Health insurance for international travel is not a “mere” formality. Accidents or attacks of illness happen when you least expect them. And if they happen in a foreign country, you need proof that your medical care will be paid for. More and more countries are insisting on proof of health insurance. Carry it with you.
According to the Canadian government Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) website, increasing numbers of countries are requiring tourists to show proof of adequate health insurance as a condition of entry. And adequate does not mean your provincial health plan, which pays only a small portion of out of country medical bills. They want proof of real insurance.
Many European countries specifically require at least the equivalent of 30,000 euros worth of medical coverage. At current rates that equates to about $38,300 Canadian. And there are hospitals that may require much more than that.
The U.S. does not require proof of insurance, but the hospitals certainly will (even though under the law they are required to treat any medical emergency until the patient can be stabilized and moved out). But don’t count on getting away free, because the hospital also has the right to demand a promissory note or credit card or whatever device it can get to make sure you will pay your bill, or a portion of it. Having acceptable travel insurance from a recognized Canadian company will eliminate that need in most hospitals although you will still have to sign a commitment that you are ultimately responsible for the bill in case your insurer doesn’t pay: if your insurance is invalid, or you didn’t reveal an unstable pre-existing condition, or you didn’t accurately complete your medical application.
All travel insurance companies in Canada will provide you with a wallet size card that verifies your insurance and lists an emergency number you can call in case of emergency. The insurer will also give you a confirmation of coverage and a policy detailing the coverage benefits and exclusions and limitations.
First, read it. Second, don’t stick it in a drawer with your old Christmas cards. Carry the package with you—wallet card, certificate of coverage, and policy.
Telling a hospital admissions clerk in Turkey, Japan, or Arizona that you have insurance but can’t find your card is asking for trouble. You need proof. You need to know what coverage you have. You need to satisfy the requirements of governments and health institutions in the country you are visiting. Remember, you are a guest, and your host writes the rules and calls the shots.