Your mother-in-law from Chicago is coming to visit. She has her U.S. Medicare. Does she need health insurance? Yes. Absolutely. U.S. Medicare does not cover out-of-country services except in some extremely limited circumstances. And this is not one of them. Also, though most private health insurance plans carried by Americans do contain some coverage for out-of-area services, many Americans do not have private health insurance and so if they have an accident or a medical emergency while visiting they will be in the same circumstances you might be if you were stranded without health insurance in the U.S. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that Canadian hospitals are more charitable than their American counterparts. Canadian hospitals charge much more for foreign patients than they do patients from other provinces. Any large Toronto hospital may well charge between $4,000 and $5,000 a day for services to a foreign patient. What’s more, they are not hesitant about demanding payment. And if the patient can’t put up a guarantee, maybe the patient’s relatives, like her Canadian son-in law, might.
Most Canadian travel insurers have plans for visitors to Canada. And make sure coverage begins before your visitors arrive in Canada so that they are covered the moment they cross the border. Falling down stairs at the airport can be expensive. Also, plans bought after the traveler arrives in Canada are normally subject to a brief waiting period before coverage kicks in, perhaps 48 or 72 hours. This is to protect the insurer from being maneuvered into covering a person who came to Canada specifically to get emergency medical treatment. Be aware that visitors insurance is also subject to certain pre-existing conditions limitations, so know what you are buying. And if you’re thinking of bringing in a relative to have a coronary artery bypass operation they couldn’t afford to have in their native country, and have it covered by their new traveler’s insurance, forget it. That’s not what it’s for.