Influenza A (H1N1)
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 National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) 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. Take a few minutes and answer these questions:
Get prepared for any eventuality 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 and have travel insurance, you might be considering cancelling your trip. However, before you make a final decision, be sure to read your policy carefully.
The Major Types of Travel Insurance:
Travel insurance policy language is typically specific - and 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 American 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. You can also contact your state insurance department for assistance. A link to state insurance department Web site and contact details can be found at www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm.
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: 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.pandemicflu.gov/plan/pdf/individuals.pdf; checklists for businesses can be found here: www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/businesschecklist.html;
Beware of insurance fraud during this time of heightened awareness. If you believe you have been a victim of insurance fraud, alert your state insurance department. Visit www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm for details on how to contact your state insurance regulator to report the fraud.
About the NAIC
Formed in 1871, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
(NAIC) is a voluntary organization of the chief insurance regulatory
officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S.
territories. The NAIC has three offices: Executive Office, Washington,
D.C.; Central Office, Kansas City, Mo.; and Securities Valuation Office,
New York City. The NAIC serves the needs of consumers and the industry,
with an overriding objective of supporting state insurance regulators as
they protect consumers and maintain the financial stability of the
insurance marketplace. For more consumer information, visit insureUonline.org.
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