Although Canadians receive some of the best healthcare in the world, there are limitations when traveling abroad or even outside your province. Buying travel insurance in Canada would help cover the gap in those limitations.
In Canada, governmental health programs offer minimal to no coverage or benefits while away from Canada. Even within a different province entitlement to health care benefits is dramatically affected. Private insurers offer comprehensive travel insurance packages where the Canadian and provincial healthcare plans provide very little and limited protection to Canadians. For example in Ontario, OHIP could cover doctor services, out and inpatient services on an emergency basis and subject to eligibility.
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Travel insurance is a must if deciding to leave the country or province for any set duration of time, for any reason. The last thing you’d want is to pay out-of-pocket for medical services or treatment that you may not be able to afford.
Purchasing travel insurance is a way to reduce your risk exposure when traveling outside of your Province. Travel insurance coverage is similar to your provincial health care plan, except it’s designed for travelers (recreation or business) who may experience an unforeseen medical emergency.
Travel Health Insurance Canada
Travel insurance in Canada is a private medical expense coverage meant to protect you from financial loss when traveling abroad. Travel health insurance covers medical expenses such as surgeries and other costly, medical treatments where a Government Health Care Plan does not. Even a lengthy Hospital stay in a foreign country can be a very expensive proposition that travel health insurance covers.
Travel health insurance also protects from gaps or deficiencies in insurance coverage when traveling out of province, but still within Canada. Reciprocal health care agreements, such as OHIP, do not necessarily ensure the same scope of protection in all provinces.
Travel health insurance also covers risks that go beyond the scope of any Government Health Care Plan, such as:
- Forfeited Air Tickets
- Conveyance of a vehicle back home
- Visits by family in the case of a life-threatening illness or injury
- Extra Hotel expense in case of a delayed return
- Baggage Insurance
- 24 hour Accident Insurance and Flight Accident Insurance
Provincial health care plans have reciprocal agreements for most health care services designed to cover Canadians from most health care services when traveling from province to province, or territory in Canada.
When Canadian travelers fall ill or become injured abroad most provincial health care plans do not cover all emergency medical expenses. Also, if a Canadian is out of country for more than six months they lose their coverage and are left to pay any medical care out of pocket.
Where do I get Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance can be obtained in Canada from many sources including:
- Insurance agencies or brokerages
- Travel Agencies
- Banks and Credit Unions
- Credit Card Companies
- Employer benefits
If you find yourself insured by multiple travel insurance policies, keep in mind that the rule of priority of payment and ratable contribution may apply.
Rule of Priority – this means that a particular health insurance policy may need to respond before other polices can. A good example of this is Accident Benefits under vehicle insurance. Accident benefits coverage through an auto policy can only be used if you don’t have primary health insurance coverage from anywhere else. The Rule of Priority would dictate that the health insurance policy that insures you or your family, specifically, is usually the first health insurance policy to respond. If the limits of that insurance policy are exceeded then recourse to other policies might be available.
Ratable Contribution – if one or more primary health insurance policies are applicable towards a covered loss then the claim payout would be shared proportional, according to the insurance company’s financial responsibility. For example, if two primary health insurance policies were forced to respond to the same claim, at an equally shared rate, then both travel insurance companies would pay 50% each.
Types of Travel Health Insurance
Single Trip Health Insurance: as the name implies a Single Trip or Per Trip covers you for one trip only.
Per Trip travel insurance is mainly purchased by people who are eligible for GHIP coverage and travel infrequently. Snowbirds would be a perfect example.
The policy will not allow for a return and exit from the home province, within the same policy period. The policy period can range from one day to as long as 365 days, depending on the insurance company underwriting the travel insurance.
Travel Health Insurance is usually conditional on your eligibility for GHIP. To fulfill this requirement you need to be present in your Province of residence for at least the a minimum number of days required each year by that Province’s GHIP. Not meeting GHIP guidelines would also nullify coverage of a travel health insurance policy.
Multi-Trip Travel Insurance
Multi-trip travel insurance is usually purchased by people who travel frequently. Eligibility for your Province’s GHIP is still a condition that must be met for multi-trip polices, the same way as in single trip policies.
Multi-trip policies usually have a policy period of one year, with a restriction on the number of days allowed per trip within that period.
Primary Travel Insurance
Some people may not qualify for provincial health care and decide to purchase Primary Travel insurance. Primary travel insurance is designed to offer coverage for what a provincial healthcare plan covers in and out of the country. A second travel health insurance policy would usually be required for excess out of country coverage.
Reasons to purchase Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can be purchased for the following reasons:
- Government health care plans are not valid outside Canada
- Your provincial health plan may not cover or cover a very small percentage of medical care abroad
- Medical treatment from foreign hospitals can be very expensive and may not offer viable payment plans or may simply demand cash
What is Travel Health Insurance?
Travel health insurance is insurance intended to cover medical health expenses, lost luggage, flight cancellation, flight accidents, and other losses while traveling internationally or domestically.
Some things to keep in mind regarding travel health insurance are the following:
- Travel health Insurance is NOT “comprehensive” in scope. This means that it will never be comparable to the span of coverage your GHIP would cover while residing in Canada.
- Travel Health Insurance is restricted by policy periods, limited by policy amount limitations, limitations in definitions and exclusions, while a GHIP is not.
- Travel insurance only covers unexpected events, while GHIP can cover things such as pregnancy to term and continuing care.
- Travel Insurance only covers medical emergencies whereas a GHIP covers simple things such as check-up visits to the Doctor or some elective surgery
Benefits of Travel Health Insurance
Travel health insurance usually includes the following benefits:
- Accident and baggage insurance: this coverage can come standard in a policy or optional
- Hospital Expenses: every insurer or health insurance package can differ as to what types of Hospital expenses are covered.
- Physicians Charge
- Paramedical Services: covers the cost of services from physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, podiatrists, and naturopath.
- Private Registered Nurse
This list is only a sample of core travel health insurance coverage. Travel insurance policies differ from one company to the other, but also within the breadth of various types of travel health insurance policies. The benefits of travel insurance may differ according to the choice in the company, or the travel insurance coverage you choose. This also applies to the restrictions and limitations found in most insurance policies.
The benefits of having travel insurance are not only designated to specific coverages and medical treatments but also the benefit of having peace of mind.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
Whether travel insurance is needed or not depends on a few things, including the type of trip you’re taking, what type of coverages you require and the amount of coverage required.
Risk Tolerance: if you feel that you can bear the financial risk of unforeseen medical and health-related expenses while traveling then you may elect not to purchase travel insurance. However, if you’re in no position to pay or be able to afford the cost of unforeseen medical emergencies, and also other travel-related exposures, then travel insurance is a must!
Trip Cancellation Insurance
Trip cancellation or flight cancellation is another good reason to purchase travel insurance. Flight or trip cancellation insurance covers the cost of your airline ticket should you need to cancel your trip.
Baggage insurance is a byproduct of travel insurance. Baggage or Luggage insurance can be purchased as an add-on to your travel insurance policy and can provide coverage for:
- Lost Babbage
- Damaged Baggage
- Stolen Baggage
- Personal expenses for necessities is you’re a baggage delay
The proviso for baggage insurance to be covered, the luggage or Babbage must be checked in or carried on.
The need for baggage insurance stems from the fact that airlines, ocean and train transit do not cover baggage insurance.
How Much Travel Insurance do I need?
Figuring out how much travel insurance you need depends on a few things:
Your travel destination: depending on where you’re traveling to, the scope of your travel health insurance coverage should reflect the risks associated with the prospect of receiving medial or medical emergency care while in the country you’ve traveled to. For example: if you wanted to travel throughout the provinces of your home country, Canada, you may not need as much travel insurance compared to traveling abroad, possibly overseas. Distance from your home country is one major factor in determining how much health insurance you require. Generally, the further away your travel destination is from your home country, the more travel insurance you might want to have.
Consideration should also be given to the host, country‘s health care infrastructure. Not all Countries have the same degree of medical care competency or infrastructure that we are accustomed to in Canada.
Length of time you’ll be at your travel destination
Most travel insurance policies cover a short duration period, ranging from 10 to 60 days, but some travel health insurance products exceed this time limitation. For example, snowbird travel health insurance will allow coverage past the normal duration period. The amount of travel insurance required for longer trips may be more, compared to shorter visits.
Travel insurance companies want to know about your health, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. This isn’t to say you can’t purchase travel insurance if you have a pre-existing condition only that it requires disclosure or you risk that the policy might become null and void should you make a claim.
Having a preexisting medical condition may limit or restrict certain travel insurance coverage. It’s important to know what is and what is not covered so when buying travel health insurance you can make an informed purchasing decision. Travel insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions may end up paying more for insurance as they are a higher risk compared to someone without a preexisting condition.
Travel insurance companies use age as a rating factor to determine the cost of travel insurance. As we age the chances of becoming ill, having an accident or diagnosed with a medical issue increase, therefore the cost of travel health insurance also increases.
You need to consider your age when calculating how much travel insurance you might need. Depending on your age and health you may have more or less risk tolerance. At younger ages, we may take on more risk compared to an older age. Also, understanding
Risk tolerance is another factor that could influence the amount of travel insurance you might need. If you’re traveling within your own country you may decide that you can bear the risk and cost of unforeseen medical expenses, should something bad happen. Conversely, the decision to purchase travel insurance is reinforced when presented with the unforeseen costs associated with overseas travel.
Travel Insurance Coverage
Travel Insurance covers some of the following benefits:
- Flight Cancellations – flight cancellation can be purchased as a separate product but may be bundled in a travel insurance package
- Accident and Baggage Insurance – again usually part of a travel health insurance package but can also be purchased as a standalone product.
- Hospital Expenses – every policy is different but coverages can include medical emergencies hospital accommodations, intensive care, the operating room to outbound patient services.
- Private Registered Nurse – if coverage exists in the policy the benefit usually is offered based on a doctor’s decision.
- Land Ambulance – this coverage offers transportation to a local qualified medical facility or hospital.
- Air Ambulance – this coverage offers air transportation either between two hospitals or back to a hospital in your home country
- Repatriation – repatriation covers the expense when a physician orders the immediate return for medical attention
- Diagnostic services – expenses such as x-rays and laboratory tests
- Prescription drugs – subject to conditions, limitations, and exclusions similar to prescription drug coverage you would have through work and provincial health programs
- Physicians Charge- this covers necessary and reasonable charges made by a physician or specialist
- Dental – subject to conditions and policies vary as to what is covered
- Meals and Accommodation – coverage for the extra expense of lodging and meals should there be delays. Again every travel health insurance policy is different which will affect how that coverage can be used.
- Visit to Bedside – coverage for the cost of a family member to travel to the hospital or medical facility
- Return of Vehicle– coverage for the expense of returning your vehicle i.e gas, lodging, etc. policy wordings and coverage vary from one company to the other.
- Return of Deceased – coverage for the cost of conveyance and clearance of the deceased
- Emergency Assistance – again, every travel health insurance is different in wording and coverage. Emergency assistance coverage can include services such as locating a medical facility, emergency cash transfers, transportation ticket replacement, and many other travel-related risk exposures.
What’s not covered in travel insurance?
As mentioned many times throughout this article, travel insurance policies vary greatly depending on the insurance company and the coverage you choose. However, there are some similarities that the industry as a whole tends not to insure under a travel insurance policy.
Some of the following, but not limited to, may not be covered under a travel health insurance policy:
- Pre-existing conditions – a history of health issues or conditions may affect eligibility for some travel insurance policies
- Elective Treatments – elective treatments are usually not covered as it’s not a medical emergency
- Pregnancy – there are many limitations, conditions, and restrictions regarding coverage for pregnancy and depending on the contract may not offer any coverage or partial coverage.
- Criminal Acts – there’s no surprise here as any criminal act will breach any contract and violate your policy conditions.
- Government Health Insurance Plan – anything that a GHIP (government health insurance plan) covers is normally excluded in private health insurance.
- War – expenses resulting from geopolitical upheaval, terrorism acts of war or civil disobedience are not covered
- Self-Inflicted Injuries – although controversial, travel health policies usually do not cover attempted suicide or any other related activity.
- Specific Conditions or Diseases – certain diseases, medical conditions or infections may not be covered
- Non-compliance – failing to comply with approved medical procedure and administration
Travel Insurance Exclusions and Limitations
Travel health insurance includes exclusions and limitations that limit the scope of insurance coverage. Travel insurance is not regulated in Canada so you must know what is and what is not covered by your travel insurance.
Some exclusions may include, but not limited to:
- Pre-existing medical condition if not disclosed in the initial application
- War or Terrorism
- Acts of criminality
- Intentionally inflicted injuries
- Travel advisories
- Hazardous activities
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Failure to obtain advance approval
Travel insurance policies have coverage limitations for some or all individual coverages. Some policies have an annual, aggregate limit for particular coverages. An aggregate limit is a maximum the insurance company will pay for all losses. Policy limits are usually based on age, percentages or other bases.
Travel Insurance through a Credit Card
Travel insurance can also be offered through a credit card. Most credit card companies offer a credit card meant for the traveler which includes travel insurance. Like any insurance policy, there are always differences from one travel health insurance policy to the other. Travel insurance through a credit card isn’t any different. Insurance coverages, limitations, exclusions all vary from one company to the other and from person to person.
Some of the factors to consider when shopping for a credit card with the travel insurance benefits are the following:
Limit of insurance – this is a no brainer, ensure that you have enough coverage for medical emergencies, travel accidents, or any peripheral coverages such as flight cancellation or lost baggage insurance.
Duration of Coverage – credit card companies offer a diverse range of options ranging from 60 days to 10, with special limitations for people over age 65. People aged 65 and over usually have coverage for a lesser duration.
Annual Fee – most travel insurance credit cards have an annual fee, however, some do not.
Credit Score – eligibility for certain credit cards that offer travel insurance usually depend on your credit score
Lodging and Accommodation – this coverage is meant to provide compensation for stolen or damaged goods if someone breaks into your hotel or lodging.
Car Rental – does it include car rental insurance? Some people may find this coverage useful while seeing no need as they have rental vehicle insurance from elsewhere.
Trip cancellation and Interruption – also known as flight cancellation or flight interruption insurance, this coverage can protect some of your non-refundable expenses…….
Travel Insurance for Cruises
Travel insurance for cruises is not unlike any other travel health insurance policy. Cruise lines do offer their type of insurance. Cruise insurance is also offered by the actual cruise lines. Cruise lines market this product referred to as vacation protection packages.
Snowbird Travel Insurance
Snowbird travel insurance is meant for people who travel for a duration exceeding 30 days or less. Since most travel insurance policies are designed to provide travel health coverage for a short term period, snowbird travel insurance extends coverage for a longer set duration.
Snowbird travel insurance is usually marketed towards seniors who like to travel to warmer destinations in the winter. However, snowbird insurance can benefit anyone who travels for longer than 30 days.
The reason to have snowbird travel insurance is the same for any other type of travel health insurance. It provides coverage where governmental health programs do not. Also, snowbird insurance offers coverage for longer set duration compared to regular travel insurance.
A popular destination for Canadian snowbirds in Florida and other southern states in the U.S.A. The health care costs in the U.S can be staggering, even for U.S residents. The out of pocket medical health care expense could be financially devastating to a Canadian without travel health insurance.
Travel Insurance for seniors
Travel insurance for seniors is often associated with Snowbird travel insurance since the majority of people who purchase Snowbird insurance are often seniors. However, not all seniors are “snowbirds” (people that live abroad, seasonally or a duration that exceeds insurance coverage for most short term travel insurance policies).
Seniors who travel for short durations compared to longer, “snowbird” types of trips, still require the same considerations. For example, certain limitations and restrictions are common in travel insurance for seniors, like age. If you are between 55 and 60 years old you may need to complete a medical questionnaire that could disclose any medical condition or pre-existing condition. Also, if you are over a certain age you may not meet eligibility requirements.
Travel Insurance with a Preexisting Condition
Most travel insurance policies have a preexisting condition provision in the insuring agreement of the policy.
A preexisting condition is a known injury or illness you have before the inception period of the insurance policy. An example could be diabetes, cancer or any chronic or long term illness.
Status of your Preexisting Condition
The status of your preexisting condition will affect eligibility if not stable and controlled for a set period, usually between 90 to 356 days a year.
Travel insurance policies differ from one to the other so picking a policy with the shortest stability period is probably something most people would gravitate to.
Travel Insurance for Backpackers
Travel insurance for Backpackers is designed for people who love crazy adventures and trips abroad. Backpackers travel all over the world in less developed countries, post-industrial countries and anything in between. The risks and dangers of falling sick or having a bad accident in a lesser developed country can be higher for a Backpacker since they tend to drift to many throughout their trek.
Access to competent medical facilities and healthcare could be questionable depending on where you are, so having travel insurance specific for your backpacking needs is essential. A case could be made that out of all travel groups, Backpackers have the greatest need for travel insurance!
Travel Insurance for Canadians Students and International Students
Travel insurance for students can be broken into two categories. Travel health insurance for Canadian students living abroad and for international students who come to Canada for post-secondary education.
The amount of travel health insurance purchased is closely tied with the duration of studies, or while living abroad. The duration and level of coverage can be as short as a couple of months to multiple years, depending on your length of stay in Canada or abroad.
Travel Insurance FAQs
Travel insurance needs to be purchased as possible to avoid potential denials of coverage for anything before your initial trip deposit date. Many travel insurance companies require you to purchase your travel health insurance plan within a period for coverage to be in force. The usual period is 10 to 15 days from making the initial trip deposit.
However, you can purchase travel insurance at any time you like, but it won’t guarantee that coverage exists. For example, if you decide to purchase travel health insurance right before a hurricane warning you probably will not be covered.
Yes, however, it’s recommended that you purchase travel insurance right after booking. Buying travel health insurance immediately after booking will ensure that coverage begins on the effective date to departure date.
According to CNBC, trip cancellation insurance can be useful but also unnecessary at times.
Some instances where trip cancellation may not be worth buying include:
-Traveling within your own country – the costs and risks associated with traveling within your own country are less and maybe something acceptable to your risk tolerance.
-When your Credit Card provides trip cancellation coverage – there wouldn’t be a need for trip cancellation insurance if you carry the protection from another financial product.
Instances where Trip Cancellation insurance is required:
International Trips – the higher cost of international flights and the money you have invested in these types of vacations or trips is a good reason to buy trip cancellation insurance.
The cost of travel insurance depends on the following factors:
-Duration of your Trip
-The type of Travel insurance policy best suited for you
-The travel insurance coverage required
-Your health and medical history
Flight cancellation insurance is usually bundled with other travel insurance benefits and coverages. Each travel insurance company has its own set of definitions and conditions to qualify for flight cancellation coverage. For example, a company will only allow the cancellation of your trip or flight for specific reasons, such as bad weather, work-related reasons, a death in the family or jury duty. However, there is usually optional coverage that can be purchased for flight or trip cancellation for any reason.
“Cancel for any reason” or CFAR insurance usually can be attached to your existing travel insurance policy as an endorsement of coverage or benefit.
Travel insurance covers bad weather but some travel insurance companies exclude hurricanes. It’s important to know that travel insurance policies are not all created equally and special attention to the policy wording is needed to fully understand what is and what is not covered!
Travel insurance policies usually do not provide coverage for doctor’s visits for things such as a common cold or flu, but some companies do offer this coverage. Since travel health insurance is usually meant for emergencies, doctor visits coverage is commonly not included.
Travel insurance typically covers accidental death. Death benefits are typically paid in the event of accidental death. A prerequisite to releasing the benefit is that the death must stem from an eligible, accidental event.
Insurance companies define accidents as unintentional events. Depending on the insurance company and policy wordings illnesses which lead to death may or may not be covered. Some illnesses may be specifically excluded.
Most insurance companies will not pay a death benefit based on a “missing person” basis, while some companies if stemming from a transport accident will provide the coverage. Every policy is different so taking extra time to thoroughly read the policy wordings will help you know what to expect in a travel insurance policy your might already have or searching to buy. Speak to a licensed, independent insurance broker to help you make an informed buying decision.