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US Lifts Ban on Pot Workers, But Travel Rules Remain—For Now

The announcement by the US Customs and Border Protection agency that it will not impede Canadians who work in the rapidly growing cannabis industry from entering the United States for routine leisure or non-business travel suggests an easing of the federal government’s long-standing prohibition of marijuana use and commerce. The CBP statement, published on its website, reads: “A Canadian citizen working or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S., however if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for a reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.” The CBP clarification followed several weeks of speculation about how stringently CBP officers would enforce border restrictions on not only Canadian cannabis workers, but all other Canadian travellers whose own government has permitted them to…

Goodbye NAFTA. Hello USMCA. Hold on to Your Health Insurance

Canada’s new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico (replacing NAFTA) has gone through a tortuous negotiation, but finally has been completed. And according to the new rules built into USMCA (US, Mexico, Canada Agreement) there are no changes to visa requirements for workers and professionals affected by the new accord. The old NAFTA rules remain for business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. (For details or updates on those rules, you can visit the Government of Canada’s website.) In short, the agreement doesn’t change a member country’s general immigration regulations governing public health, safety, and national security; and, significantly for workers and professionals posted abroad for long periods, it still doesn’t make provisions for any kind of reciprocity for health care coverage as has been a staple for individuals and companies operating within European Union countries. USMCA (like its forerunner NAFTA) is tied to trade, and…

Travelling Abroad? You Can’t Take Canada’s Cannabis with You

Canada’s marijuana legalization has attracted international media headlines the way few other Canadian actions have in recent memory—much more newsworthy than its freeing up of marijuana for medical purposes several years ago. And, as might be expected, the October 17 enactment of the new pot laws has spawned hugely speculative and grossly sensational alarms about what Canadians (including snowbirds) might expect when crossing over into the US this coming winter season. Let’s first establish one point above all: Canada’s legalization of cannabis is a domestic issue. It is applicable in Canada only. It has no impact on any other country’s laws or rules. In time it may certainly influence what other countries do—but not yet. The Canadian government is quite clear when it warns that “carrying any cannabis or cannabis product (legal or illegal) across Canada’s border will remain a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such…

Visiting the US This Winter? Let’s Review the Rules—Part 1

It’s that time of year again: time to review the rules that govern how long you can stay out of the country without risking loss of your provincial health insurance benefits, how long you may stay in the US as a visitor, and if there are any changes in the rules you need to pay particular attention to. And this year, we’re going to do our review in two parts—the second dealing with new and vital information you need to know about Canada’s cannabis laws (for recreational or prescribed medical use) before leaving the country or approaching any other international border. You don’t need to be a marijuana user to be affected by these laws—so stay tuned. But first: the rules for visiting the US—Canada’s favourite vacation location There are no major changes in the B2 (non-immigrant tourist) visa rules for Canadian citizens wishing to visit the United States.…

Canadians Show Growing Satisfaction with Travel Insurance

Travel insurers have long been criticized for the complexity of their policies, heavy-handed use of medical and legal language in their applications, and their alleged tendency to deny, deny, deny claims. But according to a new public opinion research poll, commissioned by the Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance (CAFII), a non-governmental, non-profit watchdog association advocating a more transparent insurance marketplace, more than 8 out of 10 Canadians who have purchased travel insurance are satisfied with the value they receive from the products they buy. Furthermore, according to a press release issued by CAFII, 98 per cent of people who made travel medical insurance claims in the past year said they were fully or partially paid, with only 2 per cent of claims being rejected. In addition, 91 per cent of claimants said they were satisfied with their claim experience from initial contact to final outcome. According to the…

The Eight-Month US Visa for Canadian Retirees: A Myth That Keeps on Coming

It happens every couple of years: broadcast and print media announce in bold headlines that Canadian retirees 55 years or older who can afford a second home in the US (owned or leased) will soon be allowed to live there for up to eight full months per year instead of the 182 days they are currently allowed under the B2 visitor visa. Sounds like great news for snowbirds who prefer slathering on sunscreen to shovelling snow. Just this month, an opinion piece in Canada’s Financial Post warned that tax increases on Canada’s middle classes were fuelling a brain drain of doctors, nurses, tech workers, and entrepreneurs to the US and elsewhere, adding, “Just watch the enormous economic damage done when Congress extends its permission for snowbirds by two months—to eight months a year—to stay in the U.S. without becoming taxable.” Well, let’s just hang on here As I said,…

How to Prepare for Emergency Situations at Home or Abroad

In April 2018, Toronto was shaken after an attack with a rented van in the North York area has left 10 dead and 15 others wounded. In a city that is generally known to be safe, this tragic event feels particularly jarring. It’s difficult to predict senseless attacks such as this. And while Toronto is in mourning today, one horrific act of violence will not alter the character of the city: at large, Toronto is still a safe place. For travellers heading to Toronto or anywhere else around the globe, it’s important not to let events like this deter you from getting out there and exploring the world. Rather than avoid making plans, the best thing that you can do is be prepared in the event you encounter an emergency at home or abroad. Measures for keeping safe Be prepared: If you are heading abroad, make sure to remain…

Canadian Travellers to Cancun: Be Vigilant

With more than two million Canadians visiting Mexico annually, travel insurers and other travel professionals need to warn their clients of increasing violence (due mostly to drug cartel activity) in the highly popular tourist area in and surrounding Cancun. More than half of all Canadian visits to Mexico are made to Cancun, and Mexico is Canadians’ second-most-visited country, next to the US. So far this year, 113 people have been killed in the Cancun area. The most recent spate of violence occurred in early April, when 14 murders (all considered drug-trade-related) occurred within 36 hours—generating headlines in newspapers around the world. Though Mexican authorities have explained that most of these deaths were confined to individuals involved in the growing drug cartel wars, there have been some innocent bystanders killed or wounded; and armed military guards have since been stationed at key points throughout the area to safeguard tourist resorts and…

Travel Insurance Sellers and Customers Need to Get on the Same Page

As Canadian insurance regulators intensify their efforts to enhance consumer protections and confidence in travel insurance, brokers and agents are faced with a dilemma: on the one hand, simplifying the purchase of products; on the other hand, ensuring they are appropriate for the specific health and travel needs of their customers. It’s a balancing act that often pits the imperatives of medical underwriters against those of marketers. And it doesn’t get any easier when clients in less-than-perfect heath are confronted by the need to complete—often by telephone, or via the Internet—health questionnaires replete with medical (and legal) terminology that requires searching out definitions further down the page or in another part of the policy. Interviewing applicants is no easy job For agents assisting customers in completing applications by phone, navigating through multilayered questions and recording their responses accurately is no easy job. Without actually recording the interviews, there is…

Mexico Travel Warning for Parents of Student Spring Breakers

Recent Canadian and US government warnings cautioning travellers about potential terrorist activity in Mexico’s Western Caribbean resort area of Quintana Roo state (including Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa Carmen) have once again emphasized the need for travel insurance for all ages, especially teenage students who are “breaking loose” for spring and Easter vacations. The warnings, issued by both governments on March 7 and 8, came in the wake of an explosion on one tourist ferry travelling from Playa Carmen to Cozumel, and the discovery of an unexploded bomb on another. These events have firmed up evidence of new drug cartel activity reaching into these areas, which thus far had been relatively free of the violence wracking much of the northern and western (Pacific) states in recent years. The government warnings, based on unidentified “ongoing security threats,” have subsequently been narrowed down, but the US State Department continues to restrict its own…

Buying a Cruise? Choose Carefully—It’s Not Always Paradise

Over the next 12 months, Canadians will take more than 750,000 ocean cruises, most of them heading out of ports in the Southern US, mostly from Florida, Texas, or California. Cruising is the fastest-growing vacation activity for Canadians of almost all age groups, and that’s not likely to change given the number of new vessels. There is no shortage of choice, either in itinerary or price point. But that does not mean you should make your cruise choice casually, without doing some homework. Along with the romantic appeal and imagery that cruise lines use in selling their products, there are some darker stories about ships being stranded due to mechanical problems, intrusions of Norovirus, the occasional “man or woman overboard” horror story, and every once in a while a story like one published recently in the Miami Herald concerning ships failing to meet government-established sanitary standards, with spot inspectors finding…

Five Tips to Speed up Your Travel Insurance Claim

When purchasing travel insurance, holiday-goers are buying into the promise that they will have peace of mind for their vacation. That doesn’t just involve accident or non-accident protection. It extends to the turnaround time of the insurance company once a claim has been made, and the speed in which the insured gets paid. Travellers are often worried about receiving payment from their insurance company after making a claim. What they don’t realize, however, is that insurance claim turnarounds are often held up due to a lack of healthorganization from the insured. Submitting your travel insurance claim correctly will help expedite the claims process. Read on to find out our top tips for submitting your travel insurance claim correctly. Choose wisely It’s important to choose the right travel insurance policy for you. The policy should cover your individual medical needs, should prepare you for non-medical assistance if needed, and should…