WILL YOUR SKI INSURANCE COVER YOU FOR COVID & BREXIT?
What is the best Ski Insurance Policy to buy for this uncertain Ski Season 2020/2021? We decided to ask probably the most respected and knowledgeable person about these issues, Michael Pettifer Managing Director MPI Insurance who has been insuring skiers since 1975
If Covid-19 had not happened we would probably still be writing a feature on ski insurance for the coming season as Brexit - and at the time of writing this we still do not know if it will be a No Deal Brexit or not - would have implications on health insurance cover due to a possible loss of EHIC and how long one can reside in the EU with or without EHIC cover.
Covid-19, however, has added far more complications to the Brexit scenario, not least as negotiations relating to the issues above have been delayed and we still do not know what the final situation will be by the end of the year and/or whether there will be an extension to any decisions relating to reciprocal EHIC and health cover with the EU.
Coronavirus has certainly impacted upon the forthcoming ski season far more than Brexit, and a little bit like Brexit, where negotiations have been ongoing for well over four years, we could see another period of time before the impact of Covid on insurance is a more settled beast, at least until vaccines are readily available.
If you have Googled 'Coronavirus and Brexit: How will it affect ski insurance' you could well be one of the many skiers and snowboarders who are somewhat confused as to what you are covered for relating to Covid and skiing.
It is for that reason we decided to interview Michael Pettifer, Managing Director MPI Insurance, who has been insuring skiers since 1975 with Douglas Cox Tyrie (DCT), which is now a trading name of MPI, founded in 2002 and is now award-winning specialist travel and ski insurance provider.
Over the many years of skiing, snowboarding and ski touring way off the beaten track in the Arctic, Siberia and Japan through to windsurfing and kitesurfing on remote beaches in Madagascar, insurance has always been a pivotal component in my portfolio of necessary 'gear' to take on a trip.
In my early days of venturing off-piste, I was a bit laissez-faire when it came to insurance, however with more experience not least as a result of many a trip with Mountain Guides and the potential situations that you could be exposed to when skiing without a guide, necessitated the need for comprehensive insurance cover.
So that seemed a good place to start for my first question with Michael as in the past ski insurance policies were fraught with inconsistences with regards to off-piste cover, off-piste with a guide and without a guide.
Off-piste insurance cover can be somwhat ambiguous, what is MPI's policy with regard to it?
You could say it is one of our USPs as we have been insuring off-piste without restrictions since the 1950s.
So how long have you been insuring skiers exactly?
DCT invented ski insurance in 1950. It was my father who created the first wintersports insurance policies for British skiers in conjunction with the Royal Navy Ski Club. The other service ski clubs and associations joined the fold during the '50s with the Ski Club of Great Britain becoming a client in 1962 closely followed by the other smaller clubs such as Kandahar etc and later many tour operators both ski and more general holiday operators.
What is the legal situation in having two policies, such as the Club Alpine Francais/Austrian Alpine Club?
In theory, the two polices will pay their proportion of a loss. This is usually arranged behind the scenes. However, I believe the Austrian Alpine club policy is what is known as a ‘consequential loss’ insurance. This means it will not contribute or payout if there is another insurance in place.
Covid and Ski Insurance Issues
From reading the minefield of ski insurance talked about on the various ski forums, this subject has now replaced the 'Am I covered for off-piste?' as the main topic. Many of the questions raised all cover the same issue 'Travel against FCO advice for all but essential travel' and Covid. On your website you have the following:
MPI now covers Emergency Medical Expenses if you contract Coronavirus Overseas
Taking the current situation in France, and how that may well not change before the season starts as well as Italy under current FCO advice, then should you travel to ski in France and you contract coronavirus and are hospitalised will you not be covered for medical expenses?
Yes, that is correct as is the case for the majority of insurers. We are trying to arrange cover for this very real scenario but so far we have been unable to source an underwriter willing to do so.
If you have booked a holiday and then either country goes into severe lockdown and you can not travel are you insured for the cost of the holiday?
Not for insurance as again it is the clause 'Travel against FCO advice for all but essential travel'.
As far as I know, no one is covering this issue apart from some Tour Operators.
Can you claim back on the credit card that you used to pay for the holiday if you have to cancel due to being unable to travel because of Covid restrictions?
Which? was reported as saying in a recent Daily Mail Article; 'There has been confusion about whether it's possible to claim for travel bookings and other purchases and services affected by COVID-19 disruption that were paid for using a credit or debit card.
'In some cases, banks and credit providers have been refusing to pay out if a travel company has offered credit vouchers in place of a refund. Although the pandemic has identified grey areas, Section 75 and chargeback still stand to protect consumers when there has been a breach of contract.
'If you don't get something you've paid for, or something doesn't turn out to be what you paid for, you could be covered.
'If your holiday or flight has been cancelled by the travel company or airline and they are refusing a refund, you can try to claim back through your credit or debit card."
Essentially Covid comes under Force Majeure and with regard to attempting to claim back on your credit card, this will come under an Act of Parliament, The Contract Frustration Act 1943. Recently in a case the judge agreed with the defendant, SC Holiday Solutions Ltd against the plaintive Stephen Fry who sued for a refund. But the judge agreed with the defendant under the act.
For airline travel you buy a license to use that service, it is not a contractable arrangement.
More on Covid-19 and The Contract Frustration Act here.
Should you need hospitalisation after an accident off-piste while travelling to a country against FCO advice then will you still be covered?
Yes with an MPI policy, though others might not.
Do you envisage a policy that will cover travelling against FCO advice and catching Covid in the near future?
Yes, we are working on this, but have no firm dates as to when it will be introduced just yet, if anything the underwriters are reining things in and starting to pull the plug on Covid cover.
After the lockdown and closure of ski resorts across Europe in March 2020 did many clients attempt to claim for loss of their holiday and associated expenses?
Brexit and Ski Insurance Issues
While for the majority of skiers this season planning on taking a ski trip and maybe ignoring FCO travel advise they will not be too concerned at issues appertaining to Brexit such as loss of EHIC cover and duration of stay as most will only be on a one or two week holiday, or multiples of that and will take out the necessary insurance such as MPI's Multi-Trip or Long Stay including Winter Sports.
However for seasonaires what will happen to them?
With the likes of Crystal no longer operating Chalet Holidays along with the potential 90 day rule have you noticed a decline in Long Stay seasonaire policy applications?
No, we have seen a large increase so far for next season, as many people who can work from home are going to do that but based in ski resorts it would seem.
Evidently according to the NHS Website if you travel before 31/12/2020 then your EHIC is valid for the duration of your stay: after that do you think that there will be some form of EHIC reciprocation?
Yes. I would be surprised if there were not some form of EHIC look alike but it may take a few months to negotiate.
If not, could policy premiums increase substantially as per premiums to the USA?
Yes, they will go up but not to the USA level!
Did many people travel with no insurance relying solely on EHIC?
Yes, obviously I have no idea of the exact numbers, but I'd estimate 15 – 20 percent.
Maybe that’s why we have seen substantial growth in our seasonaires' policies being taken out?
To circumnavigate the 90 day rule a Long Stay Visa might be one option: Does the MPI Long Stay Policy meet French Visa / Residency Card requirements?
We are still awaiting clarification on this, not least as the French Embassy in London are not too sure what is actually required and they will NOT be issuing visas till January 2021. The Seasonal Businesses in Travel SBIT Trade Association with over 250 members is lobbying both sides of the channel so British tour operators can continue to operate in Europe with (or without) some sort of working visa after Brexit.
Since we started on this feature it would seem that there are companies marketing complete Covid-19 cover for skiers however on examining the nuances hidden away in the small print that might not necessarily be the case, so as ever it is your responsibility to double-check.
As we know the situation is changing all the time. Two to three weeks ago when we first contacted MPI we did not know that about the very real prospect of a vaccine, so that could well feature in any future policies. It's another question for MPI. Check back here for more answers to help negotiate the ski insurance minefield, as and when we have clarification...
Danger! STYLE ALTITUDE is not responsible for any decisions you may take regarding future ski insurance. Enter the minefield at your own risk - and read the small print.