Last updated June 11, 2010
If you’re getting life insurance quotes, don’t make exotic travel plans. During the application process, you will likely be asked you if you have future plans to travel outside the United States. If you’re eyeing a trip to Paris or London, have a good time. But if you’re planning to visit in Iraq, Algeria or Columbia, you’re likely to set off loud alarm bells at the life insurance company — without even knowing it.
Your vacation plans may just trip up your life insurance application. Life insurance companies have used risk assessment for foreign travel for many years. However, this practice varies depending on where you live. In some states, like Florida, the law limits insurance companies from denying your life insurance application based solely on your travel plans.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says “the refusal or limiting of life insurance or the refusal to continue existing life insurance based on past or future lawful travel constitutes an unfair trade practice.” This law was passed after U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, was denied life insurance coverage by american general for the sole reason that she indicated that she might travel to Israel at some point in the future.
In 2008, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) adopted guidelines to safeguard consumers from unfair discrimination in life insurance.
“Americans should not be denied life insurance simply because of where they might travel,” NAIC President and Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger stated in a media release. “These new guidelines ensure that insurance consumers are treated in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.”
The changes to the NAIC Unfair Trade Practices Model Act limit an insurer’s ability to refuse life insurance because of lawful past travel or, under specific circumstances, lawful future travel.
Your insurance company could also postpone its decision on your application until you return.
Travel to a destination where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an alert or warning or where there is an ongoing armed conflict involving a foreign army is deemed a valid basis for refusing to offer or limiting coverage, according to NAIC.
In a nutshell, you want to avoid making travel plans to dangerous locales if you’re thinking about applying for life insurance. However, if you already have life insurance and you travel to a dangerous country where you are killed, your life insurance will pay out — unless it’s discovered that you lied on your application about planned travel.
The following is a list of countries that the United States government has deemed dangerous or unstable for travel. The list changes frequently, as world events develop, so consult the U.S. Department of State.
10 dangerous countries
Afghanistan: Known for violence and hostile acts against Americans and other Western nationals. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe due to military operations, terrorist attacks landmines, banditry and armed rivalry among political and tribal groups.
Algeria: Known for terrorist attacks, bombings, kidnappings, ambushes and assassinations. These particularly occur in the Kabylie region. Since early 2007, suicide bomb attacks have been common. Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have also been known to occur.
Columbia: While security has improved significantly in recent years, violence by narcotic-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities. Murder rates have risen significantly in some major cities, particularly Medellin and Cali. American citizens have been the victim of violent crime, including kidnapping and murder.
Iran: Some political elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. American citizens have been harassed and arrested while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure of a number of Iranian-American citizens (including journalists), in some cases for several months. The government does not acknowledge dual citizenship and denies dual nationals access to the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran.
Iraq: Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Civilian air and road travel remains dangerous. While some regions have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, violence against Americans persists. No region is considered safe from dangerous conditions, explosions, kidnappings and other terrorist and criminal attacks.
Kenya: Known for continuing threats from terrorism and a high rate of violent crime. The U.S. government continues to receive indications of potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western and Kenyan interests in Kenya. A portion of Kenya, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, is designated as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel.
Saudi Arabia: The continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida, target Western interests, housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas and other facilities. American citizens are strongly urged to avoid staying in hotels or housing compounds that do not apply stringent security measures and cautioned to be aware of their surroundings.
Pakistan: The presence of Al-Qaida, Taliban groups and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a danger to American citizens, especially in the western border regions of the country. Civilians and government officials are regularly targeted. Shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events can be dangerous for Americans.
Haiti: In the aftermath of a powerful earthquake in January 2010, American citizens are strongly urged to avoid travel to Haiti. Significant damage was caused to key infrastructure and access to basic services is extremely limited. Communication is limited and there’s a shortage of food, water, transportation and adequate shelter. There’s also a danger of violent crime, including homicides and kidnappings.
Lebanon: While the country enjoys periods of relative calm, the potential for a spontaneous upsurge in violence is real. The government cannot guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Americans have been targets of numerous terrorist attacks and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity continues to exist in Lebanon. Landmines are another danger.