5 tips to avoid travel insurance woes

In Canada, your provincial health insurance plan looks after your hospital and medical expenses. But, once you travel outside of Canada or even outside of your home province, coverage under the provincial plan is limited, and only a fraction of expenses may be covered. The good news is that the difference can be made up by travel health insurance.

Many travelers depart on trips under the misconception that their travel insurance policies will cover unexpected medical costs. There are, however, many policies that do not cover pre-existing conditions or place limits on coverage, and it’s important to know about these limits before traveling.
 
To avoid travel woes, here are some tips:

1. Read your policy thoroughly and review the coverage before your departure date:

This may seem obvious, but it's important to realize travel heath coverage is not a full medical plan. In many ways, travel insurance offers more of an emergency plan, so vacationers should review their policy to see if there are eligibility requirements for the policy.
 
Limitations and restrictions exist on most policies, and it’s important to know what those are. For example, how many days is your insurance policy good for? For example, can you only travel up to 14 days per trip? Are there other limits, such as age restrictions that will affect your family?
 
It’s also a good idea to review the coverage you and your family already have, whether it is through work or a credit card, and know the possible limitations of these plans.
 
Check to see if your insurance provider pays for the expenses upfront, or if you will be required to pay the hospital directly and be reimbursed later. This is an important detail that can often be overlooked.
 
If you have to submit a claim in the event of a health problem or incident, be sure to retain copies of all paperwork. You will have a much easier time resolving your claim successfully if you have all the information the insurer is requesting.

2. Be honest:

One of the main reasons claims are denied is that people haven't filled out their medical questionnaire accurately. Travelers must disclose all medical conditions and seek a healthcare professional's assistance if there is confusion regarding the questions.
 
As well, some travel policies require a "stability period," meaning if your or your child’s health has changed in any way--including a change in medication--since the time you purchased your policy, you must inform your insurer or there could be coverage problems.

3. Out-of-province healthcare expenses are not all covered:

If you are traveling within Canada, an inter-provincial agreement exists to provide coverage for you. Quebec participates in this agreement for hospital fees only, so Quebec residents traveling out of their home province should check their health insurance plan for limitations. While many medical services are covered across Canada, some emergency expenses are not.
 
For example, ground ambulance fees may be a few hundred dollars, but if you need to be air-ambulanced with a medical team from a city outside of Montreal, the fees can mount up quickly. While accidents requiring this type of medical care are infrequent, they do happen, and it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected.

4. Coverage for U.S. trips? Don’t leave home without it.

Stepping across the border into the U.S., even for the day, can be costly in the event of a medical emergency, but many people may not consider getting coverage for a quick jaunt to our neighbour to the south. Human tragedy aside, the financial implications of a health emergency across the border can be devastating for a family.
 
While most provinces pay from $75 to $400 a day for a hospital room stay, it's a relatively small reimbursement compared to the total cost. Plan ahead and purchase travel insurance, even if your trip to the U.S. is a short one.

5. "Adventurous" travelers may not be covered:

It’s important to consider that some insurance policies may have clauses that do not cover medical mishaps caused by "high-risk activity." This can include accidents caused by alcohol, or certain sports like scuba diving or parasailing. You can often upgrade your coverage with some policies to cover adventure travel, but there will be an added premium.
 

References:

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. A Guide to Travel Health Insurance. http://www.clhia.ca/download/brochures/Brochure_Guide_To_Travel_ENG.pdf