Companion Advisor: Insurance
Study fine print on medical insurance
Many Canadians hold medical insurance through
their company benefits package. But few have ever actually read the fine
print on that policy. When you travel out of the province or out of the
country, you should know how that package will cover you and your family.
Start by digging out that little booklet about benefits
you got when you joined the company. Similarly, if you have out-of country
medical insurance through your "gold" credit card or other sources, you
should find out the terms of the plan. You want to know who is covered,
for how long and whether there are any restrictions on coverage.
Some plans have a toll-free number for information,
or you may be able to find out more through your company's benefits department.
Some group plans have comprehensive out-of-country coverage, by others
many not cover everything you need. In this case you might consider buying
a supplementary travel medical plan. If you are self-employed, or not
covered at all, you should definitely buy a plan before you travel.
Ask these questions:
· How long are you covered for?
· Is everyone in your family covered?
· What is the limit on health costs per person?
· Is there a deductible that you must pay?
· Will the plan transport you home for treatment?
· Will you be covered if you plan to take part in sports such as hang-gliding
or scuba diving? Many plans do not cover dangerous sports.
· Does the plan cover treatment for pre-existing conditions, such as heart
disease or diabetes?
· What is the procedure if you do become ill? Why do you need coverage?
Remember that your provincial health plan will only
pay a fraction of the cost to stay in a U.S. or foreign hospital. Two
nights in a U.S. hospital can cost over $10,000. If a patient needs surgery,
air evacuation and other assistance, the health care bill could climb
to over $100,000 - all of it coming out of your pocket.
Even if you are traveling to another province within
Canada, your provincial plan won't pay all the costs. A travel plan will
cover the cost of an ambulance or air ambulance to return you home, or
the cost of emergency prescriptions.
Treatment of pre-existing conditions
It is important to study the details of coverage for pre-existing conditions,
as many plans will not cover you for any illness treated or diagnosed
before you left the country. You can get coverage even if you have a pre-existing
condition, but you have to allow a qualified insurance expert time to
write the proper policy. It can be more expensive but, as a person with
a pre-existing condition, you need travel insurance more than many other
vacationers. Ask about whether your partner or family will be flown home
if you become ill. Consult an insurance advisor, such as Fiscal Agents,
who is a member of the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial
Most plans offer an emergency toll-free telephone number
that will guide you through a medical maze. Make sure you carry that number
with you. If you do need medical treatment, they expect you to consult
with them. You could forfeit some of your coverage if you go ahead without
calling the toll-free number.
If you travel frequently, an annual plan can
be a cost-effective alternative. Many individual plans come bundled with
bells and whistles like flight cancellation insurance and baggage insurance
however each new option adds to the cost of your plan. Buy only what you
need and enjoy your vacation.
This article is
reprinted with permission from the Canadian Association of Insurance and
Financial Advisors (CAIFA), www.caifa.com.
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