If you haven’t reviewed the travel health insurance provisions of your retirement benefits package recently, do it now, without delay. All retirement plans are undergoing scrutiny and change and you need to be sure that you not only understand what your travel insurance benefits are, but that you have a written contract specifying exactly what you are covered for, what you are not covered for, and how you coverage has changed. It invariably has.
The biggest problem people have with corporate benefit retirement plans is that few benefits managers are experts in travel insurance and what it is designed to do. I have heard of many cases recently of pensioners being unable to get a clear breakout of what their travel insurance covers under these plans which cover also life, domestic health benefits, extended disability care, etc. If you do not have a written contract and are counting on the word of a benefits manager that you are covered for “everything” you need to do your homework, before your next trip.
Some key questions you need to pin down:
What is the total health benefit your plan will cover? $100,000; $500,000; $1 million?
Is that in Canadian currency or US? Is the payout for a single incident, multiple incidents on a single trip, or lifetime. If the payout is for a single incident it is blatantly inadequate. If it is for a lifetime, remember that each time you have an emergency, that draws down the total cap and you may be left in a few years with no health cover at all.
Will your plan reimburse foreign hospitals and doctors directly, or will it leave you to pay a deposit, or the whole bill, and then have you seek reimbursement. Are you prepared to pay out $50,000 to a U.S. hospital on your credit card and then wait—and hope—you may get some of it back?
Will your plan repatriate you to a hospital in your home province in case of medical emergency, or simply take you to the nearest appropriate hospital—wherever that may be—and leave you to make the arrangements to get home. This is no job for amateurs.
And just how up to date is your plan? Virtually all dedicated travel health insurers in Canada review their plans constantly to keep up to date with changes in terrorism, natural disaster, and other civil disturbance or disobedience conditions around the world. Most now have some limited coverage for such contingencies. You need to know where you stand if trouble strikes while you are in Bali, Mumbai, South America, the Caribbean or on a cruise ship attacked by modern day pirates.
Make no mistake, corporate benefits plans are valuable assets and they can provide a good foundation for your retirement years. But even the best of these plans need to be checked and re-checked yearly to make sure they provide the cover you anticipate. And just because your plan is back up by a huge international conglomerate, that doesn’t mean some serious gaps have not developed in your safety net. We have seen recently that “bigger” does not always mean “better.”