The Necessity of Travel Medical Insurance during a Global Pandemic
Life is full of surprises. Purchasing travel medical insurance before your next trip abroad will help with the financial aspects in the event of the unexpected, especially when travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic. We wouldn’t dream of getting in our car and driving without auto insurance, or owning a house without homeowner’s insurance, as the risk of going without it is just too high. It is for these reasons that it is important that you not only purchase travel medical insurance before you go abroad but, also to be sure that you get good coverage and understand exactly what’s covered under your policy.
Why travel medical insurance is necessary
- MSP will not cover medical expenses outside of Canada.
- Foreign hospitals may be very expensive and require immediate cash payment.
- Medical care may be substandard in your destination country. Medical evacuation insurance will ensure you can obtain safe and high-quality medical care, but be aware that options for your return to Canada may be limited due to decreased availability of flights during the pandemic.
Finding an Insurance Provider
Travel medical insurance can be purchased from:
- Credit cards
- Employer’s insurance provider
- Travel agent
- Insurance broker (e.g. BCAA)
There are different types of travel insurance to consider:
- Trip cancellation in the event of an illness or natural disaster.
- Travel medical insurance to cover costs of health care obtained in foreign countries.
- Medical evacuation insurance that will cover emergency transportation from a remote or poor area to a high-quality medical facility, and transportation home if necessary
- COVID-19 related travel medical insurance.
- Trip interruption in the event of quarantine.
What your travel medical insurance should provide
Carefully review the terms, conditions, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy so you know what’s covered. Key things to look for in a travel medical insurance policy include:
- Coverage for the entire duration of your trip, especially if your travel insurance is provided by your credit card which often only covers 15 days of travel.
- 24-hour assistance to help finding medical care abroad.
- Coverage of pre-existing medical conditions: there may be restrictions on any pre-existing medical conditions, tests or treatments you have undergone. Questions to ask your insurance provider:
- Does the policy include a written agreement that pre-existing medical conditions will be covered? If there is nothing in writing you could find your claim void.
- Does the agreement include a stability clause, and if so what are the conditions? The stability clause may state that you must have had no changes to your current medical condition, or no new medical conditions, medications or symptoms in a period of time before your trip.
- Coverage of Extreme Sports: many policies do not cover extreme sports such as bungee jumping, scuba diving, mountain biking, rock climbing, or mountaineering so you may need to purchase a separate policy for these types of activities.
- Replacement of prescription medications.
- Coverage of COVID-19 related medical expenses:
- Do you need to be fully vaccinated to be covered?
- Are you covered if there if there is a travel advisory in Canada or in your destination country?
- Are there are any conditions regarding symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. you may not be covered if you have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms prior to your departure, or if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within a certain amount of time prior to departure).
- Are you covered for trip interruption/cancellation due to COVID-19? You may not be covered for these types of benefits if there is an advisory issued by the Government of Canada.
- Coverage while on a cruise: You may not be covered if there is an advisory from the Government of Canada to avoid all cruise travel (level 4 advisory).
Every policy is different so be sure to ask a lot of questions and purchase a policy based on your specific needs.
What your travel health insurance won’t cover:
- Accidents that have occurred as a result of intoxication
- Medical tourism or routine care
Be prepared for an emergency
If the unexpected happens and you find yourself in need of medical care the first thing you should do is call your insurance provider. For this reason, it’s important to always carry a copy of your policy with you. Many insurance providers will require you to contact them before accessing medical care. They will likely be able to direct you to an approved hospital or medical facility, where they may be able to process payments directly. Some insurance companies will require you to pay up front for medical care and will reimburse you afterwards. Be familiar with your policy so this won’t come as a surprise if you need to pay up front for medical care. In an emergency such as a car accident it may not be possible to call your provider in advance, so for these situations seek medical attention first and call your insurance provider as soon as you can.
Collect all evidence and documentation of the medical emergency to submit to your insurance company to support your claim. This could include photos of your injury, police reports, receipts, doctor’s notes and treatment records. Ensure you collect documentation at the time you seek medical care. If you wait until you are home from your trip it may be impossible to collect the documents at a later date. If you are waiting to be reimbursed for a claim be sure to follow-up with your insurance provider until your claim is processed and you have received reimbursement.
Where to begin?
If you are still not sure what coverage you need or where to get it, visit BCAA’s travel insurance webpage. They are a trusted organization and can help you get the right coverage for your trip, as your coverage may vary in scope and price depending on the length of your trip, your age, medical history, planned activities, the number of people needing coverage and the frequency of your travel. You can purchase travel medical insurance quickly and easily on their website, or call them for one to one consultation and advice. For extra ease of mind, they also have a toll-free emergency assistance number that you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Be prepared and travel safe!