AA shows greater leniency in the provision of Travel Insurance to Elderly ñ But, Ombudsman takes issue with Insurersí unjust Alcohol-fuelled rejection of Claims

The AA have unveiled plans to allow travellers aged 79 or above to take out travel insurance cover for single trips from November 5th.

The motoring association has caused waves throughout the travel insurance market with the leniency of its latest move, as insurance firms are notorious for their uncompromising stance towards the supply of travel insurance to those of an elderly disposition. The inherent health risks associated with senior citizens have made it increasingly difficult for them to obtain inexpensive travel insurance, as the majority of brokers impose strict age restrictions on their travel insurance policies.

However, the AA has taken steps to break down these age barriers, not only affording policyholders over the age of 79 cover on single holidays, but pledging to show more leniency when assessing a prospective candidateís health information. Travellers with pre-existing minor medical conditions, such as asthma, know all too well how tricky it can be to acquire inexpensive travel insurance. This groupís premiums skyrocket following disclosure of their condition to their insurer somewhat unfairly given the contained nature of their ailment.

But from November 5th, prospective policyholders putting up with such mild ailments will no longer be subjected to the same weighty premiums they have previously endured.

A spokesperson for the AA says: ëThe details have yet to be finalised, but we are looking forward to introducing the improvements in early November and making our travel cover more competitive.í

Valued Insurers for the Venerable

A mere 75 of the 543 travel insurance policies obtainable for one-off trips have no age limit entailed in their terms, according to published figures, with the Post Office amongst this group. Notable lenders such as Barclays and Aviva both include age restrictions in their insurance offerings, with the former not providing cover for people aged over 70 and the latter not covering anyone over the age of 80.

RBS, although not so selective as to deny individuals insurance based on their age, still require policyholders to notify it when they turn 70. From this point, policyholders are obligated to commence regular medical screening sessions and pay an extra £50 charge a year. Only those willing to take out one of RBSí costly Black Accounts are not required to do so.

Crackdown on Carousers

While travel insurers appear to be softening their standpoint on elderly folkís travel insurance prospects, their outlook on claimants whoíve been injured whilst drinking alcohol remains stringent.

In fact, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the regulatory body which handles an array of consumer grievances, has cautioned revellers that insurers will not hesitate to render their claims ineligible for compensation as a result of ëalcohol abuseí. Claims in recent times have been regularly quashed even when clients provide medical proof they only imbibed 2 alcoholic beverages.

As a result, the FOS has been flooded with complaints from claimants distressed by what they perceive as unfair treatment from their insurer.

A spokesman said: ìWe see cases where insurers have jumped to conclusions about what had happened ñ for example, because of someoneís age or the particular resort they were in.î

Rejections based on assumptions of debauchery have been accused of being rooted in prejudice, and are widely seen as an increasingly used technique by insurers to avoid paying out to claimants. Typically insurers are known to deal uncompromisingly with policyholders who leave out pre-existing medical conditions, no matter how trifling, which highlights their reluctance to pay out at any potential opportunity.

This reluctance on the part of insurers is underscored by their augmenting of policy terms, further restricting travellers who experience serious injury or tragedy whilst abroad from accessing insurance as a result of a few alcoholic drinks they mightíve drunk in the time preceding an incident. Thus, despite their being no medical evidence, in the majority of these cases, to suggest alcohol contributed to the injury in question, insurers will attempt to invalidate claims anyway.

ìThe contracts vary a lot but itís clear from what the ombudsman is saying that thereís a problem here:î James Daly, of consumer rights campaigning website, Fairer Finance said.

ìYou can see cases of people who have gone on holiday and had a heart attack and the two glasses of wine they had might have had nothing to do with it, but itís used as an excuse not to pay out.î

The Ombudsman has intervened in many of these cases, forcing insurers to pay out due to the lack of clarity of their policy terms. Many insurers denote ëexcessive alcohol consumptioní as a factor which invalidates any claim. However, the FOS believes insurers attribute this factor unfairly to many cases through the misappropriation of the meaning of ëexcessiveí.

As such, solid claims are falsely dismissed, and the FOS has adopted a tough approach toward these insurers. Complainants are innocent until proven guilty, and the impetus is on the insurer to prove that alcohol abuse contributed to their illness before invalidating a claim ñ not the other way round.

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