The government of Alberta has announced that long-term travellers and snowbirds can now remain out of the province for up to seven months (212 days) without risking loss of their provincial health benefits. The previous limit on out-of-province coverage was six months per year.
The extension brings Alberta in line with British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario, which allow their residents to be out of province for seven months. Newfoundland and Labrador allows residents to be out of province for eight months. The extension of time is effective immediately and applies to those who have already left for the winter season.
However, we must emphasize that the one-month extension of benefits does not change the amount of time snowbirds are allowed to stay in the United States. That limitation remains at six months (182 days). It simply allows them to stay out of their province for one additional month: that could be in another province or in another foreign country. The change in the provincial rules has nothing to do with US immigration law.
In commenting on the extension, Dave Quest, associate minister of seniors, said, “We want Albertans to have the flexibility to go on extended vacations while having the peace of mind that their health care coverage is there for them if they need it.”
We also note that though Albertans have been granted this extension of time, the Alberta health ministry still limits its reimbursements to foreign hospitals (including those in the US) to $100 per day, one of the lowest reimbursement rates in Canada. The remainder must be paid by private travel health insurers, and those costs can easily run to several thousand dollars per day.
Consequently, all provincial health ministries in Canada strongly urge all travellers leaving the country, even for short periods of time, to buy supplemental private travel health insurance.