Protect Your Visitors to Canada—Travel Insurance Is Necessary

Expecting overseas visitors this summer? Perhaps family members you rarely see—or have never seen?

Enjoy their visit, but make sure they don’t become an unwitting burden by getting sick at the wrong time, stepping off a curb into the path of a car “going the wrong way,” or falling off a bike on a mountain cycling path and requiring emergency transportation or hospital care.

They may not know it, but hospital care anywhere in Canada is very expensive. And unless they have travel insurance specifically designed for medical emergencies, they will have to pay cash on the barrelhead. And if you have been generous enough to let them come over on your tab, or in a moment of reckless compassion, and you offer to co-sign their medical or hospital debt, then be prepared to pay up.

Your uncle or aunt from Romania or Vietnam may be grateful for your largesse, but once they return home, it’s you who will be left behind to deal with the hospital collectors. And they know how to collect.

Canadian hospitals are under great financial stress. Many provincial health care budgets are being frozen, and hospitals must look to other sources for funding. Treating foreign patients at rates far beyond those they charge patients from other provinces (which are paid for by those patients’ health ministries) is becoming more than fashionable: it’s becoming necessary.

What does that mean for your visitors, or perhaps you?

Unless they have travel insurance—which is now widely available from the same insurers you use when you travel out of Canada—they can be hit with bills ranging anywhere from $3,000 (CAD) to $6,000 per day just for a hospital bed. These figures can double or even triple for intensive care, and costs for attending doctors and procedures, none of which are cheap, will be additional.

Example: The Queensway Carleton hospital in Ottawa lists some of the fees it charges non-residents of Canada on its website: MRI, $2,030 (CAD); lab tests, $125 each; ambulance, $240; a bed in a ward (four to six patients), $2,900 per day; semi-private (two patients), $3,100; ward intensive care, $6,000. And these prices do not include additional charges for attending physicians, surgeons, anesthetists, crutches, casts, etc.

And these are just examples. It could be more in other hospitals, it could be less. But not much less. And the farther west you go in Canada, the costlier it is.

Some of your visitors might have their own insurance, but Canadian hospitals may not bill their charges directly to their insurer. They will prefer to charge the patient and expect them to seek reimbursement. This is common, and your visitors must be prepared to pay.

They may also be required to put down a deposit (usually for three days) before being admitted, although in case of a true emergency, they will certainly be stabilized (but charged, nonetheless). And even if treatment ends in the emergency room, the charges could run into the thousands of dollars.

The best way to protect against this kind of emotional and financial disruption is to have your visitors buy travel insurance from Canadian companies that specialize in “visitor to Canada” coverage (all of the major insurers have good products), and make sure the coverage is effective the moment they land or cross over into Canada.

If they wait until they are in Canada to buy insurance, there is usually a two- or three-day “waiting period” before the policy becomes effective. This is a safeguard to protect insurers from visitors who wait until they are sick to buy coverage.

I know of too many cases of visitors being trapped in that 48-hour non-coverage zone. It’s avoidable, so don’t let it happen.

And if your visitors are parents or grandparents coming for long-stay visits—anything from a few years up to two years, for example—ask your insurer about Super Visa coverage, which is a special product tailored for such occasions.

It may initially be uncomfortable for you to raise the issue of travel insurance with friends or relatives from other countries coming to visit you. They may have heard that health care in Canada is free; many in the world have this assumption. But you have to be honest with your visitors—for their protection as well as yours—and ultimately because you care for them and want to keep them not only safe but also happy.


For Visitors to Canada travel insurance, please check Ingle International.



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