With more Canadians travelling for longer periods and to varied destinations (according to the Conference Board of Canada, 40 percent of Canadian outbound trips are to non-US locations) there is a greater need for travel planning well ahead of departure time. This includes travel insurance requirements to cover unexpected medical emergencies or other losses.
Travel Insurance is a Two-Way Contract
These arrangements should not be left to the last minute. And though buying travel insurance is easier than ever—over the phone, online, by iPad or smart phone—there is no substitute for talking directly to an agent who specializes in travel insurance, who can point out not only the benefits of any given plan, but the limitations, exclusions, and responsibilities the purchaser has in fulfilling what is a two- way contract.
There are many purchasers of travel insurance who, after they complete their application and get the policy, put their documents in a drawer and forget them: case closed, job done. And then, perhaps several months later, comes the hard news that their claim has been denied for a pre-existing condition, or non-disclosure, or a failure to call their insurer that their health status changed after they received their policy and before they left on their trip.
With many Canadians buying Early Bird specials, the time between purchase and effective date of coverage can span several months. It’s not unusual for snowbirds, or other travelers abroad, to secure their coverage three or four months before their departure, i.e. the effective date of their coverage.
Buying early is a good thing. It gives you time to review and understand your policy and also what you need to do in a time of emergency.
But during that time, your health can change. You might experience new symptoms, or an unexpected recurrence of old ones. Or you may need a consultation with a specialist, or a referral for lab tests or a CT scan. Or you may be prescribed a new medication or a changed dosage for your current high blood pressure or diabetes pills
All Canadian travel insurance plans that base coverage on health status and have even minor health questions require you to notify them of any changes in your health that occur after you buy your insurance and the date it becomes effective—that’s usually the day you leave on your trip. That’s because your coverage is based on your health status at the time your coverage goes into effect.
Examine Your Policy After You Receive It
If you read the Confirmation of Coverage that comes with your completed policy, you will see health status notification obligations in one form or another. It will warn you that if there are changes such as those described above and if you don’t tell your insurer, any claim you submit may be denied—perhaps because of a pre-existing condition exclusion, or for non-disclosure (even if the cause of the claim had nothing to do with your undisclosed symptoms or services), or for non-reporting of an unstable condition before your effective date.
Such denials happen. And it’s not because insurers are trying to deceive you, but because they base their decision to cover you on a set of facts you provided on your applications that have changed.
What is encouraging about such a situation is that insurer can, in most cases, adjust your policy and ensure that you are covered for those new symptoms or that change in medication, without risking a lapse or gap in your coverage. You may have to pay more. But that’s a pittance compared to any claim.
Paying attention to a plan you have already bought: reading the conditions, the Confirmation of Coverage, and understanding your own obligations in reporting an emergency, is no different from taking your new car out for a spin to see that it performs as you thought it would.
Buying travel insurance is a major purchase. Give it the attention it deserves. There is more than the cost of a premium at stake if you encounter a large claim. It’s a two-way contract. You have to hold up your end.
Are you ready to skip off to Singapore? Or looking for some fun in the sun? Purchase your travel insurance early here.