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 comparative-value Canadian loonies.


Get the most value for your money

Be wise, and shop for travel insurance early. You need time to compare coverages and premium prices; to clarify application questions with your doctor if you’re being medically underwritten; and to have your own questions about benefits or exclusions clarified by your agent. This is especially important given that about one third of travellers are now purchasing their insurance online, and according to one CBoC survey, more than half of those who bought insurance for their last trip reported difficulty understanding the terms and conditions of their policies even when dealing with a broker.

Talk with a trained, licensed broker. When assessing products make sure you are comparing similar coverage options, similar benefits and exclusions, and similar deductible levels.


Travel insurance comes in all shapes and sizes

You need to buy what fits: your age group, medical history, trip duration, risk tolerance, lifestyle, and your budget. Consider a deductible to lower your premium. The higher the deductible, the more reasonable the premium.

If you take medications for chronic conditions, or if you are monitored regularly by your family physician or specialists, you should apply for a medically underwritten plan that is designed and priced according to your medical history. And when completing your application, make sure you answer all questions accurately and completely. If you don’t understand the questions or the terminology—which is perfectly understandable—ask your agent for help. And it’s best to ask your physician for assistance.

An accurately completed application is your best safeguard in case of unexpected medical emergency. It adds a layer of security to your trip.

Saving a few premium dollars by skipping over an uncomfortable question can result in serious financial loss if your claim is denied due to inaccuracies or non-disclosure.


Get checked by your family physician

Make sure you and your doctor discuss what is in your medical record before applying for coverage.  Doctors don’t always want to bother patients with details that perhaps don’t require immediate attention or that might disturb their patients’ vacation plans. But it’s important for you know what’s in your record. Know why you take certain medications. Ask the purpose of any tests or consultations you may have had or that are scheduled for you. Ask if there are any symptoms or test results that show irregularities.

It’s not enough for your doctor to give you a clean bill of health and clear you to travel. You need to meet the medical criteria and stability requirements as they are defined in the policy.  If you’re at all uncertain about your history, ask your doctor to help you complete your medical application.

If you generate a medical emergency claim during your travels, the insurer will very likely examine your medical records to make sure your health status as reported in your application was accurate. If not, your claim might be denied, leaving you responsible for paying the bill.


Pay attention to pre-existing conditions and exclusions

When applying for coverage, be especially vigilant about understanding the eligibility requirements and any pre-existing conditions or stability guidelines.  For example, many plans will cover certain pre-existing conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, respiratory issues, etc.) if they have been stable for a stated period before your coverage goes into effect (usually your departure date). Make sure you understand if you are being treated for such conditions and read the policy definition for the terms “pre-existing condition” and “stable.”

And understand that even though your physician may consider your condition stable, it is your policy definition of stable that determines eligibility. If in doubt, show the policy definition to your doctor.

In part two of this series, we investigate what types of plans are available for 2017/2018, and how to find the one that’s best for you—and only you.


Have you ticked all the boxes and are ready to organize your travel insurance? Buy your coverage here.

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