Travelers to Israel shouldn't be denied coverage, US insurance firms told

NY State official says Americans shouldn't lose their ability to get life insurance simply because they're traveling to Israel.

El Al 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
El Al 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A New York State official is urging insurance companies to stop telling Americans that they could forfeit life insurance payments, or risk being denied coverage entirely, if they travel to Israel. "Americans shouldn't lose their ability to get life insurance simply because they're traveling to Israel," Eric Dinallo, the superintendent of New York's Office of State Insurance, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "That's unfair discrimination, and we are working to end it." Dinallo addressed a convention of nationwide insurance commissioners last weekend, urging them to change their practice and give Americans the chance to travel to Israel without repercussions. Insurers apparently refer to a US State Department travel warning list when making the decision to deny either coverage or payment. The list of what the department calls "dangerous or unstable countries" has recently included nations such as Eritrea, Algeria and Sudan. Israel was added to the list in 2005. Travelers can potentially forfeit insurance payment in a death claim if they have traveled to one of the countries, and those who apply for insurance can have their applications denied on these grounds alone - or even by stating their intention of such travel. Last fall, the US House of Representatives passed the Life Insurance Fairness for Travelers Act, spearheaded by Florida congresswoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who herself was denied coverage after telling her insurer, AIG, that she would possibly travel to Israel in the future. "This is a big step forward for Americans who want to travel freely," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement first announcing the legislation. "It sends a message to the world that American citizens and businesses will not allow Osama bin Laden and the rest of the world's terrorists to dictate where we travel." The bill, which passed by a vote of 312-110 in the House, did not reach a vote in the Senate. According to information from Wasserman Schultz, Israel has an "intentional death rate" - for instance, deaths caused by bombings and murders - of 11 per 100,000. This is lower than the 17 intentional deaths per 100,000 in the United States. Earlier this month, the State of Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation announced it was working to revoke the license of American General Life Insurance, a subsidiary of AIG, for the practice .