If you’re traveling to a foreign country you need to have private travel insurance. You probably know that. But if you have a medical condition, or need to take drugs, or are under the care of a doctor, can you get coverage without breaking the bank? Yes. But here’s what you need to know.
Many travel insurance companies say they will cover pre-existing medical conditions. But you can’t take that claim at face value. It’s not quite that simple. The rules about what they cover in their policies and what they exclude vary a great deal from company to company. But there is one rule you can be sure of—No one company covers pre-existing conditions without condition. There are limits and you need to know what they are. This knowledge is going to be very important as the new 2011/2012 snowbird season ramps up, and new insurance products, with new levels of premium pricing come into the travel insurance marketplace. Stay with us in the coming months, and we’ll be here to guide you through the new products, and make your comparisons and purchases a lot easier and more reliable. More about this later.
Each insurer has different criteria for covering your medical conditions. First, you need to meet specific eligibility standards, and it’s up to you to know what they are. Usually, terminal illnesses, certain cancers, HIV/AIDS conditions, recent organ transplants, or conditions that require more than a certain number of medications, may disqualify you from even applying. But these standards vary among insurers, so if one turns you down, don’t give up, look elsewhere.
Most insurers will cover medical conditions that have been stable for a certain period of time and are well controlled by medication. But they, and not your doctors, will define what is stable and controlled. That’s not your doctor’s decision. They may require that your condition has not shown any resurgence, or symptoms, or has not required investigation by tests, or a change in your medication, or treatment by your physician (over and above routine monitoring), or required referral to a specialist, for a given period. That period may be 90 or 180 or 365 days. The insurer will determine the length of the stability period. You need to know those limits.
You will be asked questions when applying for insurance. You need to pay attention to answer them accurately and completely. This is not a formality. Insurers need to know your health status before they can assume the risk of covering you. If you’re not sure about certain symptoms, or medication changes, or why you were referred for tests, ask your doctor. Not nearly enough applicants ask their doctor for assistance when applying for health insurance, and as a result end of having the pay the full hospital bill because their insurer denies their claim.
Insurers will go a long way to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Most applicants, especially those in their “mature” years, have some ailments that need medical attention or monitoring. And if insurers are to remain competitive, they must have products for the full marketplace, not just for young, healthy, athletes.
This year, close to one million Canadians over the age of 55 will make extended out-of-country trips.
That’s a huge market. Insurer’s plan to capture every slice of it. That benefits you. But you have to know the rules and you must abide by them. A travel insurance policy is a contract between two parties—the issuer, and the applicant. Both have responsibilities and obligations. When the risk being covered can amount to six figures—you better know where you stand.
The high loonie will help to moderate the price of insurance to you. But the soaring cost of foreign hospital care—especially in the U.S.—will put a lot of pressure on insurers who have to pay the hugely expensive medical bills submitted by American hospital providers.