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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Does Omicron Spell Oh My for Your Holiday Travel Plans?

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

If you or someone you know is planning on traveling during the holiday season, is the Omicron variant of Covid-19 going to put the kibosh on your trip?  That depends.  While the variant has reared its ugly head recently, its transmissibility and virulence is still unknown.  The CDC has already issued warnings for those who are immunocompromised or old, and they advise anyone planning on traveling overseas to consider postponing their trip until they have a better bead on Omicron's likely impact.  If you're in good health and are planning on traveling during the holidays come hell or high water, here's what you need to know:

1. Can you get there from here? - As of Tuesday, January 7, 33 countries including the US have issued travel bans on travel to and/or from South Africa, where Omicron was initially detected.  The State Department has also issued restrictions for those wishing to go to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.  The only exceptions are for those nationals of the restricted countries who wish to return home.  At present, there are no further travel restrictions. However, that doesn't mean there won't be additions as Omicron makes its presence known around the globe.  This means if you're planning on taking a trip abroad during the holidays, there's no guarantee you'll be able to return to the US should you contract COVID while away or your destination is added to the list of restricted destinations.  To reenter the US, all travelers are currently required to test negative for COVID, even if they've been previously inoculated.  Before you pack your bags you should check the CDC website to learn of rules and restrictions. 

2. How serious of a health threat does Omicron pose? - That has yet to be determined.  The CDC claims it will have a better bead on how serious a health threat Omicron poses within the next few weeks.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that means the busy holiday season will leave travelers hanging in limbo.  The only advice currently posted on the CDC website is that those intending to travel internationally should be fully vaccinated.

3. Do travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID need to worry? – According to the CDC: "Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters."

4. If you plan on traveling by air, have you planned your contingencies? - Ever since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, travelers have had to deal with the possibility that they could become ill, test positive, and wind up quarantined.  If this becomes the case during your holiday trip, are you prepared for the following contingencies?

a. You may be required to extend your stay for 3 months or more at your expense. - That's how long people can continue to test positive for COVID after being infected.  Unless the country you're visiting provides quarantine hotels for affected travelers, you'll be on the hook for food and lodging, not to mention medical care and possibly medical evacuation expenses.  

b. Depending on where you travel, your current medical coverage may not apply. - That means you need to find out before you book an overseas flight whether your medical coverage applies abroad.  The majority of domestic health insurance policies offer limited overseas coverage and no prescription coverage abroad.  Even the coverage that's offered is considered out-of-network, meaning policyholders will pay higher costs.  Medicare doesn't provide coverage outside the US.  If you're on Medicare, you need to check with Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans to find one that provides global medical coverage.  

5. Does travel insurance cover COVID? - While supplemental travel insurance can be used to plug the gaps in your existing coverage, you need to read the fine print carefully.  In the first place, some travel insurance plans require you to pay upfront only to be reimbursed after the fact.  Others impose restrictions on the amount of coverage you'll receive or where you can be treated.  If you're visiting a place where medical coverage is limited, you should consider purchasing additional medical evacuation insurance.  Above all, make sure any travel insurance you are considering doesn't exclude pandemics. You should also understand any restrictions should you be forced to cancel a trip due to contagion.  (Some policies provide what's deemed a Cancel for Any Reason provision, while others do not.)

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/


2 comments:

  1. Just when you thought that holiday couldn't get any worse.

    ReplyDelete
  2. These tips can be god sends if your traveling during the Holidays!

    ReplyDelete

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