Happy birthday! Your regular travel insurance policy could now be yesterday’s news.
All it takes is a day—at one of the critical age thresholds in life—to make you ineligible for the travel insurance coverage you expect and require. A change in age, a new diagnosis or prescription, a change of address, or an acceptance to a foreign university could all bump you into another category, one where premiums are higher than what you were used to paying. As you consider how your travel insurance needs might change with the next milestone in your life, you may find yourself on the lookout for more suitable coverage.
John Wilson, a veteran insurance agent with M. Butler Insurance Brokers Ltd. in Niagara Falls, Ontario, points out that age 21 (or 25 if you are still in university) is often when group medical plans kick children out from under the cover of their parents’ plan. Your campus policy, or the group medical policy at work, may not have the travel medical benefits you were used to under your parents’ coverage; this means you may require an individual travel insurance policy. Remember, your health may be fine, but injuries happen more often to young and athletic travellers—and the cost of treatment outside of Canada is likely more expensive than you realize. A former Toronto Argonauts cheerleader slipped on a yacht in Croatia in 2012, and ended up with a coma in a Croatian hospital without coverage. Fortunately for her and her family, a social media campaign raised $142,000 to pay her overseas medical bills of nearly $25,000 and the near $94,000 cost of an air ambulance to return her to Richmond Hill.
Turning 60, 65, or 75
Your travel insurance policy or the coverage you may get with your credit card could lose some of its value and appeal at such an age threshold. The period of coverage with your credit card may be reduced or eliminated. You may have to answer more health questions for a travel insurance policy, and you may be excluded from coverage if you have developed a condition that has not been stable for as long as a year. So it may be time to shop for a plan with a shorter stability period, or a plan better suited to your particular health condition. Also consider purchasing coverage before your birthday to keep your premium lower a little longer, or seek out an insurer that applies rate changes at different age thresholds than your last travel insurer.
Engaging in sports and risky activities
While some folks can turn golf into a dangerous sport, you may prefer more adventurous activities. If so, you should check into whether your sport of choice is excluded before you choose a particular travel insurance policy. One plan may only say no to professional sports, motorized speed contests, rodeos, show jumping, or horse racing. Another may add stunt and “high-risk” activities without listing the activities, while another may cover scuba diving to a maximum depth, provided you have the right certification. It may cover certain types of whitewater rafting, but not others. Street luging and mountaineering may also be excluded. So consider your plans when choosing your coverage.
If you are headed out of the country for further education or for a job, you may apply annually for continuous coverage under your provincial health insurance plan, for up to five years. See Ontario’s requirements for an example. Keep in mind that the government’s coverage for medical services outside of Canada is “very limited,” and all provinces strongly urge residents to buy additional coverage. Students may be eligible for some health maintenance coverage through their foreign university, but not coverage for a major emergency or transportation back to Canada. Make sure to thoroughly investigate what options for coverage are available, either for purchase in Canada or in your destination country. There are also plans available for those who will be out of the country for more than a year. These plans can cover routine or everyday health needs (e.g., a check-up or visit to the dentist) as well as medical emergencies, and they do not require that you be covered under your provincial health plan, says Matt Davies of Ingle International. “We offer a variety of expatriate health insurance plans,” he adds.
Moving to the border
A change of address to the US border could alter your travel habits. Wilson, whose office is within walking distance of the border, says he encounters many clients who hop the border regularly to shop without thinking about travel insurance. So, whenever he quotes the price of vacation coverage, he mentions that it might only cost another $50 a year (for example) for a plan that would cover multiple trips over an entire year.
Splurging on a prepaid vacation
If you spend big bucks on a flight, cruise ship vacation, or all-inclusive resort, you will likely have a lot invested in being able to go. Medical coverage will be vitally important, but you may wish to pay more attention to the trip-cancellation and lost-baggage portion of the travel policy. There is always the risk of connecting flights being diverted or delayed due to bad weather; and there’s a chance that an illness in the family could prevent you from travelling at the last minute. But Wilson likes to remind travellers who buy all-inclusive vacation packages that pre-paid drinks and open bars could spell trouble. Injuries that occur while intoxicated will not be covered.
Joining the snowbird community
If you are newly retired and plan to spend several months in the southern US, you have the option to drive to your destination, and can even delay your departure until enough time has passed since a change of medication, investigative testing, or treatment of a medical condition. You should look for a flexible form of coverage, however, and be certain you fully disclose the condition of your health to avoid the denial of a claim. “Coverage for pre-existing conditions varies quite a bit from plan to plan,” notes Davies. “Policies will have different ways of assessing the risk of various medical conditions and the stability periods for such conditions also vary greatly.” So it may take some careful shopping, some expert advice on how to interpret and comply with contracts, plus a frank discussion with your doctor about test results before packing your car and heading south.
So remember, the policy you had last year may not be your best choice now. If you’ve changed, so might your travel insurance needs.
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