Canadian doctors are among the best in the world. But when it comes to out-of-country health insurance, they have a lot to learn. In fact there are many snowbirds who know a lot more about travel insurance than do their doctors.
And that’s a pity, because there are few family practitioners in Canada who don’t have either snowbirds, or frequent out-of-country travellers as patients. And it is all too easy to give a patient a “clean bill of health” and tell them to go ahead and have a good winter without paying heed to the conditions of their travel insurance.
Though very few claims are denied, given the millions that are sold, it’s quite common for claimants to argue that their doctor told them not to worry about a condition or symptoms they didn’t consider worrisome or that they considered stable and controlled—without actually reading how the policy defined “stable and controlled”.
All travel health insurance policies sold in Canada have eligibility requirements, limitations and exclusions, and most require applicants to answer questionnaires. Undoubtedly, physicians can help with these, but only if they know the policy ground rules and what the exclusions and limitations are.
They have to know how a policy defines a pre-existing condition (whether diagnosed or not), or a condition that is stable. They also have to know that non-disclosure of medical information on a policy can cause it to be nullified in case of a claim even if the condition is unrelated to the emergency.
This is not trickery by the insurers: they are limited to covering emergencies only and their policies have eligibility requirements and exclusions and limitations. Without them, very few Canadians would be able to afford private health insurance, and certainly the pitifully small amounts provincial governments pay for out-of-country care wouldn’t cover very much.
Consequently doctors should have a responsibility to learn at least some of the basic principles of private travel health insurance. They don’t have to get into the weeds of all the details. But they should at least know the ground rules.
None of this is difficult, as most policies work on similar principles although their language and requirements may differ slightly. And if physicians at least learned some of these principles they could give some valuable guidance to their travelling patients.
This is especially critical for Canadians, because medicare doesn’t leave the country. Even in the U.S., which has many uninsured, the vast majority of people do have insurance and most carry their coverage with them wherever they go. It’s not complete, it’s not perfect, but they have decent coverage. Canadians who leave the country without private supplemental travel insurance are virtually bare.
So make sure when you travel you discuss the details of your travel insurance with your physician and make sure your physician knows your travel insurance is not designed to be a substitute for your domestic medicare.
And if you have any questions about your eligibility or a policy’s limitations, talk it over first with the advertisers offering their products on this site. They represent most of Canada’s major insurers. They can advise you about what you need and when you should talk things over with your doctor. Dealing with specialists will save you not only time and anxiety, but money.
All travel insurers advertising on this site meet TravelInsuranceFile’s acceptability criteria for out-of-country health benefits for Canadian residents and they represent most of the major insurers and underwriters in Canada. They can all advise you on the limitations and allowances of travel to distant countries. Speak with them, explore their products online, ask questions, and once you get the right answers, buy right online.