Few international travelers realize that major Canadian insurance companies and even Canadian banks sell emergency medical travel insurance policies and related products via their websites. Emergency medical coverage is important because Canada’s health system is expensive. An ambulance trip costs roughly $250 while hospital bills can run $3,500 per night or higher.
Fortunately, single and family emergency travel medical coverage is available. For international visitors age 40 in good health, those policies cost from $3 to $15 per day for the duration of a visit to Canada.
Regardless of age, coverage is usually limited to a maximum of 365 days per visit. Insurance companies also sell multi-trip policies that cover an unlimited number of visits of up to 30 days each.
Foreign Visitors Eligible for Travel Medical Insurance
Prime candidates to apply for emergency travel health coverage include tourists, foreign workers, international students, and new immigrants to Canada not yet covered under a government health insurance plan.
Some insurers will not cover anyone:
- Advised by a doctor not to travel
- Diagnosed as having less than 2 years to live
- With a kidney condition that requires dialysis
- Used home oxygen during the 12 months before their application date.
Newborn babies under 31 days are not eligible for family coverage, either.
Some plans also restrict coverage to travelers from specific countries, and require applicants to complete a medical questionnaire.
Most insurers allow international consumers to apply for emergency travel insurance before visiting Canada. However, the travel insurance policy must be issued in Canada to the applicant.
Eligible Charges under Travel Emergency Medical Insurance
Primary emergency medical care expenses include:
- Medical care from a doctor
- Semi-private hospital room charges, or intensive care if medically necessary
- Private duty nursing in hospital
- Rental or purchase of a brace, crutch, hospital bed, wheelchair or other medical appliance
- Diagnostic tests for the emergency medical condition
- Drugs that legally require a doctor’s prescription.
- Subject to smaller internal dollar limits, other emergency medical expenses are listed below.
Licensed paramedical practitioners such as chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropodists and podiatrists
Local ambulance service to nearest appropriate medical service provider
Dental treatment from an accidental blow to the mouth.
There is also an assortment of transportation and accommodation benefits, such as extra charges for meals, hotel stays, taxi rides and long-distance telephone calls that directly result from the medical emergency.
Key Points about Travel Medical Coverage
Maximum amounts of coverage range from $15,000 to $150,000 per trip. In addition:
- An emergency is strictly defined as a sudden and unforeseen medical condition that starts during the insurance period, and that requires immediate medical treatment.
- An emergency no longer exists when the insurance company determines that the traveler is able to continue the trip or return home.
- Most insurers also require that consumers first contact their client services area before receiving emergency treatment during a trip to Canada. Otherwise, the claimant has to pay a specified percentage of the medical expenses for not checking in advance. Or worse, unapproved charges may not be covered at all.
- To facilitate pre-approval of emergency medical expenses, insurers provide wallet-sized cards with toll-free contact numbers.
Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion
Applicants should thoroughly read and understand the emergency medical coverage’s pre-existing conditions exclusion. The pre-existing conditions clause varies by insurance company and by travel health insurance plan.
Below is an example of pre-existing conditions that will be excluded if they occur within 180 days before the trip to Canada:
- Any sickness, injury or medical condition for which the applicant has had symptoms, been hospitalized, had prescribed or taken medication, or undergone a medical or surgical procedure.
- Any heart condition where the applicant has had symptoms, been hospitalized, had prescribed or taken medication or undergone a medical or surgical procedure.
- Any lung condition where the applicant has had symptoms, been hospitalized, had prescribed or taken prescribed medication, undergone a medical or surgical procedure, been treated with home oxygen or taken oral steroids.
Other Travel Medical Policy Exclusions
Travel insurance for visitors to Canada excludes any act of terrorism, which could be a risk at any global event of the magnitude of the Winter Olympics and considering Canada’s military participation in Afghanistan.
Another exclusion from the travel insurance policy is childbirth during the trip, which could be an emergency. Also excluded are any complications from pregnancy or childbirth nine weeks before or after the expected delivery date.
There are over 20 other fine-print exclusions in the sample travel insurance contract reviewed for this article. While many make business sense, consumers should carefully read over these limitations before deciding which emergency travel health insurance policy best fits their specific needs.