Summer is Here. Start Thinking: “Snow”

As loony as it sounds (pardon the pun), what better time to start planning your winter getaway than… right now? As experienced snowbirds know: There is no better time than right now. From now through Labour Day, travel insurers will be offering a broad menu of so-called Early Bird specials in advance of what might be significant premium increases. Take advantage.

I say “might” because nothing is certain about the direction of our national economies, currency fluctuations, weather patterns, wars or threats of wars, your own health, or where and when the next volcano may erupt. There is no sure thing—except one: If you have the misfortune of falling and breaking a hip, suffering a heart attack or stroke, being tortured by a kidney stone—and you need emergency hospital care—it’s going to cost you or your insurer, big time, especially if it happens in the US.

For travel insurers, who collect their premiums in Canadian dollars and pay out their benefits (hospital or doctor charges) in US greenbacks, even a small currency margin between the two currencies is a big deal. And there is no way to accurately predict what that margin will be.

And there is the great imponderable of US hospital and medical costs—the most expensive in the world. They were high enough before Obamacare emerged. Now, health insurance premiums for Americans have soared even higher, as have hospital costs. And international travel insurers have to build that into their price structures.

But in Canada, there still is a window of opportunity for snowbirds and other winter vacationers to get the better prices. Early Bird specials, as they have become known, allow you to buy next year’s travel insurance plans at today’s prices. For insurers, this is a good way to even out revenues during the slow summer months. And for snowbirds, or anyone else who can plan ahead, it’s a way to lock in cheaper prices—even though you may not be leaving for sun country until October, November, or even later.

It’s also a smart way to buy insurance because it allows time to get the right coverage for you. I have said, many times, that buying your insurance two or three days before you leave is the wrong way to do it (unless you have no choice). But it’s better to buy just before you leave than not at all.

By buying early, you can compare not only prices, but benefits, exclusions, and health eligibilities. And you have time to check with your doctor if you’re unsure of your medical status or history. You can also review any questions you don’t understand with your doctor or insurer. Those who tell you that travel insurance is a simple purchase, one you can do in five minutes, are not telling the truth—unless you’re a young, strong, super healthy individual, one who takes no pills and has never seen the inside of a hospital.

But that brings up one word of caution: Every insurer stipulates that if your health status changes in any way between the time you buy or apply for insurance and your effective coverage date (usually the day you leave for your trip), you must notify your insurer of that change. Your insurer extends your coverage on the basis of your health status as you represent it on your application. Failure to do that may nullify any claim you generate on your trip, even if the change in your health had nothing to do with the cause of your claim.  

Travel insurance is not a simple purchase. You need to assess each policy, read it, ask questions about it, and get advice about how it fits your needs from a professional who specializes in travel insurance. There is no substitute for that expertise. Use it and rely on it.


Ready to start checking out prices? Get a quote today!

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