The night before declaring a State of Emergency in New York State, Governor Cuomo announced that travel agents and travel insurers will offer “cancel for any reason” travel policies, joined by six global and national insurance companies. According to a press release, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) put in place this action “to provide reassurance to New York businesses and residents who are seeking to make plans that may involve travel to locations that are not currently under travel advisories due to COVID-19.”
“I’ve said every day the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus will keep going up, and as we expand our testing capacity we will only see that number continue to rise,” Governor Cuomo said. “We want to keep testing and finding more people who are testing positive because that’s how you contain the outbreak – find the person who got infected, quarantine them and reduce the infection rate. At the same time we want New Yorkers to go about their daily lives including planning vacations and other travel, and this action will allow them to do that at a time when there is still uncertainty about the future geographic impact of coronavirus.”
Most standard travel insurance policies exclude cancellation coverage for epidemics, pandemics, and similar health events. “Cancel for any reason” coverage has been unavailable in New York State since the last guidance was issued by DFS 10 years ago. Their new guidance allows travel insurance and travel agents to sell these new policies to residents and businesses in the state. However, these policies are “substantially higher” than standard insurance and typically only refund 75 percent of expenses.