Travel Insurance May Require Your Medical History: Tell Your Doctor.

All too often, when travel insurance claims are denied (which is rare), clients complain that their doctor didn’t tell them everything that was in their record and they, therefore, couldn’t complete their medical applications accurately. It’s up to you to put your doctor on notice.

Doctors have an ethical obligation to their licensing and/or accreditation authorities to reveal the results of all tests, investigations, consultation reports to their patients—whether they think them important or not.  But how often do I hear travellers complain that because their doctor didn’t tell them about a first or second degree heart block, or a minor atrial fibrillation, or an unexplained finding on a CT scan of the liver or biliary tract, their insurer denied their claim for a hospitalization in the U.S. or some other foreign country because they didn’t disclose their health status accurately or completely?

Too often, doctors do this because the condition  in question may not be life-threatening, or they don’t want to worry an elderly patient about something they can’t do anything about anyway, or they don’t want to interrupt a patient’s five-month vacation in Florida.  They do this because they assume that since their patient has private travel insurance they will be covered the way they are at home, and so they don’t need to take the time to discuss the actual insurance policy with their patient.

Yet this kind of thinking can have a disastrous effect on the patient, who because of lack of knowledge of a pre-existing condition, or failure to inform the insurer of a positive test result, can have their emergency medical expense claim denied.

Canadian family doctors, many of who have plenty of snowbirds and boomers on their patient roles, should make the effort to learn at least the basics of travel insurance.  But they don’t teach travel insurance in medical school and there are no continuing medical education credits for learning about it. So it’s up to you to tell them you must know want is in your medical record: it’s your record, and it’s not the doctor who will have to pay the foreign hospital bill if your claim is denied.

It’s too easy to blame the insurer when that happens.

Without private travel insurance, many of the millions of Canadians who travel out of the country regularly could not afford to travel were it not for travel insurance.  They couldn’t take the risk, because their government health insurance abandons them as soon as they leave the country: they pay only a pittance of out of country medical emergency costs.  Private travel insurers must pay all that the provincial plans do not pay—and that is a lot.

Consequently, private travel insurers need to place limits on what they will cover and who they will cover. They can’t, for the prices they charge, cover you as medicare does at home. That’s why all insurance plans have eligibility limits and exclusions. The benefits they offer are generous, although its true enough that travel insurers and the agents who sell their plans, as a whole, have not done a good enough job explaining what they don’t cover.  They’re much better at telling you what they do cover.

But that should not leave doctors off the hook. And the only realistic way for doctors to become responsive to your needs as an insured patient heading out of the country is for you to make them understand that you require full disclosure.  If you need extra time to complete a medical application, go to your doctor and pay him or her to help you. If you don’t quite understand why you’re taking a certain medication or why you have been referred for tests, demand answers.

All travel insurers advertising on this site meet Travelinsurancefile’s acceptability criteria for out-of-country health benefits for Canadian residents. All offer a range of products that have varying medical eligibility standards and can meet the needs of most applicants—even those in less than perfect health. You can also complete your applications and buy online.

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