Travel health insurance: Follow these rules

All Canadians have the right to necessary medical services under the Canada Health Act. It’s an entitlement many defend as sacred. But travel outside your home province or territory, and you pick up the majority of any health care costs you incur.

Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re not risking your financial security and personal well-being when you travel:

  •  Don’t assume your provincial health care plan is enough.

“All provincial health ministries recommend that you consider other sources of coverage if you are leaving the country because provincial health coverage, in itself, usually is not adequate,” states the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association in its booklet for consumers.

Your provincial plan’s coverage is capped at a minimal daily maximum – at $400 for an Ontario resident, $150 for someone covered under Alberta’s plan, for example.

“If a hospital room is $10,000 a day in Florida or California, $400 isn’t of much help,” says Michael Brattman, vice president at The McLennan Group.

  •  Don’t ignore travel health iurance when travelling in Canada.

Illness and accidents can happen anywhere. Even though there is a reciprocal agreement among the provinces and territories, coverage may be limited.

For example:

  • Quebec’s plan covers hospital costs only
  • Ontario does not cover ambulance or prescription drugs from pharmacies.
  •  Do ask for confirmation of coverage in writing. Do find out about any conditions on your policy.

If a company waits until you make a claim to request your medical records, you may learn too late you’re not covered.

Similarly, the fine print on your group policy might contain conditions of which you should be aware.

  •  Do complete any medical disclosure forms you’re asked to fill out.

Not only does leaving out details of your health leave the door open for the insurer to deny your claim, providing all the details is good way to ensure you have proper coverage at a fair price.

“It’s an accurate way to recall what medications you’re taking, and [remembering] the last time you saw your doctor,” says Brattman.

  •  Do carry your provincial health card and your travel insurance documents.

This includes the emergency assistance telephone number provided by your travel health insurance plan.

Next page: More tips

The assistance company could be your first call when you’re in an emergency. So it’s important to know what services you can expect. For example:

  • Communication with your medical provider, your own doctor and your family
  • Transfer arrangements, if necessary to move you in a medical emergency
  • Dealing with billing arrangements with doctors and hospitals.
  •  Don’t wait until you have to make a claim to learn about the procedure. 

Reviewing the procedure for making a claim before you leave will help you plan.

For instance:

  • You may have to pay costs upfront and submit the claim to the insurance company
  • Or there may be a requirement that you call the assistance company within a certain time after the emergency.

It’s a good idea to keep all your receipts for services and submit your claim as soon as possible.