If you’re expecting friends or family to be visiting you in Canada this summer, one of your top priorities should be to ensure they have appropriate travel insurance to cover them for any accident or illness they may encounter while in the country—and that means from the time they set foot on Canadian soil.
Most Canadian travel insurance companies that cover you when you journey abroad or to the US have Visitor to Canada policies that can protect your visitors, but you need to understand how to assist them in applying for and choosing the policy that best meets their individual needs.
The first thing they need to understand is that buying a plan before they exit their country is essential if they want to be covered from the moment they arrive in Canada. If they purchase a policy after they arrive, there will be waiting period—usually 48 hours—before their benefits kick in (except for accidents). Until that happens, they are, in effect, uncovered and highly vulnerable.
Out-of-pocket medical costs for individuals not covered by provincial health plans are high—they can easily be over $5000 per day for hospital rooms in some urban centres, more if intensive care is required. And Canadian hospitals will insist on payment, or arrangement for payment, before your visitors leave. So make sure your visitors are aware of the need for pre-planning their insurance purchase. The best way to do that is to put them in touch with travel insurers, or agents, you have purchased coverage from in the past, or others offering their products on the internet.
What should they look for?
Though travel insurers offer different products, following are some general characteristics common to most:
Premiums will vary according to chosen coverage limits: anywhere from $10,000 of coverage up to $300,000 or more. And premiums will be based on age, length of stay and the coverage limit you choose. If your guests are planning to visit the US during their stay in Canada, they might want to consider a considerably higher limit as costs in US hospitals far exceed those in Canada. Their side trip to the US (or some other country) may be up to 30 days under some policies, or longer under others, but must not exceed the amount of time they stay in Canada.
Benefits will cover most emergent, medically necessary services in hospitals or by licensed physicians, though there may be dollar limitations on services by ancillary providers such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, or acupuncturists (which will usually be listed in their respective policies). It’s important to realize, however, that applicants or their families must contact their insurer, listed on their policy, as soon as possible after an accident or emergency admission (preferably before, if there is time) so that their case can be managed by the insurer’s medical professionals. Their chosen benefit level is not a blank cheque to be spent at their discretion.
Pre-existing conditions exclusions will apply for most plans, so your visitors must examine such limitations prior to purchase. For example, any new or recurrent symptoms or changes in medication prior to the effective date of coverage (e.g., 90 days) must be reported to the agent or insurer to determine eligibility. And applicants in older age groups might be required to complete medical questionnaires as part of their application. Applicants must also be aware that in case of any accident or emergency illness claim, they can expect the insurers to examine their past medical records. So reporting of pre-existing conditions or symptoms is a requirement not to be taken lightly.
Changes in medical status after application but before travel must be reported to the insurer. This is particularly important as many international family visits are often arranged far in advance, and it is always best to consolidate travel insurance into those plans, particularly if the travellers want trip cancellation/interruption protection for their travel investment. Most Canadian travel insurers offering health benefits also offer trip cancellation plans.
Canadian travel insurers also offer a range of coverage products for travellers visiting their families in Canada on Super Visas (extended stays), for foreign students, for foreign workers stationed in Canada, and for Canadians returning home after extended stays abroad (who are awaiting reinstatement of their provincial health benefits). We will be covering the different options here over the coming weeks. Stay with us.
Arrange protection for your family and friends visiting you in Canada here. When speaking to an agent, don’t forget to ask about trip interruption and trip cancellation add-ons.