Travel Insurance

When the cold weather settles in, many Canadians dream of escaping to sunnier climates in the south. Remember, once you leave our chilly country you also leave our medical system and that means you’ll need to get additional coverage. Failure to do so can leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars.

The solution is simple: just buy a travel policy, right? Not quite. There are many nuances to navigating travel insurance. Here are three important things to consider to help you avert unexpected and exorbitant medical fees.

What Does the Policy Say?

This first step is very important. You need to know exactly what your policy does and does not cover. Often, there are restrictions for certain high-risk activities, such as bungee jumping or skiing. These activities can be covered under special policies with higher premiums.

Other restrictions on travel policies may include age, time of coverage, reimbursement limits and whether or not expenses are reimbursed upfront. Another common restriction affects people playing an amateur sport. A special type of coverage is needed when you take your son or daughter across the border to play in the weekend hockey tournament.

How Is Your Health?

When filling out the medical questionnaire about your health, be completely honest. Just because you have a health condition, it does not mean you will be denied coverage automatically. The insurance company uses this information to assess what premium to charge you. If you mislead the insurer and have a claim, they could deny it.

Most policies have restrictions on pre-existing conditions. Again, this doesn’t mean you will be denied coverage. If you cannot demonstrate that there is a stability period you may have to pay higher premiums. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your claim denied.

If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your insurance agent or even your medical professional.

When Do You Need Travel Insurance?

Essentially, you should consider having travel insurance in place every time you leave the province (even within Canada) because there are discrepancies in provincial health care that could leave you out of pocket. Also, if an air ambulance is needed to return you to your home province, it is not typically covered and can be very expensive.

People often choose not to get insurance for short-term trips. It may just be a day trip of shopping across the border, but you are gambling with a health care bill that could be in the tens of thousands.

When traveling abroad, pay attention to travel warnings issued by the Canadian government as this information may preclude you from coverage in certain regions across the world.

The bottom line is, don’t gamble with a huge health care bill. It’s better to pay a small amount upfront for coverage that is properly rated for your health and travel circumstances than to risk paying thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars later.