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Snowbird Guide to Medical Marijuana

Since 2015, when Prime Minister Trudeau committed Canada to full legalization of marijuana, the number of registered users of medical cannabis products soared from an estimated 24,000 to more than 330,000. And, for a nation of committed cannabis users (according to Statista—an international marketing research firm—41 per cent of Canadian adults confirm having used marijuana at some point in their lives), that appears to be just the beginning. In the United States, the approach to legalization is more ambivalent. Though the federal government prohibits the use of cannabis in any form (recreational or medical), 30 states and D.C. have so far legalized its use to some extent (26 allowing limited use medicinally, nine allowing both recreational and medicinal use). But those numbers change from month to month as the trend toward outright legalization creeps along. What does this mean for Canadians, particularly snowbirds, who rely on marijuana products and derivatives…

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…

Chinese New Year 2018: Why is it year of the dog and what does it mean?

Happy Chinese New Year 2018! The annual event marks one of the most colourful and lively celebrations, with festivals held in most major cities across the world. Chinese New Year brings with it vibrant parades and colourful celebrations, but what is Chinese New Year? When is it celebrated and what does it mean? Chinese New Year has become a global celebration. Not only is it celebrated by the country of China and those with Chinese ancestry, it’s celebrated by people from across the world, of all different cultures and religions. Some 3 billion trips are expected to be taken during the Chinese New Year, so travellers should be prepared for delays and security risks no matter where they’re heading. Here is everything you need to know about the Chinese holiday known as Spring Festival. How is Chinese New Year celebrated?  Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is…

Heads Up for Quebec Travel Insurers: Are Warning Labels in Your Future?

Are travel insurance products becoming too complicated to be sold directly to consumers over the Internet or through social media outlets? According to Flavio Vani, president of Quebec’s financial advisors’ organization Association professionnelle des conseillers en services financiers (APCSF), if pending legislation (Bill 141) is enacted in the National Assembly later this year, as expected, all online purchases of insurance products offered in the province without the advice of a registered financial professional should carry warnings similar to those posted on cigarette packages. In an interview for the Insurance and Investment Journal, Vani states that the APCSF has submitted a proposal to the Quebec government asserting that it wants direct sales of financial products to carry an explicit warning that online purchases of insurance products without the advice of a registered professional (who would first analyze the customer’s personal financial situation) “could have a significant impact on an individual and…

For Canadian Travellers: US Travel Future is Upbeat, But Do Your Homework

With the US economy booming, thanks to a surging stock market, record low unemployment, rising wages, and sharply lowered personal and corporate taxes, consumers are showing a growing confidence about spending more of their family budgets on travel. According to the most recent report by international business consulting firm Deloitte: of the six major segments that comprise the US travel industry (airlines, lodging, car rentals, cruises, rail, and travel packaging), a strong five per cent growth is forecast for 2018, setting the USA travel industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end. For Canadian travellers, who make about 25 million overnight trips to the US annually (that doesn’t count day trippers crossing over for a few hours), that means an expanding choice of locations and activity interests at all price levels; competitive (cheaper) airline fares; more hospitality and dining options—in short, more bang for your buck.…

Travel Insurance and Drinking: Read Your Policy

Last fall, the CBC brought widespread public attention to the case of a Canadian who, while visiting relatives in the US, fell down a flight of stairs after drinking alcohol, required treatment in hospital for a brain injury, and ultimately had his travel insurance claim denied, purportedly, because he had too much to drink. The response from some in the media was mainly critical of the insurer for not having “warned” the traveller ahead of time that an accident caused by alcohol impairment could invalidate his coverage That should not have come as a surprise to anyone as every travel insurance policy issued in Canada excludes coverage for medical emergencies caused or contributed to by alcohol—or other intoxicants—just as it excludes coverage for known unstable pre-existing conditions, terminal diagnoses, and failure by those insured to disclose their true medical conditions when applying for products. Travel insurance was never designed to…

Rules for Canadian Leisure Travel to the US in 2018

If you’re planning some travel to the US in 2018 (an estimated 24 million did so in 2016), you might want to review the rules of entry, how long you can stay, what documents you need to carry, and what changes have been made to those rules since your last trip. Fortunately, there were no major changes for casual visitors, leisure travellers or snowbirds last year, but you still need to be vigilant about your crossings as the cooperation between US and Canadian border agencies continues to be more refined and precise. Don’t assume you may have slipped through once or twice without notice. For short-term visitors or snowbirds who are Canadian citizens, the key rule remains—you are allowed to be in the US for up to six months (usually interpreted by border agents as between 180 and 182 days) over any rolling 12-month period. The best way to determine…

Canadian Outbound Travel Forecasts and Safety Advice for 2018

With consumer confidence the highest it’s been in four years, and with overall travel numbers for the first eight months of 2017 up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2016 (23.1 million trips—not counting single-day, cross-border travel), it appears that Canadians will be taking to the roads, skies, and seas in near-record numbers in 2018.1 That’s a good thing. But with increasing options to visit farther-flung locations coming available, you will also have to become astute navigators and travel planners. What may be a prime vacation or tour destination one day can generate warning signals overnight that need to be spotted, heeded, and avoided. Fortunately, with phone and online access to government travel advisories instantly available, there is no reason for you to be short of current information when either planning or embarking on any trip to any location—and you should take no location’s safety for granted. For example,…

Canada’s Dual Citizens: Many “Pros,” But a Few Cautions

As Canada becomes more culturally diversified (almost one million Canadian citizens are also citizens of other countries), international travel requires increasing care and attention to detail. For example, in 2016, the Canadian government imposed a rule requiring all Canadian citizens who were also citizens of other countries to have Canadian passports when entering by air. (Canadian/US “duals” were exempted). The rule ruffled a few feathers, particularly among Canadians who had been living abroad for many years and had to scurry about trying to get passports just so they could visit family and friends “back home.” In addition, Canada is one of the most welcoming nations for citizens of other countries who wish to be permanent residents—which means, if they are successful in obtaining PR status, they have virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, except the right to vote, or run for elected office. But they are also…

Partner with Your Doctor when Applying for Travel Insurance

Among the most frequent stories I hear from Canadians who have had their travel insurance claim denied are: “My doctor never told me I had a heart murmur” or “he didn’t say that heart pill was for atrial fibrillation” or “my CT scan didn’t show anything abnormal”—so why would they have reported any of this on their application? Why? Because it’s up to you to know what’s in your medical record when filling out an insurance application—and if your claim is denied for non-disclosure or because you had a pre-existing condition that wasn’t “stable,” you are the one who will have to pay the bill. And no matter how strongly your family doctor protests your denial in a letter after the fact, you are still responsible for providing accurate and up-to-date information to the insurer. The decision to pay your claim or deny it will be made on the basis…

Is Virtual Reality the Future of Cruising?

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of taking a cruise was linked in one’s mind with leisure: “getting away from it all,” sipping cool drinks in deck chairs, and watching tropical sunsets. No longer. As cruise vessels get bigger and bigger (5,000 passengers is now routine) and the focus of activities turn ever inward—to what the ship has to offer rather than what the itinerary and ports of call provide—you’re going to need a lot of experience with technology to get the most out of your cruise. I’m talking about smartphones, apps, virtual reality headsets, and so on. Better bring your grandkids along. Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruises previewed some of the super-high-tech plans it has for “enhancing” the cruise experience of the future, and it’s about as far away as you can get from the “romance” of the old tramp steamer sailing on the high tide for Trinidad…

More on the Wretched 30-Day US Cross-Border Rule

Of all questions that come across my desk from confused readers, the one most difficult to explain, or justify, concerns the US immigration rule that requires vacationing Canadians to count side trips of 30 days or less, be they back home or to Mexico, as part of their allotted 180-day stay in the US. If those trips are over 30 days, they are not added to the 180-day tally, and the return to the US is counted as a separate trip. This becomes more confusing if our Canadian visitors  become entangled in the seemingly contradictory rules governing the B2 visa (which allows most Canadians to stay in the US for up to 180 days per 12 months), and their obligation to file IRS forms (8840) if they spend large chunks of time in the US each year. Different purposes. Different rules. Let’s sort it out—The easiest first Under the…

Know Who Pays When Your Flight Doesn’t Go Up

This past summer, two of the UK’s biggest airlines stranded hundreds of thousands of travellers in distant locations by cancelling flights at the last minute and invalidating reservations for future flights already planned: Ryanair because of pilot scheduling problems, and Monarch Airlines because it suddenly went out of business—virtually overnight. What about all of those passengers left stranded overseas? Thanks to some quick action by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, and a special consumer protection program in which most vacationers book their trips with specially licensed and bonded travel organizers, most were returned home relatively quickly on aircraft chartered by the CAA at no cost to themselves. But at first glance it was not quite so clear as angered passengers were told by airline staff to call their travel insurers for assistance home and recompense for the costs of making and paying for alternate arrangements. At which point the Association of…

2018 Travel Tips for Cuba and Mexico—What Happens Now?

Cuba and Mexico, hit by severe natural disasters this fall, would ordinarily welcome more than 2.5 million Canadians between them this coming year, most during the first four months of 2018. But tourism services in both countries—Cuba battered by Hurricane Irma, and Mexico by two massive earthquakes—are on edge, wondering if the anticipated flow of foreign visitors will dry up given the images of mass destruction that were transmitted out of their countries in September. Let’s take them one at a time. Cuba Despite the dramatic pictures of gigantic surf breaking over Havana’s Malecón (the iconic waterfront esplanade), and the flooding along the entire north shore of this tourism-dependent country, most hotels, restaurants, rum and cigar factories, and historic sites are expected to be fully operational and ready for the winter season beginning in December. Though news of Irma forced a spate of hotel cancellations for early 2018, the…

Can an American Hospital Sue a Canadian Patient?

The hospital bill for an emergency appendectomy in St. Petersburg, Florida, arrives at your home in Canada shortly after you return from your vacation: four days, $80,000 USD. Please Pay Now. What do you do? If you had travel insurance, that likely would not happen—although there are exceptions. But if you had no travel insurance, you have to deal with it. This is not a situation you can ignore. You don’t want the hospital to bounce the bill over to an international collection agency—that happens a lot, and it can make your life anywhere from uncomfortable to miserable. Increasingly, U.S. hospitals are diverting all bills for non-US residents to a growing throng of international companies who specialize in cross-border collections so they—the hospitals—don’t have to deal with the complexities of foreign collections, or travel to your province to sue you. But you are not defenseless. Hospitals don’t like to sue…

Florida’s Keys Invite Visitors Back in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

Hardly had the uprooted palms, shattered roofs, overturned mobile homes, and even stranded fishing boats been cleared off the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys to each other and the mainland, and tourism officials were already planning their strategy to bring visitors, foreign and domestic, back to this southern part of Florida—battered by the vicious winds of hurricane Irma in September. For an area where 60 percent of all spending and 54 percent of all jobs are dependent on tourism (a $2.7 billion industry in these parts), bringing visitors back for the 2018 winter season is a challenge that can’t afford to be leisurely or timid. And for Florida’s Canadian visitors, enjoying an 80 cent loonie, this combination of events might mean some truly meaningful bargains for snowbird, Christmas, or spring break visits. Don’t settle for rack rates—they need you back to show they’re still in business. So how do…

Travel Insurance for Snowbird Season, Part 2: What Should You Look For When Shopping For Travel Insurance?

Early bird specials These are plans sold at cheaper summer rates prior to new price increases going into effect. They can allow you some substantial savings, but remember that if your health changes in any way after you buy your plan and before your leave on your trip (e.g., new symptoms, changes in medications, referrals for tests or consultations), you must tell your insurer so your conditions of coverage and/or premium rates can be adjusted. Your coverage contract is based on your health status on the date your coverage comes into effect –not the date you purchased it. Failure to report such changes can invalidate your coverage.   Multi-trip annual plans If your travel plans call for frequent, short-term trips rather than a single extended six-month sojourn, consider an annual multi-trip plan, the fastest growing travel insurance varietal in the marketplace. Multi-trip plans are convenient in that you apply only…

Canadians Will Always Love Las Vegas

It was inevitable that Canadians, who account for almost one million air arrivals annually in Las Vegas, would be among the victims of the horrendous mass shootings this October. Next to Florida and Los Angeles, this city in the desert welcomes more Canadians arriving by air than any other. And the reasons are clear—it is an exciting, well-run, highly attractive location designed for purely one purpose—to attract tourism and make visitors feel welcome. What happened? The same thing that happened in Barcelona in August, in Paris and Nice in 2015, in Manchester and London earlier this year, in Orlando in 2016, and that will undoubtedly happen in other locations in the near future: unhinged zealots taking out their anger on innocent, defenseless people.  Are there lessons to be learned from these tragedies, given that they are so unexpected, random, and irrational? Perhaps the most common element is the presence of…

Travel Insurance for Snowbird Season

To millions of Canadian seniors, Thanksgiving weekend kicks off snowbird season: either they’re packing up for the trek south to Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, or beyond, or they’re well into the planning stage—the purchase of travel insurance being a top priority. If you’re among this fast-growing cohort (the Conference Board of Canada estimates the numbers of Canadians aged 55 to 64 will increase by 8 percent annually between 2015 and 2019; and those over 65 by 15 percent per year) you’re going to have plenty of insurance plan choices, albeit at increased premium prices. CBoC estimates that premium prices were 9 percent higher in 2016 over the previous year, and that trajectory will likely remain unchanged this coming season. The sad reality is that so long as American health care costs continue to escalate, Canadian insurers must anticipate paying increasingly expensive claims in US dollars from premiums collected in lower…

What Now for Mexico—Canada’s Most Favoured Leisure Destination?

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria which ravaged much of the Caribbean basin and Florida, and two massive earthquakes in Mexico, Canadian leisure travel options in North America’s hot countries have taken a huge hit. Though the 7.1 magnitude quake centred in Puebla State just south east of Mexico City (followed by a 6.1 magnitude aftershock) got most of the media attention, an earlier, and even bigger 8.2. quake that epicentred 120 km off shore in the Pacific, attacking the coastal southwestern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco, killed more than 100 residents and virtually shut down a normally bustling tourism industry. The combination of the two quakes and a high-magnitude aftershock, barely a week apart, covering huge areas of central Mexico to its southern border with Guatemala, have put a huge question mark over the ability of these areas to rebuild, and the availability of an infrastructure…

Travel Planning Lessons for Canadians from Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma has left a long-lasting legacy on many island countries of the Caribbean as well as the US southeast, especially Florida—a legacy that Canadians must factor into any short- or long-term travel plans for these regions. Full recovery in many of these areas—even those not prominently covered in the media– may take a long time. The full extent of damage is yet to be tallied, so be patient when trying to get more precise information about friends, family, or properties you may have in the affected areas. In the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Barts, Bahamas, Cuba, and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten are all under Canadian government “Avoid All Travel” or “Avoid All Non-Essential Travel” warnings. In the face of hurricane Maria, Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico are also under advisement. These warning levels may change from day to day. To stay current, view the advisories online. Take…

Hurricane Irma Update

There is no part of Florida that has escaped the damage from Hurricane Irma and the demanding task of recovery and reconstruction that will take many months to come. For Canadians, particularly snowbirds that have property in Florida, the full impact may not yet be known. Communities remain isolated as power remains sporadic and transportation continues to be hampered by lack of fuel. Fort Lauderdale, a heavily commercial urban area, has few traffic lights in operation, supermarkets are powered by generators with shelves that are bare of staples, and ice (a crucially important product when power and refrigeration is out) is almost impossible to get. It is common to see drivers sitting in their cars idling while recharging their cellphones. Despite politicians’ promises that fuel is on its way, none appears to be showing up at a majority of service stations in this area. If you have property in any…

Travel Warning: Canadian Winter Texans Avoid Harvey

Global Canada has issued a stern “avoid all travel” warning to Canadians planning to visit flood-stricken Texas. Warnings extend from Port Mansfield—just north of the city of Brownsville (well-known to many winter Texan snowbirds), along the Gulf Coast, and inland areas including Houston. With tropical storm Harvey moving eastward into Louisiana, restricted travel warnings are likely to be extended well past the time Harvey calms down and the flood waters recede. We urge all Canadians anticipating travel to any part of Texas south of Dallas, especially Winter Texans concerned about their homes or properties in the Rio Grande Valley north of Brownsville (in the MacAllen/Harlingen area), to monitor the Global Canada website for current travel advisories and warnings. Travel Canada defines an “avoid all travel” warning level as, “an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory, or region. If you are…

Nobody Benefits by Travel Insurance Claim Denials

Though travel insurance claim denials are rare events, they are sure to capture headlines when they do happen. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted for the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), 95 percent of all travel claims submitted in Canada are paid. But the consequences of even one claim denial can be frightening and financially devastating. Nobody benefits by a claim denial: obviously not the client, and certainly not the insurer who must absorb the bad publicity and ill feelings such a negative event causes. If It Happens to You Any claim denial should explain in clear, plain language the specific exclusion being applied. For example, if the exclusion precludes payment for an unstable pre-existing condition, you should be shown the evidence in your doctor’s medical records that a condition truly was pre-existing, or unstable, or warranted reporting on a medical underwriting questionnaire. The citation…

Know Your Insurance. Know Your Doctor Too

If you have any chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis or COPD, applying for travel insurance can be somewhat intimidating. After all, you’re not a doctor and the terminology in some of those medical questionnaires is not written in common everyday language. It is a legal contract. Still, if you’re asking to be covered for a foreign trip—short or long—you need to give the insurer a clear, accurate picture of your health status: have you had any new diagnosis or recurrent symptoms over the past 3, 6, or 12 months; have you been treated by a physician, been referred to a specialist, undergone  tests, are awaiting tests or test results, been prescribed new medication, or had your dosage changed, during that time period? Have you talked to your doctor? In preparing for a trip, have you discussed the status of any chronic conditions with your family doctor? Has…