go higher than that using Alpine cable cars.

Why can't insurance companies provide cover uncluttered by such absurdities and irritations. My favourite gripe involves a previous policy, taken out through American Express, which covered me to fly in helicopters and to ski off piste - but not to go heliskiing. How daft was that?

Don't even get me started on the cost and difficulty of buying cover as we get older. When will insurers catch up with the trend among older travellers to stay fitter and take much more active holidays than they once did. I ditched my annual Amex policy because it would no longer cover me to visit the US, never mind go skiing there.

I understand the need for actuarial decisions based on risk. But it is surely time those who make such decisions applied a little more common sense.

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