Dear Doctor: I Need Your Help Before I Travel

Tell Me Like It Is. Be frank if you think my best-before date for travel has passed, or if my health is unstable. Travel insurance policies may NOT pay for my care outside of Canada if you imply, condone, or encourage me to travel when I am not in stable health. So cheerful advice like this may not (on its own) be helpful:

  • You have my blessing*
  • Do whatever you want
  • You are in pretty good shape for 85
  • You can either be miserable here, or in Vegas by a pool

*I may have to ask you if I have your permission to travel. Please don’t give me permission unless you know the conditions and exclusions in my insurance policy.

  • Consider my mental capacity – Would you trust me to shop for YOUR travel insurance? No? Then suggest I get help from an agent or broker, along with a member of my family.
  • Be sure I have the facts – Please check my answers to the medical questions and the sections of travel insurance policies that refer to excluded health conditions and excluded travellers. Try to use terminology, like “stable” and “pre-existing medical condition,” as defined in my insurance policy.
  • Dates and time periods are important – Provide a summary of my medical status, prescriptions, treatments, and changes of conditions. Please supply your reasoning to go along with those dates, because I am not going to remember precisely. Suggest that I pay to get a copy of my medical history to show my insurance adviser. Or, if you think I’m capable, recommend that I keep my own journal.
  • Be sure I have enough medicine – Please provide repeat prescriptions to last beyond the length of my trip, and suggest extra pills that would be safe and effective to relieve discomfort, such as motion sickness** on a cruise.**Ami Maishlish, owner of CompuOffice Software Inc. in Toronto, recalls the time that a doctor on a cruise ship billed $1,500 to examine and observe his wife before providing her with Gravol. The doctor moved on and her travel insurer refused to pay.
  • Think before you change my prescription – Insurers regard a recent change of prescription (even a reduced dosage or a switch to a generic brand) as a sign of instability. That could void my coverage. So avoid making a change that could safely wait until I get home. Please don’t ruin my coverage for nothing.
Sources: Suggestions provided by Matt Davies of Ingle International, Toronto; Dave Harris, Benefit Resource Group, Alliston; Markham; Nigel R. Ottley of Global Insurance Solutions Inc., Toronto; Ron Singer, Megacorp Insurance Agencies Inc., Mississauga.

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