Your provincial health plan covers only a small portion of the sum charged for even a brief stay in a U.S. hospital
The cold winter weather is here, and many of us are will be heading somewhere warm for a vacation, perhaps to a nice sandy beach. If you are planning such a getaway, it is important that you purchase travel health insurance and crucial that you research and compare plans, and that you understand the terms. Only a small portion of any out-of-country medical bill is covered by provincial health insurance.
Stuck with the bill
The recent story about a Saskatchewan couple and their “million dollar baby” is an example of how a medical bill can not only ruin your holiday but also force you into astronomical financial debt. The woman gave birth prematurely while vacationing in Hawaii, and the baby was in intensive care for two months. They were presented with a bill for $950,000.
In this case the couple had purchased travel insurance but their claim was denied due to a “pre-existing condition”, which was a bladder infection two months before the pregnancy. The insurer stated the mother was ineligible to receive coverage and denied her claim.
People put a lot of time and effort into researching flights, accommodation, weather and appropriate attire and may neglect to give as much attention to researching their options for travel health coverage.
This could be a costly mistake. The following tips provide some guidance for people on purchasing travel health insurance and the things you need to look for.
- Do not travel without insurance. Coverage supplied by your provincial health program is very small compared to the bills you could get with even a short stay in a United States hospital.
If you are travelling in Canada do not assume you are entitled to free health care. Some emergency medical expenses are not covered. A ground ambulance may cost a few hundred dollars, but if you need to be transferred by air ambulance from a remote area or from one city to another, along with a medical team, the cost could be several thousand dollars.
- Be honest and report any and all pre-existing medical conditions to your insurer. Understand what is considered a pre-existing condition. If you do not disclose all information, your claim may be denied.
- Be meticulous in your disclosures: if you answer health questions incorrectly, you may invalidate your coverage. Talk to your doctor if you need help in providing the correct information. If you make a claim, your insurer will ask your permission to investigate your medical files to determine what conditions you have been treated for and what medications you are taking.
- Check for limitations and exclusions: pregnant women should check this fine print without fail; so should people engaging in adventure sports.
- Some policies may have clauses that exempt them from covering medical mishaps caused by “high-risk activity”. This can include accidents caused by alcohol, or certain sports like scuba diving or parasailing. Some policies allow you to upgrade your coverage to cover adventure travel, but there will be an additional premium.
- Travel policies have a “stability period” provision: if your health has changed in any way, and this includes a change in medication since the time you purchased your policy, you must inform your insurer or there could be coverage problems.
If you do not understand some of the terms and conditions of your travel contract, ask the questions that will enable you to understand them. Learn what plans are available from the various insurers to find the coverage, price and benefits that best suit your particular needs.
Here’s wishing you safe travels.
Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood.