Travel Insurance Buying Tips

Insurance is a MUST for Out-of-Province Travel

What is travel insurance? According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), “Travel insurance in its broadest form is designed to pay for certain unexpected costs that may arise when you are travelling.”

In Canada, provincial health insurance plans look after most hospital and medical expenses, and you rarely see a bill. But when travelling outside of Canada or even your home province, coverage under your provincial health insurance plan is limited, and only a fraction of these expenses may be covered. The difference can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for which you are financially responsible. The good news is that the difference can be made up by travel health insurance.

CLHIA is a voluntary trade association working on behalf of all its member life and health insurers. CLHIA produces a number of publications designed to assist Canadian consumers in making informed decisions.

One such CLHIA publication, A guide to travel health insurance, is intended to help consumers make the most of their travel health insurance coverage. The guide outlines that the expected costs that may arise when traveling can include emergency hospital/medical costs, trip cancellation, lost baggage etc., but points out that not all plans cover all of these components. Their best advice – be sure you understand what type of protection you are buying, and whether it meets your needs.

To read A guide to travel health insurance, click here.

Never Leave Home Without Travel Insurance Protection

Obtaining adequate coverage is among the most important decisions you will ever make

There are hundreds of reasons to obtain travel insurance before you leave your home province. Here's just one: In the United States, the typical daily charge for a hospital stay is $4,000*. For residents of Ontario, your OHIP coverage is capped at $400 per day.

The Misconception About Travel Health Insurance

Many people still don’t feel the need to protect themselves. In fact, 40% of us don’t buy travel insurance when heading outside of Canada, believing our provincial health plan coverage is adequate.

In reality, outside your home province, coverage from your provincial health plan is limited. Most provinces post warnings like the one found on the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website: “The amount paid for out-of-country health services is very limited and usually will not be sufficient to cover the full cost of the services rendered... You are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance every time you leave Canada to cover any expenses in excess of the limited funding provided by OHIP.” 1

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Travel insurance pays for certain unexpected costs that arise when you are out-of-province, typically emergency hospital/medical costs. Optional coverage can pay for trip cancellation, lost baggage, etc. Routine or elective medical treatment (treatment you could have received at home, or deferred until your return, and/or ongoing treatments you may need if you are out of the country for a lengthy period of time) is not covered. 2

* www.healthtrends.org/healthutilize.
1 Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
2 A Guide to Travel Health Insurance; Canadian Life & Health Insurance Association Inc.

Travel Insurance Warning Issued for Canadian Snowbirds and Vacationers

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) is warning Canadian snowbirds and winter vacationers to have proof of private travel health insurance in place before heading south for trips to anywhere in the United States, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic or elsewhere in the Caribbean this winter.

In a press release, THIA reminded travellers that private insurance is essential for all winter destinations. This is particularly true in the U.S. where soaring health costs and uncertainty about health care reform is forcing many economically-stressed hospitals to demand up-front deposits or direct payment arrangements from patients who cannot prove they have insurance coverage.

David Hartman, president of THIA, stated: “The relentless increase in health care costs world-wide makes international travel insurance absolutely essential, even for one-day trips, as provincial health insurance reimbursements for out-of-country medical services don’t come close to covering foreign hospital bills that can total thousands of dollars per day.”

THIA’s suggested travel insurance shopping tips include:

  • Don’t buy on price alone. Insurance plans differ. All policies need to fit your health profile.
  • Read your Policy. Discuss it with your advisor. Examine a plan’s exclusions and limitations: what it doesn’t cover, as well as what it does.
  • Many plans cover pre-existing conditions that are stable and controlled, but you have to understand what “stable and controlled” means. If you must complete a medical application, do it completely and accurately and get your doctor’s help if you need to.
  • Don’t wait to the last minute to buy your insurance. If you need to provide medical information you may want to consult your doctor or your pharmacist or a family member who knows about your medical history. Leave time to do this properly.
  • If you buy early for a trip you’re taking later on in the year and your health changes in the interim, notify your insurer immediately.
  • For those with medical conditions, the best way to purchase travel insurance is to deal with a qualified advisor who deals extensively in travel insurance.

Even with your travel insurance policy in hand, it’s important that before leaving, you understand your own obligations and what you’re required to do if a medical emergency strikes while out-of-country.

About THIA: THIA is a national organization of travel insurance providers working together for the protection of the travelling Canadian. For more information, visit: www.thiaonline.com.