Regulator Reopens Move to aid Travellers

As travel insurers are placed at the heart of the row over the UK government’s decision to impose quarantine requirements of travellers returning from Spain, regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has moved to provide greater protection for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions (PEMCs).

The FCA has moved to implement new conditions that require travel insurers to direct travellers with PMECs to a directory of those firms which are willing to cover such conditions. However with the COVID crisis the regulator announced in April would allow firms to delay implementation of these measures, allowing them to focus on “urgent priorities related to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic”.

The FCA  announced yesterday  that it was now keen to see insurers do more to help travel insurance customers.

“We now believe firms should be in a position to implement the changes,” it said. “As travel has resumed consumers with PEMCs will want to access specialist insurance. This is especially important as some travel cover may have coronavirus exclusions.”

It has said it is now working closely with Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). It is developing a directory of specialist insurance providers, which is expected for September 2020.

One month after the directory goes live and is listed on the FCA website, the regulator expects firms to include details of a directory on their websites. From 26 April 2021, firms will be required to signpost certain customers with PEMCs to a directory (this allows a 9 month implementation period, as originally anticipated).

“In addition to signposting, the FCA will be working with stakeholders to try to improve consumer understanding of the travel insurance market, including producing material on PEMCs,” it added. “This information will help consumers understand the implications of travelling with exclusions, and how factors such as country of travel can impact medical costs and therefore travel insurance premiums.”

It added: “Some consumers with PEMCs have problems navigating the market and finding affordable cover for their conditions. Some are declined cover, only offered cover that excludes their PEMC or offered what they consider to be unaffordable premiums.

“In July 2019, we consulted on new requirements for firms to signpost certain consumers with PEMCs to a directory of travel insurance firms that are able and willing to cover consumers with more serious PEMCs. We also consulted on new guidance to clarify how we expect firms to treat travel insurance customers with PEMCs.”

The FCA said it hoped the changes would deliver a number of benefits.

  • reduce the number of uninsured consumers, who currently face a choice of not travelling or risk having to pay significant costs, including medical bills abroad
  • reduce the number of consumers with PEMCs who are significantly overpaying for travel insurance
  • reduce the number of consumers who feel frustrated and unable to navigate the market
  • increase consumer confidence and trust in the travel insurance market.

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