Do Canadians Need Travel Insurance?
The short answer is yes. If you're travelling outside Canada even for a day, you should get supplementary travel insurance. All it takes is one accident or a sudden illness to incur heavy expenses. Only a very small part, if any, of these costs will be reimbursed by your provincial health insurance plan, and many foreign hospitals and health practitioners will not treat you unless you have travel health insurance or the funds to pay up front. Even if you're travelling inside Canada, but outside your own province, it's a good idea to check what your provincial health insurance plan will or will not cover.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
As well as travel health insurance for emergency hospital and medical expenses for both illness and injury, it's useful to have flight cancellation insurance, lost luggage coverage, and accidental death insurance. These options are not included in all plans.
Where Can You Get Travel Insurance?
You can buy travel insurance from a variety of different places in Canada. Not all sell the same type of travel insurance though, so know what you are looking for and be ready with questions.
Travel insurance in Canada may be available from:
- group health insurance through your employer
- your travel agent
- auto clubs
- professional associations
- group plans offered by other associations to which you belong
- insurance brokers
- insurance companies
- financial institutions
- credit card companies
Travel Health Insurance Benefits
Travel health insurance plans can vary a lot. Don't let price be your only guideline. Make sure you choose a plan that matches your personal health profile and your individual needs.
When looking at a travel health insurance plan, get answers to the following questions:
- Make sure it gives you continuous coverage for the time you'll be away. If there's a possibility you may extend your trip, does the plan allow you to renew your insurance while you are away?
- Does the plan cover hospital and medical costs for both illness and injury?
- Are accidental dental and dental emergencies covered?
- Are deductibles clearly spelled out?
- Does the plan have an in-house, worldwide, 24-hour/7-day emergency contact number in English? Does it provide translation services for health care providers in your destination country if necessary?
- Will it provide for direct payment of medical bills and cash advances?
- Are ambulance services covered?
- What about other forms of emergency medical transportation, such as air ambulances?
- Does it pay for health care providers' visits?
- Will prescription medication related to an illness or injury be covered?
- Is premature birth and prenatal care covered, if appropriate?
- Does the plan cover the medical evacuation to Canada or the nearest location for appropriate medical care? Does the plan cover the cost of a medical attendant to accompany you during a medical evacuation? How about the return of a travelling companion, the return of your vehicle or boat, your pet?
- In case of death, would it cover cremation or burial at the place of death or the return of the deceased?
- Is it clear how to make a claim, and how you will be re-imbursed for out-of-pocket expenses?
Many travel health insurance plans will cover pre-existing conditions if they are stable and controlled. Read the policy very carefully and understand your obligations. It's important to be honest in disclosing medical information here. Ask your health-care provider to help you fill in this portion of the insurance questionnaire. If s/he completes the questionnaire for you, make sure you understand and agree with it. If you're not sure about a question, ask the insurance company. Non-disclosure of medical information could void your coverage even if the non-disclosed information has nothing to do with the cause of a claim. If your health changes between the time you buy your health insurance and your trip, notify your insurer before you travel. Changes include changes in medication.
Exclusions from Travel Health Insurance
Check your policy closely to see what exclusions and limitations there are;
There are medical costs that will likely not be covered by your travel health insurance. These include:
- non-emergency care
- cosmetic surgery
- psychiatric disorders
- drug- and alcohol-related incidents
Many policies do not cover injuries from high-risk sports, such as bungee jumping, parasailing and rock climbing. You may be able to upgrade to cover "adventure travel," although it will cost more.
Insurance companies also may not cover injuries from war, and may not cover countries or regions for which the Canadian government has issued a Travel Warning. Be sure your policy does not exclude any countries or regions you plan to visit.
Questions About Your Travel Health Insurance
If you have questions about your travel health insurance, read the policy carefully. If you still don't find the answer, ask the insurance company directly.
The OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI) also operates an information service which may be able to answer your questions.
For more information on health and travel for Canadians, see: