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What is Travel Insurance and What Do I Need to Know Before Travelling?

By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday April 28, 2020

Updated : Thursday August 6, 2020

Welcome to “Ask the Advisor”, where we, with the help of one knowledgeable group insurance Advisor, answer the most burning insurance questions submitted by our very own plan sponsors and plan members.

For the months of March and April, many of the questions submitted by plan sponsors focused on Travel Insurance, so we amalgamated the questions and posed them to our Advisor partners to answer. Now it’s time to meet the this month’s expert Advisor: Carla Pusateri.

What is Travel Insurance and What Do I Need to Know?

Ask yourself this question: can I afford a $100,000 hospital visit? What about a $10,000 visit? For most Canadians, the answer is likely “no”. I think we can all agree the recent COVID-19 crisis has taught us many things – one of which is that the majority of Canadians do not have enough liquid savings. We are told to have 3 months of living expenses in case of an emergency, just like the one we are experiencing now. If we don’t have enough to get by for 3 months, we certainly don’t have enough to pay for a medical emergency that occurs outside of Canada. 

What can you do to protect yourself financially from an unexpected medical emergency while travelling? The answer is simple: ensure you have travel insurance.

If you have a group benefits plan, you may have this coverage and not even realize it. Most extended healthcare options include emergency out of country coverage (OOC). The coverage is set to pay for unforeseen medical expenses – due to an injury or illness – that occur while outside your province or country. It is important to know your specific policy’s wording, which includes definitions, exclusions, the overall dollar maximum, and trip limitation. If you’re unsure of your coverage, check with your Advisor or Insurer well in advance of your trip.

I have OOC on my group plan, but should I purchase additional coverage for my trip?

It’s a commonly asked question, and the answer is: it depends on the situation, but 95% of the time the answer is “no”. The general rule of thumb is if your health hasn’t changed within 90 days of your trip and your group plan covers you for the number of days you’ll be away, you can generally rely on your group coverage. If that’s the case, buying an individual policy can sometimes complicate a claim as the insurers may then argue about who should pay the claim. Important note: if this does happen, typically the insurer you phone first is the one responsible for the claim.

If a situation arises and you need to call upon your insurance, it’s important to phone and report the claim right away. Your wallet/ID card likely includes phone numbers for the OOC coverage, and most insurers now have the option for an electronic card through their mobile app. Once you call, the insurer will open the claim and instruct you from there. Sometimes hospitals can be wired funds, if they require an up-front payment.  If you have a smaller expense, you may just wish to pay with your credit card and submit for reimbursement afterwards. Most of the time, though, the hospital will send you away with an invoice. Once you return home, you will submit the invoice and the claim forms to your Insurer, and they will pay the hospital/facility directly.

If you are unsure of your coverage, please ask. It’s better to err on the side of caution. Your Advisor or Insurer will be able to clarify the particulars for you.