Can I Buy a Lifetime Travel Insurance Policy?

Recently I was asked if there was any travel insurance plan on the market that could be bought for a lifetime, the premise being that by buying it while the applicant was young and without pre-existing conditions, they could be protected later in life. Alas, I had to say “NO.” Here’s why.

Travel insurance is supplemental to government health insurance, or any other private health insurance you may have. It is meant only as a stopgap to fill in what the provincial plans don’t cover—and when it comes to out-of-country medical emergencies they cover very little. That’s why Canadians buy travel insurance.

It is also structured and priced to cover only unexpected medical emergencies, NOT unstable pre-existing conditions (or ones that are under treatment or investigation). To undertake lifetime coverage for a young applicant would necessitate coverage for any pre-existing conditions they would be expected to acquire as they age. That’s a risk no travel insurer is going to take. Their pricing is based on health status and age at the time of application. That’s why travel insurance is priced according to relatively narrow age bands—low for people in their 20s or 30s, relatively higher as the applicants age.

The most you can get out of any travel insurance plan is 365 days—be it a single-trip plan or an annual multi-trip plan that allows you to take an unlimited number of out-of-country trips within a predetermined duration. A 30-day multi-trip plan will allow you to take as many trips up to 30 days as you can squeeze into a year without having to call your insurer—so long as you return to your home province for at least 24 hours between segments.

Also, if you have a medical emergency claim in one of those segments, you are required to inform your insurer so they can alter the terms of your coverage for any remaining segments in that plan. Multi-trip plans come in all durations—15 days to 180, and anything in between. They’re a good buy because they are based on the lowered risk carried by somebody who is out of the country for only 30 days at a time rather than 180 days. And they’re priced accordingly. If you travel often on shorter trips, this is the way to go.

All travel insurers advertising on this website offer annual trip plans.  Ask about them. You can also buy right online.

A word about “renewing” single or multi-trip plans. Some people think that by simply calling your insurer and having them “renew” last year’s plan you are covered under the same terms, even though your health may have changed in the interim. That’s not so. In effect, there is no such thing as “renewal” of a travel insurance plan. Reissue would be a better word, because whatever plan you had least year is irrelevant.

Each single-trip or multi-trip plan is a separate contract, dependent upon your health status (and the answers you provided to any medical questions) at the time you applied.

I know that applying every year is a pain in the neck. And paying more for a pre-existing condition is bothersome. But the upside is that, for the majority of travelers who are in relatively good health—as most are—premiums for these plans are considerably lower than they would otherwise be.

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