Do You Need Travel Insurance?

Posted 19 Jan 2015 by Melissa Allan

You may be counting down the days until a big trip but are you really prepared for your well deserved vacation?

Emergencies happen all of the time, even while on vacation and although your provincial health plan will offer some out of country coverage for emergency purposes it is very limited and you are strongly recommended to purchase additional health insurance every time you leave Canada.

The United States is said to have the most expensive health care in the world and a hospital visit could drain your bank accounts.

If you have employee benefits through your work, it’s a good idea to check your benefit booklet to confirm the travel insurance benefits before purchasing a stand-alone policy. The typical group insurance contracts will insure members for short trips but you should be aware of the process and who to contact should an emergency situation arise. I would recommend purchasing a stand-alone policy on top of that coverage if you feel you need additional coverage or are planning to take a medium-long term trip (example: snow birds going to Florida).

Travel insurance can typically be purchased for a single trip or multiple trips a year for those frequent travelers and depending on your age and health situation it can be very inexpensive. In a nutshell, many of the policies available on the market to choose from typically include emergency medical, trip-cancellation/interruption, baggage (loss, delay, etc.) and accidental death/dismemberment. Applications for this coverage can be done via a simple questionnaire and paid with a credit card. Keep in mind, standard travel insurance policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions. If you have a medical condition that you are concerned about and you want to have it insured, please let your agent know. They will most likely have you complete a detailed health questionnaire and submit it to the insurer for their review to see if they are willing to accept the risk and let you know the costs/parameters of the insurer’s offer.

I have seen clients coming back from trips to the US with $30 - $40K in hospital bills for visits to a hospital for conditions that were not even considered “life-threatening”. They had to pay the bill up front, then go through their provincial and employee benefit plans to try and get reimbursed. The whole process can be overwhelming especially when you are not aware of how things work, who to call, or what to expect.

This type of coverage can also be considered for visitors to Canada so your relatives and/or friends living abroad can come to Canada with peace in mind that they are covered here.

A few other things to consider when traveling are summarized below. I realize these things are often done but it’s always good to have a friendly little reminder!

  • Check your driver’s license; passports, credit cards, etc…renew anything that is slated to expire when you’re gone prior to leaving on your trip. It will save you a lot of hassle and calling toll-free numbers that don’t work in the country you are in!
  • Contact your home insurer to let them know you’re away and see what requirements they have if something happens in your absence
  • Have a neighbor pick up your flyers, clear your snow, etc…be sure to buy them something nice when you’re away to say thank you! Install timers for your lights so noone knows you are away
  • Never report your entire household is away on any social networking sites
  • Give loved ones emergency numbers and ensure someone has a copy of your passports, wills, insurance summaries, etc…

I’m sure there are a lot more to be added but these are just a few of the ones that popped into my head. Safe travels!