Milan Korcok

36 Posts Back Home

Milan Korcok has been covering international health care activities and trends in Canada, the U.S., and abroad since the introduction of Canada’s medicare system in the late’60s. He has long served as contributing editor to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and currently serves as contributor to the International Travel Insurance Journal, published in the UK and distributed globally.

For Canadian Travellers: US Travel Future is Upbeat, But Do Your Homework

With the US economy booming, thanks to a surging stock market, record low unemployment, rising wages, and sharply lowered personal and corporate taxes, consumers are showing a growing confidence about spending more of their family budgets on travel. According to the most recent report by international business consulting firm Deloitte: of the six major segments that comprise the US travel industry (airlines, lodging, car rentals, cruises, rail, and travel packaging), a strong five per cent growth is forecast for 2018, setting the USA travel industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end. For Canadian travellers, who make about 25 million overnight trips to the US annually (that doesn’t count day trippers crossing over for a few hours), that means an expanding choice of locations and activity interests at all price levels; competitive (cheaper) airline fares; more hospitality and dining options—in short, more bang for your buck.…

Travel Insurance and Drinking: Read Your Policy

Last fall, the CBC brought widespread public attention to the case of a Canadian who, while visiting relatives in the US, fell down a flight of stairs after drinking alcohol, required treatment in hospital for a brain injury, and ultimately had his travel insurance claim denied, purportedly, because he had too much to drink. The response from some in the media was mainly critical of the insurer for not having “warned” the traveller ahead of time that an accident caused by alcohol impairment could invalidate his coverage That should not have come as a surprise to anyone as every travel insurance policy issued in Canada excludes coverage for medical emergencies caused or contributed to by alcohol—or other intoxicants—just as it excludes coverage for known unstable pre-existing conditions, terminal diagnoses, and failure by those insured to disclose their true medical conditions when applying for products. Travel insurance was never designed to…

Rules for Canadian Leisure Travel to the US in 2018

If you’re planning some travel to the US in 2018 (an estimated 24 million did so in 2016), you might want to review the rules of entry, how long you can stay, what documents you need to carry, and what changes have been made to those rules since your last trip. Fortunately, there were no major changes for casual visitors, leisure travellers or snowbirds last year, but you still need to be vigilant about your crossings as the cooperation between US and Canadian border agencies continues to be more refined and precise. Don’t assume you may have slipped through once or twice without notice. For short-term visitors or snowbirds who are Canadian citizens, the key rule remains—you are allowed to be in the US for up to six months (usually interpreted by border agents as between 180 and 182 days) over any rolling 12-month period. The best way to determine…

Planning to Study Abroad in Canada? Here’s What You Need to Know about Health Coverage

Because I have a 15-year-old grandson who is intent on studying medicine, I have been paying very close attention to the growing tidal wave of international students applying to Canada’s universities. I should explain that although Zachary lives in the United States, he is a dual Canadian/US citizen, and would therefore have a clearer road to enrollment at, say, the University of Toronto or McMaster than would a student with no Canadian connection who would have to navigate the various visa requirements.  I am also very aware that Canadian medical schools are a lot cheaper than comparable-quality US schools. What my research has also turned up is that as of the last census taken by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, in 2015 there were more than 350,000 international full-time students enrolled in Canadian colleges—that is almost 100,000 more than five years earlier—and is getting very close to the 450,000…

Canadian Outbound Travel Forecasts and Safety Advice for 2018

With consumer confidence the highest it’s been in four years, and with overall travel numbers for the first eight months of 2017 up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2016 (23.1 million trips—not counting single-day, cross-border travel), it appears that Canadians will be taking to the roads, skies, and seas in near-record numbers in 2018.1 That’s a good thing. But with increasing options to visit farther-flung locations coming available, you will also have to become astute navigators and travel planners. What may be a prime vacation or tour destination one day can generate warning signals overnight that need to be spotted, heeded, and avoided. Fortunately, with phone and online access to government travel advisories instantly available, there is no reason for you to be short of current information when either planning or embarking on any trip to any location—and you should take no location’s safety for granted. For example,…

Canada’s Dual Citizens: Many “Pros,” But a Few Cautions

As Canada becomes more culturally diversified (almost one million Canadian citizens are also citizens of other countries), international travel requires increasing care and attention to detail. For example, in 2016, the Canadian government imposed a rule requiring all Canadian citizens who were also citizens of other countries to have Canadian passports when entering by air. (Canadian/US “duals” were exempted). The rule ruffled a few feathers, particularly among Canadians who had been living abroad for many years and had to scurry about trying to get passports just so they could visit family and friends “back home.” In addition, Canada is one of the most welcoming nations for citizens of other countries who wish to be permanent residents—which means, if they are successful in obtaining PR status, they have virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, except the right to vote, or run for elected office. But they are also…

Partner with Your Doctor when Applying for Travel Insurance

Among the most frequent stories I hear from Canadians who have had their travel insurance claim denied are: “My doctor never told me I had a heart murmur” or “he didn’t say that heart pill was for atrial fibrillation” or “my CT scan didn’t show anything abnormal”—so why would they have reported any of this on their application? Why? Because it’s up to you to know what’s in your medical record when filling out an insurance application—and if your claim is denied for non-disclosure or because you had a pre-existing condition that wasn’t “stable,” you are the one who will have to pay the bill. And no matter how strongly your family doctor protests your denial in a letter after the fact, you are still responsible for providing accurate and up-to-date information to the insurer. The decision to pay your claim or deny it will be made on the basis…

Visitors to Canada Travel Protection: Know Your Options (Part 2)

In the Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of Visitors to Canada plans. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the details your visitors will need to consider when purchasing their insurance. Visitors to Canada travel protection plans come in various shapes and sizes. These are not “one size fits all” products. The first rule is to buy travel insurance before your visitors leave home—to become effective when they first set foot in Canada. If you or your visitors buy insurance after they arrive, they will be subject to a waiting period—two, three, or even five days—before coverage for any sickness becomes effective. (Coverage for accidents is effective immediately.) In most cases, if you’re buying or ordering a plan for a parent or relative who will be staying with you for a short time, a single-trip policy is best. But be careful if…

Expecting Visitors to Canada? Protect Them and Yourselves with Health Insurance (Part 1)

One of the most baffling myths passed on about Canadian health care is that it’s free. Far from it: you pay for it very handsomely in your taxes every time you buy gas, a pair of shoes, or a case of beer. In fact, you pay some of the highest costs for health care in the industrialized world, even though you pay nothing when you visit your doctor or a hospital for routine or emergency care. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that same “generosity” will be extended to a friend or relative from another country visiting you over the coming holidays. Let’s face it: hospitals are not the charitable institutions they once were. They may be funded by their provincial governments, but only for care of their residents.  All others pay cash—or, if they’re from another province, by funds transferred out of their own provincial treasuries. A…

Is Virtual Reality the Future of Cruising?

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of taking a cruise was linked in one’s mind with leisure: “getting away from it all,” sipping cool drinks in deck chairs, and watching tropical sunsets. No longer. As cruise vessels get bigger and bigger (5,000 passengers is now routine) and the focus of activities turn ever inward—to what the ship has to offer rather than what the itinerary and ports of call provide—you’re going to need a lot of experience with technology to get the most out of your cruise. I’m talking about smartphones, apps, virtual reality headsets, and so on. Better bring your grandkids along. Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruises previewed some of the super-high-tech plans it has for “enhancing” the cruise experience of the future, and it’s about as far away as you can get from the “romance” of the old tramp steamer sailing on the high tide for Trinidad…

More on the Wretched 30-Day US Cross-Border Rule

Of all questions that come across my desk from confused readers, the one most difficult to explain, or justify, concerns the US immigration rule that requires vacationing Canadians to count side trips of 30 days or less, be they back home or to Mexico, as part of their allotted 180-day stay in the US. If those trips are over 30 days, they are not added to the 180-day tally, and the return to the US is counted as a separate trip. This becomes more confusing if our Canadian visitors  become entangled in the seemingly contradictory rules governing the B2 visa (which allows most Canadians to stay in the US for up to 180 days per 12 months), and their obligation to file IRS forms (8840) if they spend large chunks of time in the US each year. Different purposes. Different rules. Let’s sort it out—The easiest first Under the…

Know Who Pays When Your Flight Doesn’t Go Up

This past summer, two of the UK’s biggest airlines stranded hundreds of thousands of travellers in distant locations by cancelling flights at the last minute and invalidating reservations for future flights already planned: Ryanair because of pilot scheduling problems, and Monarch Airlines because it suddenly went out of business—virtually overnight. What about all of those passengers left stranded overseas? Thanks to some quick action by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, and a special consumer protection program in which most vacationers book their trips with specially licensed and bonded travel organizers, most were returned home relatively quickly on aircraft chartered by the CAA at no cost to themselves. But at first glance it was not quite so clear as angered passengers were told by airline staff to call their travel insurers for assistance home and recompense for the costs of making and paying for alternate arrangements. At which point the Association of…

2018 Travel Tips for Cuba and Mexico—What Happens Now?

Cuba and Mexico, hit by severe natural disasters this fall, would ordinarily welcome more than 2.5 million Canadians between them this coming year, most during the first four months of 2018. But tourism services in both countries—Cuba battered by Hurricane Irma, and Mexico by two massive earthquakes—are on edge, wondering if the anticipated flow of foreign visitors will dry up given the images of mass destruction that were transmitted out of their countries in September. Let’s take them one at a time. Cuba Despite the dramatic pictures of gigantic surf breaking over Havana’s Malecón (the iconic waterfront esplanade), and the flooding along the entire north shore of this tourism-dependent country, most hotels, restaurants, rum and cigar factories, and historic sites are expected to be fully operational and ready for the winter season beginning in December. Though news of Irma forced a spate of hotel cancellations for early 2018, the…

Can an American Hospital Sue a Canadian Patient?

The hospital bill for an emergency appendectomy in St. Petersburg, Florida, arrives at your home in Canada shortly after you return from your vacation: four days, $80,000 USD. Please Pay Now. What do you do? If you had travel insurance, that likely would not happen—although there are exceptions. But if you had no travel insurance, you have to deal with it. This is not a situation you can ignore. You don’t want the hospital to bounce the bill over to an international collection agency—that happens a lot, and it can make your life anywhere from uncomfortable to miserable. Increasingly, U.S. hospitals are diverting all bills for non-US residents to a growing throng of international companies who specialize in cross-border collections so they—the hospitals—don’t have to deal with the complexities of foreign collections, or travel to your province to sue you. But you are not defenseless. Hospitals don’t like to sue…

Florida’s Keys Invite Visitors Back in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

Hardly had the uprooted palms, shattered roofs, overturned mobile homes, and even stranded fishing boats been cleared off the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys to each other and the mainland, and tourism officials were already planning their strategy to bring visitors, foreign and domestic, back to this southern part of Florida—battered by the vicious winds of hurricane Irma in September. For an area where 60 percent of all spending and 54 percent of all jobs are dependent on tourism (a $2.7 billion industry in these parts), bringing visitors back for the 2018 winter season is a challenge that can’t afford to be leisurely or timid. And for Florida’s Canadian visitors, enjoying an 80 cent loonie, this combination of events might mean some truly meaningful bargains for snowbird, Christmas, or spring break visits. Don’t settle for rack rates—they need you back to show they’re still in business. So how do…

Travel Insurance for Snowbird Season, Part 2: What Should You Look For When Shopping For Travel Insurance?

Early bird specials These are plans sold at cheaper summer rates prior to new price increases going into effect. They can allow you some substantial savings, but remember that if your health changes in any way after you buy your plan and before your leave on your trip (e.g., new symptoms, changes in medications, referrals for tests or consultations), you must tell your insurer so your conditions of coverage and/or premium rates can be adjusted. Your coverage contract is based on your health status on the date your coverage comes into effect –not the date you purchased it. Failure to report such changes can invalidate your coverage.   Multi-trip annual plans If your travel plans call for frequent, short-term trips rather than a single extended six-month sojourn, consider an annual multi-trip plan, the fastest growing travel insurance varietal in the marketplace. Multi-trip plans are convenient in that you apply only…

Canadians Will Always Love Las Vegas

It was inevitable that Canadians, who account for almost one million air arrivals annually in Las Vegas, would be among the victims of the horrendous mass shootings this October. Next to Florida and Los Angeles, this city in the desert welcomes more Canadians arriving by air than any other. And the reasons are clear—it is an exciting, well-run, highly attractive location designed for purely one purpose—to attract tourism and make visitors feel welcome. What happened? The same thing that happened in Barcelona in August, in Paris and Nice in 2015, in Manchester and London earlier this year, in Orlando in 2016, and that will undoubtedly happen in other locations in the near future: unhinged zealots taking out their anger on innocent, defenseless people.  Are there lessons to be learned from these tragedies, given that they are so unexpected, random, and irrational? Perhaps the most common element is the presence of…

Travel Insurance for Snowbird Season

To millions of Canadian seniors, Thanksgiving weekend kicks off snowbird season: either they’re packing up for the trek south to Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, or beyond, or they’re well into the planning stage—the purchase of travel insurance being a top priority. If you’re among this fast-growing cohort (the Conference Board of Canada estimates the numbers of Canadians aged 55 to 64 will increase by 8 percent annually between 2015 and 2019; and those over 65 by 15 percent per year) you’re going to have plenty of insurance plan choices, albeit at increased premium prices. CBoC estimates that premium prices were 9 percent higher in 2016 over the previous year, and that trajectory will likely remain unchanged this coming season. The sad reality is that so long as American health care costs continue to escalate, Canadian insurers must anticipate paying increasingly expensive claims in US dollars from premiums collected in lower…

What Now for Mexico—Canada’s Most Favoured Leisure Destination?

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria which ravaged much of the Caribbean basin and Florida, and two massive earthquakes in Mexico, Canadian leisure travel options in North America’s hot countries have taken a huge hit. Though the 7.1 magnitude quake centred in Puebla State just south east of Mexico City (followed by a 6.1 magnitude aftershock) got most of the media attention, an earlier, and even bigger 8.2. quake that epicentred 120 km off shore in the Pacific, attacking the coastal southwestern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco, killed more than 100 residents and virtually shut down a normally bustling tourism industry. The combination of the two quakes and a high-magnitude aftershock, barely a week apart, covering huge areas of central Mexico to its southern border with Guatemala, have put a huge question mark over the ability of these areas to rebuild, and the availability of an infrastructure…

Travel Planning Lessons for Canadians from Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma has left a long-lasting legacy on many island countries of the Caribbean as well as the US southeast, especially Florida—a legacy that Canadians must factor into any short- or long-term travel plans for these regions. Full recovery in many of these areas—even those not prominently covered in the media– may take a long time. The full extent of damage is yet to be tallied, so be patient when trying to get more precise information about friends, family, or properties you may have in the affected areas. In the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Barts, Bahamas, Cuba, and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten are all under Canadian government “Avoid All Travel” or “Avoid All Non-Essential Travel” warnings. In the face of hurricane Maria, Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico are also under advisement. These warning levels may change from day to day. To stay current, view the advisories online. Take…

Hurricane Irma Update

There is no part of Florida that has escaped the damage from Hurricane Irma and the demanding task of recovery and reconstruction that will take many months to come. For Canadians, particularly snowbirds that have property in Florida, the full impact may not yet be known. Communities remain isolated as power remains sporadic and transportation continues to be hampered by lack of fuel. Fort Lauderdale, a heavily commercial urban area, has few traffic lights in operation, supermarkets are powered by generators with shelves that are bare of staples, and ice (a crucially important product when power and refrigeration is out) is almost impossible to get. It is common to see drivers sitting in their cars idling while recharging their cellphones. Despite politicians’ promises that fuel is on its way, none appears to be showing up at a majority of service stations in this area. If you have property in any…

Travel Warning: Canadian Winter Texans Avoid Harvey

Global Canada has issued a stern “avoid all travel” warning to Canadians planning to visit flood-stricken Texas. Warnings extend from Port Mansfield—just north of the city of Brownsville (well-known to many winter Texan snowbirds), along the Gulf Coast, and inland areas including Houston. With tropical storm Harvey moving eastward into Louisiana, restricted travel warnings are likely to be extended well past the time Harvey calms down and the flood waters recede. We urge all Canadians anticipating travel to any part of Texas south of Dallas, especially Winter Texans concerned about their homes or properties in the Rio Grande Valley north of Brownsville (in the MacAllen/Harlingen area), to monitor the Global Canada website for current travel advisories and warnings. Travel Canada defines an “avoid all travel” warning level as, “an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory, or region. If you are…

Nobody Benefits by Travel Insurance Claim Denials

Though travel insurance claim denials are rare events, they are sure to capture headlines when they do happen. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted for the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), 95 percent of all travel claims submitted in Canada are paid. But the consequences of even one claim denial can be frightening and financially devastating. Nobody benefits by a claim denial: obviously not the client, and certainly not the insurer who must absorb the bad publicity and ill feelings such a negative event causes. If It Happens to You Any claim denial should explain in clear, plain language the specific exclusion being applied. For example, if the exclusion precludes payment for an unstable pre-existing condition, you should be shown the evidence in your doctor’s medical records that a condition truly was pre-existing, or unstable, or warranted reporting on a medical underwriting questionnaire. The citation…

Know Your Insurance. Know Your Doctor Too

If you have any chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis or COPD, applying for travel insurance can be somewhat intimidating. After all, you’re not a doctor and the terminology in some of those medical questionnaires is not written in common everyday language. It is a legal contract. Still, if you’re asking to be covered for a foreign trip—short or long—you need to give the insurer a clear, accurate picture of your health status: have you had any new diagnosis or recurrent symptoms over the past 3, 6, or 12 months; have you been treated by a physician, been referred to a specialist, undergone  tests, are awaiting tests or test results, been prescribed new medication, or had your dosage changed, during that time period? Have you talked to your doctor? In preparing for a trip, have you discussed the status of any chronic conditions with your family doctor? Has…

Travel Insurance Claim Denial? Demand Answers

If you’ve ever had a travel insurance claim denied, you know how frustrating it can be to get an answer in plain language that tells you why an insurer won’t pay. First of all, let’s get one fable taken care of: Insurers do not routinely deny claims and pay only those for clients who fight back. 95 percent of all travel insurance claims submitted are paid. But if you are among the unfortunate few to receive a claim denial letter and you don’t understand why, you should ask for clarity.  It’s your right. What to do Get right back to the insurer, or the party that sent you the denial letter (it could be the insurer’s assistance company), and ask for a detailed, written report that you can study at your leisure, or take to your doctor. Ask to have key words—such as “pre-existing condition,” “stable,” “condition,” “exclusion,” “eligibility,”…

Do Travel Insurers Cover Pre-existing Conditions?

Given that most people have some health imperfections, it would be unreasonable—and bad business—if travel insurers precluded all pre-existing conditions from coverage. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, circulatory issues, and many other symptoms and conditions that can be controlled and stabilized by medications and periodic physician assessments. These types of things are routinely covered in travel insurance policies—if the insurers are made aware of them before issuing the policy, and if the insured customers understand the limitations placed on that benefit and coverage. In covering pre-existing conditions, the most important thing insurers need to know is whether or not they are stable, how long have they been stable and what medications and treatments they have required to keep them stable. Essentially, what risk are insurers undertaking in covering them? This leads to the biggest question of all: what is “Stable,” anyway? Many Canadians, before leaving on longer trips,…

Enhanced Electronic Device Screening at U.S. Airports

Travellers to U.S. airports will now be required to remove all electronic equipment bigger than their cell phone from carry-on luggage, and have it inspected when going through TSA security before proceeding to their departure gate. The new requirement will cover tablets, e-readers, handheld game consoles, and laptops, all of which will be put in a bin and passed through an X-ray scanner. Previously, only laptops were subject to these enhanced inspection techniques. The new rules will apply only in standard security lanes. They will not affect travellers in preclearance systems such as Nexus. TSA advises travellers to keep their electronics organized and have all devices ready for inspection so as to keep security lines moving. Acting administrator of the Transportation and Safety Administration Huban Gowadia says, “It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe.…

Canadian Travel to Mexico Breaks Records

Despite lingering concerns about drug cartel violence and occasional reports about Canadian expatriates being burglarized or worse, Mexico continues to be Canada’s most favoured travel leisure destination outside of the United States. According to data released by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) and the Secretaría de Turismo de México (STP), Canadians made a record 1.6 million leisure trips to Mexico in 2016, and projections are that the trajectory will continue on the upswing. The data show that Canadians are also spending more of their travel dollars on trips to Latin America—particularly Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama, which together accounted for over 300,000 Canadian arrivals in 2016. Cuba slips At the same time, Canadian arrivals to Cuba slipped in 2016 to 1.25 million, down from a record 1.3 million in 2015. The reduction is attributed largely to hotel room price increases of 15 to 20 per cent, which…

Thailand Expected to Require Travel Insurance

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, an increasingly popular tourist destination for Canadians, be aware that the Thai government is considering making proof of travel insurance mandatory for foreign visitors. The reason: state hospitals are losing at least $88 million USD a year treating visitors. Data from the Conference Board of Canada indicates that 244,000 Canadians visited Thailand in 2016, 7.3 percent more than the year previous. Current figures show that numbers are growing at a rate of 5 percent. According to published reports, officials at the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports consider travel insurance an urgent necessity and are working to get legislation enacted as quickly as possible. Officials at the ministry have stated that as soon as the rule is put into effect, all visitors will be required to show proof of travel health insurance along with their other entry documentation upon arrival in the country.…

Buying a Retirement Property in Florida

If you’ve been thinking of cashing in on your home in Toronto, Vancouver, or other Canadian real estate hot spots to buy a retirement property in Florida, now may be the time. Though prices for individual homes or condos in Florida have rebounded substantially since the real estate recession and are now selling briskly, there is still a big window of opportunity for closing a single home,  townhouse, or condo at prices close to what they were just before the housing recession hit in 2006. According to official Florida Realtor figures, the average sale price of a single family home this spring was $324,839 USD, 8.3 percent higher than last year.  And the average sale price of a townhouse or condo in this spring was up $261,635 USD, up 8 percent over the comparable month last year. That’s a statewide average, which includes high price areas such as Miami-Dade, Naples,…

Need Travel Insurance? Report Your Pre-existing Conditions

Are you hesitant about applying for travel insurance because you have a pre-existing medical condition? Don’t be. If insurers turned away all applicants who have some medical imperfection or take certain medications, or who are required to visit their physicians periodically, they would go out of business. Travel insurers understand that very few people are in perfect health, many take medications for common ailments, and as people age they are expected to become more proactive in maintaining their good health. As a result, most individual travel policies today will cover many with pre-existing conditions, so long as the conditions are reported and insurers have a clear understanding of the conditions in question, and how they are being treated and maintained. But you must reveal them when applying. Most policies will, in fact, allow coverage of certain pre-existing conditions if they have been stable and controlled over certain periods of time…

Prepare for Storm Season, Snowbirds!

Canadian snowbirds with property in the southern states should heed the wake-up call left by Cindy, a tropical storm that flooded many parts of the Gulf of Mexico states from Texas to the Florida Panhandle. It’s hurricane season, and if you haven’t fully secured your property, you’d best do it now—whether you have a condo, individual family home, mobile or manufactured home. You need to make sure you’re protected against what weather experts predict may be an above-average storm-activity summer and fall. What do you need to do? Make sure you understand your homeowner’s insurance policy. Do not assume that you’re covered for wind, storm or flood damage under that policy. Most homeowner policies require additional supplements for damages caused by wind or floods—and not everything that looks like rising water is considered a flood. If you’re unsure about your coverage, call your agent and make adjustments while there…

US Returns Restrictions on Cuba Tourism. No Problem for Canadians

In a visit to Little Havana in Miami, US President Donald Trump announced a re-imposition of the ban on tourism by individual Americans, as well as tighter controls on commerce with the government of Raul Castro. The restrictions reverse many, but not all, of the embargo sanctions lifted by President Obama in early 2016. The restrictions on individual travel (which under the Obama deal allowed travel by individuals for educational or people-to-people pre-arrangements) will impact the surge of American tourism and US-based airline travel that in 2016 allowed more than 600,000 Americans to visit the island nation as visitors and tourists. Canadians still far outpace that number of visitors, making well over one million trips to Cuba each year. What will this mean for Canadians visiting Cuba? It should mean less congestion when looking for hotel and resort room space—which was getting cramped by increasing numbers of new tourists from…

Travel Insurers Issue a Consumers’ Bill of Rights

Recently we reported on provincial and federal regulators’ recommendations to reform the travel insurance marketplace and make it more user-friendly—more transparent, less complicated, easier for customers to apply and be sure they are getting the coverage they need. Fortunately, the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) has over the past two years been developing a consumer Bill of Rights designed to empower purchasers in their dealings with sellers of insurance and—just as important—with administrators and claims managers who service their products right through their full life cycle. The intention of the Bill of Rights is to give you a voice, leverage, a clear declaration of what you have a right to expect from the insurers you choose to deal with—as well as what your own obligations are in making the coverage contract work for you. Here is a full reproduction of the Bill of Rights which THIA has just rolled…

Regulators Weigh-in on Travel Insurance Transparency

If applying for travel insurance sometimes leaves you confused and has you reaching for a medical dictionary, you’re not alone.  Providers of insurance policies, at the urging of provincial and federal regulators, are working to make their products more user-friendly. Just last week, the Canadian Council of Insurance regulators released its latest in a series of study papers outlining what needs to be done to ensure fair treatment of travel insurance consumers when purchasing protection for out-of-country and interprovincial travel. The release noted that travel insurers have been cooperating with the council to educate consumers about the limitations and exclusions, as well as the benefits, of their products. But it noted that they would be monitoring their progress in making the purchase of travel insurance fairer and more transparent for the customer. That’s a positive move because travel insurance is an important purchase, and it should not be handled casually…

Tips for Hurricane Season

June marks the beginning of hurricane season in Florida and the Southeast and Gulf States, so if you’re planning a vacation in any of these areas over the summer or fall, take a few simple steps to protect your investment. First, let’s establish that hurricanes touch down in the US rarely, appearing only once or twice a year. But the biggest threat is their unpredictability: how powerful will they be, when and where will they land?  They may give us three weeks’ notice, or only two days. And as anyone who has ever been through a real hurricane knows, they are frightening, life-threatening, and should not to be taken lightly. So what must you do?  Though June through November is traditionally known as hurricane season, the peak months of storm activity are August, September and October—with Labour Day weekend being the expected finale. Generally, that coincides with high ocean…