The purpose of this article is to help you better understand travel insurance plans. I feel there is a lot of confusion about what is and what is not important while travelling either outside your province of residence or abroad.
Go directly to a reputable Insurance company.
I do not recommend going through your travel agent for the following reasons:
They have no background in medical issues or underwriting;
Their knowledge of the consequences to you is at best minimal;
Most likely they would not fully appreciate the impact to you of an incorrect, incomplete or any full or partial omission of information on your application.
You will be the one responsible for any errors or omissions and because the financial downside of US medical Care Expenses is so great, you can't afford to be lax on this matter.
Be sure you understand the important clauses of the contract particularly something called a "Stable Period".
A STABLE PERIOD is that length of time where you have had NO change whatsoever in your health OR medications OR medication Strength.
This Stable Period definition will also vary by age and possibly by Company, for example:
Blue Cross requires anyone under age 65 be STABLE for 90 days.
Blue Cross requires anyone over age 64 to be STABLE for 180 days.
GMS - (Group Medical Services) uses ages 69 and 70 as their time frame. 90 days for under age 70 and 180 days for over age 69.
The Travel Insurance Company (TIC) uses ages 59 and 60 as their trigger ages for 90 or 180 days.
Different companies will require different medical or application information when applying and this too may impact their assessment.
Let's say you're about to go on vacation and you make an appointment with your Doctor. He says you've been doing well on your High Blood Pressure Meds and would like to reduce the Dosage. BINGO - you are not considered STABLE under the definition and likely NOT covered under your travel policy.
You see the reduction as a positive thing but it could trigger a reaction because of the dosage change.
You are left with the full financial responsibility which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Your Doctor has no financial responsibility if you were to get sick while away and needed medical care.
ALSO, You cannot have a deterioration of your health, medical condition, illness, injury or Hospitalization within that three (six) month period.
I RECOMMEND you get quotes from a few companies to see what works best for you.
Here are a few key things to consider when comparing quotes:
Also remember the length of your trip will have an impact.
Are you applying for a Single Trip coverage or a Multi-Trip plan?
If you have an existing health plan with travel coverage, how much coverage in terms of trip time will they cover?
If you're going longer than the allowed time limit what will your TOP UP coverage be in terms of time? Do they overlap properly?
Make sure you double check how much MAXIMUM DOLLAR coverage each policy allows and each Company allows? $2 million, $5 million, etc.
US Coverage is normally more expensive than other World Destinations. Even if your are flying through the US connecting to another destination then the US rates will apply.
Canadian Travel may cause you to be financially exposed to 'Out of Province' expenses. You should have coverage for this too.
Even though we have universal health care in Canada it doesn't mean ALL of your expenses incurred in another Province will be covered by your HOME Province's coverage.
Each province gets to set its fees or costs around its list of procedures. These will vary by Province — If there is a shortfall you are responsible.
Depending on the Company you use the STABLE PERIOD may come into effect as well.
When traveling outside your province of residence you are likely subject to a stability clause regardless of your pre-existing conditions. Even if you have exclusions on your plan you could still be covered when travelling if you qualify as stable.
Please refer to your policy booklet to read the definition of 'stable' and the terms of coverage when traveling.
There is a fine and critical distinction between Pre-existing health conditions when you're at home VERSUS when you travel.
WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME:
When your Health policy was underwritten those pre-existing health conditions defined what was excluded from REGULAR 'at home' coverage.
Example: if you had a heart condition and were taking medications to control this condition. Because it was a health condition you had before you purchased the policy they would not be covered. So you would be paying for 100% of those drugs on your own.
WHEN YOU ARE AWAY:
If you were stable prior to travelling then your pre-existing condition MAY and most likely would be covered.
The whole reason these Stable rules are in place is to help protect the Insurance company from people who may be medical shopping or who are being dishonest.
Where to go for Travel insurance Coverage: FOR PROFIT companies versus NOT FOR PROFIT companies.
Many Travel packages are offered by FOR PROFIT organizations. They may decline or not cover Travel medical expenses if they find out you omitted something, even the mundane, from the application. Their legal argument will be something along the lines that you were not truthful when applying or possibly intended to cover up items important to the evaluation of your application prior to the trip. Whether true or not is irrelevant. Omissions lead to confusion. Confusion is not a good starting point to a legal agreement so declining payment may be their reaction regardless of how innocent the omission.
CBC Marketplace did a review of this whole Stand Alone travel Package industry and showed the flaws that can result.
My personal bias is to go to companies who specialize in Travel coverage.
My second bias is to go to organizations who are NOT directly 'for profit' companies. This is not to say they aren't as diligent as the For Profit Companies but I feel they have a different approach to helping clients and I want to have a higher degree of comfort that I am truly covered.
These would include (but not limited to):
Blue Cross Travel - (888) 857-2583
GMS (Group Medical Services) - (800) 667.3699or go directly to their website:
TIC (Travel Insurance Company) they are Associated with Co-operators and the Credit Union Movement. (800) 491-0851 (When asked, simply give them my ROBBINS FINANCIAL referral code: 3322)
Many Brokers do NOT sell these Travel products directly as the risk of financial exposure is too great. I do not sell these either but simply suggest some companies you can explore.
NOTE: Many companies will do and hold a quote for you. When you decide which company then you simply go back to them and refer to your Quote number for finalizing coverage.
In the end the decision is yours and should only be made after you have satisfied yourself you have done your due diligence.
ONE OTHER SUGGESTION:
I would suggest you ask your general Insurance Broker (home and Car insurance) about an UMBRELLA Policy.
It costs under $200 a year and provides other liability coverage up to $5 Million. I was personally concerned the $2 Million in Auto Liability coverage wasn't enough, particularly when renting cars or driving in the US.
This Umbrella Policy helps increase your liability coverage at minimal cost. Contact your general Insurance broker for details and what's actually covered.
The purpose of this article is to increase your knowledge about TRAVEL insurance, the key points to consider and options available.
I hope you found these helpful. Contact us for more information or to discuss any of the points in more detail.