If you want to understand how travel insurance is changing — and how it could change the way you travel this year — you have to meet Robin.
Robin (full name, Robin Assist) is a new technology-driven service platform used by insurance companies to process travel insurance claims, among other things.
“Technology can really help when you’re filing a claim,” says Sasha Gainullin, CEO of battleface, the company that created Robin. “It can find the policy you have. It can eliminate the need for a claim form. It can identify the expense that you’re filing against the policy.”
Tectonic changes in travel insurance for 2023
Robin could change the way you file your travel insurance claim in 2023. At the moment, travel insurance companies are sitting on hundreds of thousands of unprocessed claims from the holiday air travel meltdowns and even a few from this summer. Technology like Robin could dramatically accelerate the process, reducing claims processing from weeks to just minutes.
The fast payment trend is already picking up speed, according to Dan Skilken, president of TripInsurance.com.
“US Fire and Nationwide have started emailing out claim checks,” he says. “Once the payment is approved, the check is emailed as a PDF. This cuts at least five days of postal service delays in getting payments.”
The changes in travel insurance are tectonic, say insiders. It’s not just processing speed, but also the types of coverage and other technologies offered by travel insurance companies.
“Travel insurance has gone through a renaissance during the past 24 months,” says Ross Caldwell Thompson, CEO of Covac Global. “Just as it evolved to cover more security-related concerns after 9/11, post-pandemic travel insurance consumers are looking for solutions that take more risk on their behalf when it comes to medical eventualities.”
It’s also more popular than ever. The number of travelers planning to purchase travel insurance in 2023 will outpace the previous seven-year average, according to its latest State of Travel Insurance report by Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. (For more information on buying the right policy, you can consult my free guide to travel insurance.)
So what are the big changes for 2023?
1. Smarter travel insurance apps
Some travel insurance companies have upgraded their apps to detect when a traveler makes a change in their activities or potentially embarks on an at-risk activity that is not covered, such as renting a moped or engaging in off-roading.
“The app then alerts the traveler to the risk, and offers an option to buy specific coverage for the activity,” says Frank Harrison, regional security director for the Americas at World Travel Protection.
Joe Cronin, president of International Citizens Insurance, also expects the next version of travel insurance apps to helping to find local pharmacies and hospitals, as well as doctors who speak your language. “They’ll also provide travel advisories, including emergency phone numbers,” he says.
2. New travel insurance options
Travel insurance companies are planning to introduce new features and products this year. Allianz Travel Insurance just introduced an optional Cancel Anytime upgrade for consumers in many states on its popular OneTrip Prime and OneTrip Premier plans.
“The Cancel Anytime upgrade can reimburse up to 80% of your lost nonrefundable trip costs if you cancel your trip for almost any unforeseeable reason your plan does not already cover,” says Allianz spokesman Daniel Durazo. “And you can cancel as late as the day of departure.”
These types of “cancel for any reason” options have been available for a while, but Allianz has introduced them on more policies on its website.
3. Even more policy customization
“There is an increasing trend toward personalization of policies, with some insurers recognizing that the typical one-size-fits-all insurance policy doesn’t work well for today’s travelers,” says Adam St. John, CEO of Sitata. For example, his company offers travel insurance that covers all the basics, but allows travelers to further personalize their coverage and choose what’s important for them.
“For example, if you are the type of person to travel with lots of gear, you may wish to increase your baggage coverage limits,” says St. John. “If it’s a last-minute trip, you might not want trip cancellation coverage, as it can be pricey. This type of flexibility allows our members to pick the right coverage for their needs.”
Customization was a big trend last year, but experts say we should expect even more in 2023.
“Travelers will have more flexible plans that allow them to customize benefits, access self-service options, and offer an efficient, transparent claims process,” predicts Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage, an insurance marketplace.
4. Fewer out-of-pocket payments
Travel insurance companies are investing heavily in technology that lets customers avoid having to pay out of pocket for medical services. INF Visitor Care recently introduced a guaranteed cashless concierge assistance program. You know how your health insurance plan says it works with a major PPO network, but often providers don’t want to accept the plan? This fixes it.
“I think the biggest hurdle with travel insurance is that you always have to work on a reimbursement basis,” explains PK Rao, CEO of INF Visitor Care. “We’ve introduced a concierge medical assistance that will make the appointments for members with their preferred providers and ensure that the transaction is cashless, meaning there’s no need for reimbursement for medical expenses.”
5. Better COVID coverage
As the pandemic recedes, travelers wanted more sensitive triggers for their COVID coverage. That includes the ability to get home and get treated at home instead of having to remain abroad. Travel insurance companies will fine-tune their policies in 2023 to offer better COVID coverage, predicts Thompson of Covac Global.
“Loosening the traditional requirements for medical evacuation, so customers can get back to their home hospital without mandatory stays in a local hospital is the single most effective innovation to come out in the industry in the past months,” he adds.
6. A more streamlined claims process
“I expect travel insurance companies will enhance their online claims portals in 2023 to make it easier to navigate and check the status of claims,” predicts Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of travel insurance site TravelInsurance.com. “The most common complaint we hear about the industry is dissatisfaction with the claims experience.”
Robin is just one of several travel insurance platforms that is trying to streamline a claims process that has traditionally been bogged down by paperwork. For example, Faye allows you to file claims in-app in just a few minutes. The company also pays claims through a secure digital debit card called Faye Wallet, so you’re not left waiting for a check in the mail. “You can use the Faye Wallet card by adding it to Apple Wallet or Google Wallet, or you can simply transfer the funds directly to your bank account,” explains Faye spokeswoman Lauren Gumport.
Robin’s approach goes beyond faster payments. Its platform offers other travel insurance companies numerous benefits, including multilingual customer support, emergency medical evacuation and travel assistance, medical case management and access to global medical and cost containment networks. In other words, it takes care of almost everything.
Read this before you buy travel insurance
As exciting as these travel insurance developments may sound, the reality is this: Travel insurance is a highly regulated product that is, by nature, slow to change. So while you will see new choices, smarter apps and faster claims processing, the fact is, it will be very similar — maybe even identical — to the policy you bought last year.
Also, you might already have coverage through your car insurance, homeowners insurance or credit card.
“Before you buy insurance, you owe it to yourself to check the type of insurance you already have,” says Pallavi Sadekar, head of operations at VisitorGuard.com, “That might be helpful.”