Monday-Morning Moving: Why Travel Insurance Is Not Like Other Insurance



Oh gosh, it’s Monday, so let’s talk insurance. And let’s do something really wacky and talk about travel insurance.

Specifically, let’s talk about why travel insurance is not like other types of insurance, and why that’s important.

The first big difference is so obvious that hardly anyone ever thinks about it.

When you buy a car, you get auto insurance, in part because it’s required by law but also because you can’t imagine having a car and not having auto insurance. It’s automatic.

If you’re even thinking of going to the doctor you’d better have insurance. Most clinics won’t let you in without it, even if you come in toting sacks of gold in each hand like Scrooge McDuck.

It’s the same when you buy a house, or a motorcycle, or a boat, or have a child, or decide you’d better have a nest egg salted away so your survivors can have something a little better for your ashes than a butter-brickle ice-cream bucket.

Most of the time insurance is a no-brainer, a given, a mundane part of the fabric of your existence same as lawn fertilizer or the cable bill. It just has to be there, regardless of how seldom you use it.

This is why the majority of tall buildings and football stadiums carry the names of insurance companies.

Travel insurance is different. First of all, travel insurance is a deceptively complex product. The House of Insurance has two rooms: life and health, and property and casualty. In the life-and-health room you find life insurance and health insurance, obviously, plus things like disability, cancer, and accident policies. In property-and-casualty you find insurance for stuff – cars, houses, bikes, and boats – and liability insurance, for things that happen that might cause you or your business to be sued.

Travel insurance like ExactCare splits time between these two rooms. It has medical and dismemberment coverage from the health side, while luggage protection, trip cancellation and interruption are property-and-casualty coverages.

This means that all the pricing, filing, approving, and regulating that comes along with insurance goes double for travel insurance. The result is intricate products that take a long time to hit the market.

Travel insurance also has to be a choice. You have to think about whether a trip merits travel insurance, and if it does, what sort of insurance is appropriate for the trip – trip cancellation and interruption, or medical, or evacuation, or flight protection, or a combination. Your sales representative is very often not an insurance agent. And it’s not always clear what’s covered and when.

In essence, with travel insurance a lot of the heavy lifting – of choosing, buying, learning, and understanding – has been shifted to you. You, the person who is absolutely not an insurance expert. No wonder people get frustrated with travel insurance, or choose not to buy.

How do we take this sad song and make it better? The answers are deceptively straightforward: simpler products and increased consumer education.

We’ve been working on simpler products since the day we started. We launched AirCare, probably the most easy-to-understand travel-insurance plan ever. We have products in the pipeline that will take AirCare to a whole new level. Our website and mobile app put simplicity first.

Because travel insurance is insurance, it will never be as bone-simple as making a peanut-butter sandwich, or Google. But there are ways to make travel protection simpler, and we’re always looking for ways to promote simplicity over complexity.

As for the consumer-education piece, we’re trying to make inroads there as well. We’re looking at simpler policy documents – and easier access to those documents, so you can see (and understand) what’s covered. We’re also working hard with travel agents to make them better informed about changes to the travel-insurance landscape, so they can work with their customers to help them make better choices. And we’re working with our corporate partners, so they have a better idea of the value of travel insurance and why it’s important for their customers.

The combination of all these products and efforts will be travel insurance that’s affordable enough to be a part of every trip, that takes care of travelers when they have problems, and does it in a way that’s so simple and seamless it’s almost invisible.

We’re not there yet, but soon. And after that? Hard to say. But “BHTP Stadium” has a nice ring to it.

Author: Kit Kiefer

As content engineer for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, I have one of the world's great jobs. Not only do I get to write about travel, but I get to edit the work of fantastically talented contributors from around the world. Plus I get all the maple syrup I can drink.