Travel Medical Insurance: Don’t leave home without it!
Everywhere they tell you – "Don’t travel without Emergency Travel Medical Insurance!" But you say to yourself, “I’m perfectly healthy and I have provincial medical insurance – what do I need extra medical insurance for?”
There are three good reasons I can think of right off the top:
- the cost of Medical Care outside the country – especially the USA – that is far and beyond what the province pays
- what happens if you break a leg?
- avoid paying “out-of-pocket” expenses
DO YOU REALLY NEED COVERAGE? . . . WHAT DO YOU NEED?
First check to see what you have
- You might be covered through your employer (or previous employer). (The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement benefits often carry very good travel medical insurance coverage)
- Other policies – such as Blue Cross – offer some coverage, but are limited and initial payment comes out of your pocket and you have to make claims for reimbursement.
- Most often, your Auto Insurance covers any medical expenses resulting from an automobile accident.
- If you are covered – you lucky dog – you have no more worries – BUT please check your coverage to make sure it meets your needs.
WHAT - NO COVERAGE? WHAT IS IT GOING TO COST?
The premium you pay is governed by a number of different criteria:
- Single/ Multi Trip: If you are planning to make more than one or two trips, consider the multi-trip or annual policies. Usually you need to purchase a shorter single trip and then an annual where you can take many trips over the year.
- Age: Insurance providers tend to have different age categories. With some providers if you are under 50 or 55 or . . . and for a trip of a limited time, you can get travel medical insurance without completing a questionnaire.
- The older you get – the higher the premiums.
- Some providers have upper age limits and special limitations. e.g. will not cover ANY pre-existing vascular condition over the age of 70.
- It seems you CAN get insurance – no matter what – if you are willing to pay for it.
- Insurance Provider: Almost everyone seems to be offering Travel Medical Insurance – travel agents, credit card companies, banks, insurers (e.g. Blue Cross, CAA), organizations (e.g. Good Sam, CSA) brokers and agents.
- A broker tends to work with a few companies and claim they can find the “best” for you.
- Some organizations have managed to negotiate some better policies because of the volume.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
- Smoking Status: There are very few insurance providers who do not classify smoking as a pre-existing condition and adjust the rates up accordingly.
- Destination: Some providers discriminate between countries and offer lower rates if travel is NOT to USA (e.g. within Canada, to Mexico, etc)
- Length of Trip: Closely linked to whether you look at a single or Multi-trip or Annual policy.
- Stability of Pre-existing Condition: The length of stability is critical to determining the rate in every policy. BUT – this can vary from anywhere from 30 days to 5 years depending on the insurance provider.
- Pre-existing Medical Conditions and Medications: Tends to be the BIGGEST determinant of rates and every insurance provider tends to be different. READ ALL MATERIAL (including small print) and, if you still aren’t sure, ASK and try to get your answer in writing.
- Deductible: Can range anywhere from $0.00 to $10,000.00 and can be in Canadian or US dollars.
Ask all your questions directly and get the answers in writing
There’s no consistency of better rates between categories (i.e. if the premiums are less in one category – that doesn’t mean they’re less in another).
What to Look For
- Does the plan have a "deductible" – for each claim or for the plan?
- If you need medical help, does the insurance company demand that you visit their preferred Hospitals/Doctor?
- Does the plan deny benefits if your medical emergency arises because of a health problem you already had when your trip started (this is usually called a "pre-existing condition")?
- Does the plan require you to determine - by yourself - whether you meet the insurance company's health standards before you can buy?
- How are claims dealt with?
- The information provided by YOU at the time of application is true and accurate – if not the insurer CAN decline ANY claim
- Maximum Coverage – per trip or per claim
- $ Limits on services
- Time Limits
- Transportation home – you, accompanying support, vehicles, pets, etc
- Exclusions – pre-existing conditions, age, medications
- Length of stability
- Refund policy
- How the claims are paid