We’ve been warning you since mid-summer that Ontario would be cutting its share of health costs for out-of-country travel to zero. At first, the cutoff date was set for October 1, 2019, then it was moved to January 1, 2020. And that’s where it stands.
As of New Year’s Day, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will no longer cover any part of your out-of-country emergency medical costs. This is the first province in Canada to arbitrarily carve that particular benefit out of the Canada Heath Act, purportedly saving $2.9 million to administer some $9 million in emergency health fees paid to foreign hospitals and doctors.
Will other provinces follow Ontario’s lead? Who knows? We’ll tell you if it happens.
Though OHIP traditionally paid only about 5 per cent of actual charges billed by foreign hospitals and doctors (the rest being paid by Canada’s private travel insurers, or by the patients themselves), that share will now have to be picked up by travellers through insurance premium increases—which the Canadian Snowbird Association has estimated at approximately 7.5 per cent this coming winter season and beyond.
For short trips or for healthy people, those increases should be easily manageable. For snowbirds spending several months in warmer climates or for elderly people in less-than-perfect health, they may be less manageable, but there is no option—travelling uninsured is a risk you don’t want to undertake.
You have heard enough about hospital and doctors’ charges in other countries (not only the US) to understand the grim consequence of being stricken ill or suffering an accident (even a minor one) in a foreign country. I have seen many six-figure claims for relatively short hospitalizations.
Fortunately, most seasoned Canadian travellers are aware of the need for travel insurance.
According to a survey done last year by the Conference Board of Canada, 78 per cent of Canadians who travelled internationally on their last trip said they were covered by some form of travel insurance. That includes over 93 per cent of those aged 65 or older, and over 84 per cent of those 56 to 64 years old. That’s the good news.
But not all coverage is equal
Many travellers are covered only by credit cards—which, though adequate for some, usually don’t cover pre-existing conditions, or provide coverage for extended periods—such as beyond 15 or 30 days. And many don’t cover persons over 65. You need to read the fine print.
There are also retiree pension plans which offer out-of-country emergency medical coverage, but some of these have limited lifetime benefits, short coverage periods, or limits on payments.
Fortunately, the Canadian marketplace for travel insurance is broad, highly sophisticated, and sufficiently varied to cover virtually anyone whose doctor allows them to travel, though some will have to provide detailed information about their health and have their premiums adjusted accordingly.
The key to optimal coverage at an appropriate price is to find the best fit for your individual needs: insurance according to your age, medical history, the medications you take, your travel destination (forget Afghanistan or Venezuela), your lifestyle (are you a scuba diver, skier, hiker, mountain climber?), and your frequency of travel (one trip a year or many). All of these are parameters that need to be considered in order to give you the protection you require.
Last year, multi-trip policies outsold single-trip policies—attesting to the fact that Canadians are travelling more often; 38 per cent of Canada’s baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) took at least one overnight trip out of the country; and in 2021, when the oldest boomers start to turn 75, there are expected to be 10 million millennials ready to “pick up the slack,” according to the Conference Board of Canada. That’s an exciting trajectory!
In future blog posts we’ll be digging into the details of what you need to know and do to get the coverage that best fits your needs and your budget. Stay tuned.
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