New Season for Travel Insurance Products Coming Up—Stay Alert

With travel insurance premiums expected to rise significantly this fall—partly due to the Ontario government’s decision to eliminate all payments for out-of-country medical fees—it’s understandable that travellers, particularly longer-term snowbirds, will be looking for ways to economize.

Comparing prices between several insurance providers has always been the first option for making sure you get the best price available—but that only works if you’re comparing similar products. And that’s hard, given the differences in benefits, exclusion requirements, medical underwriting, age limitations, and a score of other factors offered in the travel insurance marketplace.

One stratagem that seems to have caught on is using a free credit card or employer/retiree group plan to cover the first 15, 30, or 60 days of a trip, then “topping up” with an individual single-trip plan for the bulk of it. Sometimes that can work to save you a lot of money. But there are also potential hazards you need to seriously consider and understand before you commit yourself.

Besides the possibility that credit card or group plans may have certain limitations—such as age limits, caps on lifetime benefits, or no coverage for pre-existing conditions—you need to make sure that plans coincide so that you don’t end up with a coverage gap that can leave you in a benefits “no-man’s land.”

What do we mean by that? Here’s an example—one that happens a lot and with serious consequences.

Plan A, a group plan for company pensioners, offers good, complete coverage for 30 days, and it’s free—so your first 30 days are a bonus. It has pretty liberal coverage for stable pre-existing conditions, so you feel pretty safe.

How about blending that with Plan B, an individual single-trip plan that also meets your health needs and is available for a fair price?

Sounds reasonable… until on the 15th day of your trip you fall on your condo walkway, fracture your knee, and suffer a phlebitis that keeps you hospitalized until you can be released in a stable and satisfactory condition.

Then, on the 40th day of your trip—now under the coverage of Plan B—you are rushed to hospital with a recurrence of your phlebitis and spend another week in hospital, only to be released and told by your insurer for Plan B that it cannot pay the claim because your confinement was due to an unstable pre-existing condition that occurred before the new plan came into effect (under Plan A). And you neglected to tell insurer B about your changed health status as your contract required.

Sounds weird? Tricky? Underhanded? Not at all. It happens, and it’s not some sinister plot to get out of paying a bill. Insurers do not like denying claims. It looks bad. It loses them the business of all of the people you will talk to about your nightmare encounter. But paying out on a faulty claim just means passing on those costs to other customers.

How can you spare yourself the dilemma we just described on some future trip? When you get your contract from the provider of the top-up plan, take notice: it warns you that if your health status changes in any way between the time you buy your plan and when coverage goes into effect, you must call your provider/broker and report what happened. They can then reassess your plan, probably re-price your premium, or perhaps even tell you that it’s best for you to return home and take care of your health until your condition stabilizes. Bitter pill? Sure. But then you won’t be stuck with a medical bill you can’t handle. And there’s always next year. That’s why dealing with any top-up situation is best handled with the guidance of a trained travel insurance professional.

How else can you avoid a trip to no-man’s land? The most obvious and safest way is to leave the shorter-term credit card or group plan coverage for another time.

Cover your entire trip with one plan, one provider, one set of rules and requirements. It can save you a lot of time, anxiety, and money.

Throughout the summer, we’ll be offering you tips and common-sense advice about how to shop for and buy travel insurance that is best for your individual needs—not only saving you money, but keeping you from falling into circumstances that can make your head spin. Stay with us.

Travel freely, travel blissfully. We cover Canadian Travellers with travel medical insurance and non-medical travel insurance such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage worldwide. We’ve got it all taken care of. For more information, visit, call us at 1-800-360-3234 or email us at

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