The numbers are staggering. In 1950, there were 205 million persons aged 60 and older throughout the world—only three countries had more than 10 million people 60 or older—China (42 million), India (20 million), and the United States (20 million).
By 2050, the global population aged 60 or over is projected to reach nearly two billion, with 33 countries each accounting for 10 million people 60 or over, and that sector of the population growing faster than any other.
Is it any wonder then that international travel insurers are gearing up to tap that enormous resource? They know well that this is the sector of the population with the greatest store of wealth, the most improved state of health, and the time to put those luxuries together and “live a little.”
Maybe that accounts for the extraordinary growth of “Visitors to Canada” travel insurance products coming to the marketplace. Just look at this website and note the considerable variations of travel plans available to protect your visitors—parents, relatives, students, returning Canadian citizens whose provincial coverage needs to be reinstated, or friends who have never been to Canada but have finally realized that it’s time they treated themselves to what this country has to offer.
The welcome mat is out for all ages, more so than ever. But visitors need to know that as wealthy and generous as Canadians are, foreign visitors need protection against the unexpected—be it caused by a slip on the ice, a recurrence of a pesky gallbladder or kidney stone, or something worse.
For almost 50 years, Canadians have prided themselves for having “free” health care. Well, they may not have to pay as they leave the hospital or doctor’s office, but when about a third of one’s taxes go to health care, it’s not free: it’s expensive—among the top six most expensive health care systems in the world. A one-day stay in a hospital in any large Canadian city can easily top $5,000 CAD; more in intensive care. And hospitals will demand payment from non-residents, or at least a solid promise to pay. Hospital administrators make no bones about admitting that fees from foreign patients help them meet their budgets and upgrade their services.
And that’s where Canada’s private health insurance sector comes into play—with plans for foreign visitors, international students, seasonal workers, and Super Visa holders that allow for side trips to other countries, with anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million in emergency hospital and medical coverage, pre-existing condition benefits (for stable conditions), deductible options (to reduce premiums), maternity options; look over the full scope of benefits here.
In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, almost 17 million foreign visitors spent at least one night in Canada. That’s good. But it could be a lot better. And with more word getting out about the richness of Canada, its diversity, its food, its poutine, and once in a while even its hockey, those numbers will continue to rise.