No matter where you travel this spring and summer, carry physical proof of private travel insurance coverage with you. Europe will be a good deal because of the strong dollar, but hospitals are not cheap—anywhere. And without proof of coverage, you can be left on the hook.
More and more countries, in Europe especially, are now requiring visitors to have sufficient insurance to cover themselves for medical emergencies while they are guests. They’re doing this because they don’t want their hospitals, or their health systems, to drain away valuable resources to foreigners who don’t pay. And if you think it’s only the United States that charges exorbitantly for health care services, think again. Medical care of the quality you would demand is expensive, and your provincial health insurance will probably cover less than 10 percent. Consequently, many European countries require you have a minimum of 30,000 euros (about $40,000 CAD) of coverage. Your government health insurance won’t come close to that.
Though many European countries have some form of government-run or sponsored health insurance— that is for its own citizens, not for foreigners. And even if you have dual citizenship in the country you will be visiting, you will very likely not be covered for medical services—not unless you are a permanent resident. If you are a dual citizen and you assume you are covered, make sure you check with that country’s consulate before you leave.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT): “Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada. It is essential to obtain supplementary travel insurance ― health, life, disability, driving, vehicle, and trip cancellation ― before leaving Canada.”
In addition, make sure you have physical proof, such as a card with the name of your insurer, emergency assistance service and telephone contact number. Better yet, carry your policy with you so that hospital personnel can easily and immediately verify coverage and perhaps even arrange for your insurer to pay them directly. You don’t want to get into a situation of having to pay up or guarantee $50,000 or $100,000 of your own money and then have to go back to your insurer for reimbursement.
All major Canadian travel insurers are structured to pay hospitals and doctors directly anywhere in the world. And they will cover eligible medical services up to least $1 million (some will go up to $5 million), air ambulance repatriation home, even fly a family member to your bedside, if medically necessary. An air ambulance repatriation from Europe can cost $75,000, so you want to make sure you have it as part of your coverage package.