How Will a Business Travel Accident Policy React to a Pandemic Disease?

Read more to learn about what your BTA policy covers, restrictions, and what a pandemic-related travel accident means for your company.

This blog post can also be found on our “Coronavirus: Your Business and People Risks” resource center. 

With the recent spread of the Coronavirus to over 100 nations, commercial travel plans have been disrupted worldwide. It is important to understand what your Business Travel Accident (BTA) policy is and what it covers. Your BTA policy continues to be a valued program for many employers who have employees traveling internationally and within the United States. In this current and unique situation, your BTA provisions are important to understand.

Commercial airplane flying above the clouds as sun sets

What Your BTA Covers

Accidental Death & Dismemberment (ADD) Benefit:

This benefit is targeted at travelers who encounter an accident only that causes an injury. Since a virus is excluded in ADD policies, this benefit would probably not apply. The language you will see in your policy will include an exclusion for "sickness, disease, bodily or mental infirmity, bacterial or viral infection, etc." If your employee falls down and injures themselves, this benefit will probably apply.

If they catch a virus, we must look to another benefit for coverage. Pre-emptive evacuation due to fear of being infected by a virus would not apply.

Out-of-Country (OOC) Medical Rider

The Out-of-Country (OOC) Medical rider benefit will typically be the benefit that can be used in this pandemic event. The policy provides coverage if your covered employee is traveling away from their home country and there is an illness or accident. Traditional limits that may be in your policy are $100,000, $250,000, and above.

This benefit may apply if your covered employee becomes infected with a virus.

Emergency (Medical) Evacuation

Emergency medical evacuation occurs if your covered employee falls ill and physicians determine medical evacuation is necessary. There is no exclusion for an epidemic disease. This benefit applies if the covered employee's injury or emergency sickness warrants evacuation, subject to a physician's authorization, and they are 100 miles away from home.

Pre-emptive evacuation due to fear of being infected by a virus would not apply.

Security Evacuation

This benefit is intended for political/military and/or natural disaster evacuations. Similar to an Emergency Evacuation, if a covered employee falls ill and determines medical evacuation is necessary, this benefit would apply.

Pre-emptive evacuation due to fear of being infected by a virus would not apply.

Assistance Provider

Access to a plan's benefits or services is primarily through the assistance provider attached to the policy. The first step in engagement will be to contact the assistance provider for guidance. Your plan will provide details and contact information for your Assistance Provider, who is the primary engagement to services.


Carriers and providers around the globe are reacting quickly to this event. As people seek medical assistance away from home, they may be subject to local, regional, or national restrictions that cannot be predicted.

If a covered employee is hospitalized in host country due to COVID-19 infection, there may be quarantine and travel restrictions. Evacuations or other transport scenarios will be dictated by local or governmental authorities.

For example, we note that access to medical services and treatments in China may be difficult due to the large number of cases and the impact of hospitals. We expect that this will change travel scenarios.

For example, if there is restriction or a quarantine situation in a given site, and travel continues to that site or region, it is quite possible the carriers will not honor any claims beyond travel restriction dates.

It is critical to note that claims cannot be predetermined. All claim determinations are solely made by the BTA carrier and will be evaluated against policy language at the time of submission. In the event of any discrepancy between communications, alerts, newsletters, etc., and the policy, the policy will govern.

What This Means for Your Company

As everyone works through this international event, your employees' health and safety comes first. BTA companies are working diligently to document and monitor claims as they arise.

In the meantime, the CDC has issued recommendations for employers to give guidance for employees at work, at home, or traveling:

If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company's policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A US consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, US embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private US citizens overseas.

COVID-19 Updates

Woodruff Sawyer is working with carriers and employers to ensure they understand and get the most from their benefits during this international events. Stay posted as we continue to provide information that helps you navigate through this challenging situation.

The environment is changing daily; more is learned every week. It will be prudent to stay close to your brokers and consultants as they can assist in managing this fluid landscape. Carriers and vendors are providing critical updates and information on their products and services. Following their guidance will keep you current on policy specifics and the changing environment.



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