Monday, May 28, 2012

The importance of travel insurance

In the past, I never bought travel insurance. I just decided that I was going and that was it. It seems I never really thought about all of the possibilities, like illness or injury in a foreign country. When I was in the Caribbean on my first cruise, I ended up with ear problems and needed to see a doctor on board our ship. It was a shock to me when I was told that rates for seeing the on board doc started at $100. That was before any kind of treatment. Now, I am from Canada, and unaccustomed to paying for medical services, at least directly. However, I needed to see the doctor and get things straightened out before flying home. So, I sucked it up and paid. I was fortunate that it was not worse and I can tell you that I will always buy travel insurance from here on in! In our travel agency we use RBC insurance and I have read and heard about many stories where people were not only reimbursed their lost trips, but had medical coverage and support in foreign countries. I have friends who were involved in a car accident in the US and had to pay tons of money for treatment. It's just good sense to have coverage. Following is an article I borrowed from about the value of travel insurance, particularly for us Canucks.
By Gordon Powers, March 17, 2010 Why you need travel insurance If you plan on traveling outside Canada, consider getting the best medical insurance you can afford. Provincial healthcare plans rarely cover the full cost of medical care. Gordon Powers Thanks to a rapidly rising Canadian dollar, more families are choosing U.S destinations for their March break vacations. If you're one of them, make sure you pack more than just sunscreen for protection. Spending an extra $150 or so on travel insurance could save your family thousands in medical expenses related to illness, injury or death while heading across the border. Bing! Where can I find financial counselling? Step one in shopping for a broad-based plan is to determine if you're already covered. Your employee health plan or credit card coverage likely includes some form of group health insurance and that's a good place to start. If you're self employed though, chances are that you're on your own. Find out the details, including whether family members are covered (many employer plans have an age limit for children) and any restrictions on the length of the vacation. Many insurers, for example, won't pay for emergency hospital stays lasting more than three weeks. Be sure to shop around — there's a wide range of possible policy features and costs. You may, for instance, be able to get lower rates from some carriers if you work with a familiar company or from organizations like the Canadian Automobile Association. And consider one policy that covers the whole family, rather than buying one policy per person. Once you do buy a policy, carry proof of your insurance with you on your trip. Getting good medical coverage is probably a smart idea every time you travel, even if you're just entering the U.S. on a day trip. Even though it costs several thousand dollars a day for hospital care across the border, provincial healthcare plans will pay only as much as that service would have cost in Canada. Ontario's OHIP, for example, only covers up to $400 per day and BC's plan covers less than half that. You'll be responsible for the rest. The cost of your policy depends on several factors including your age and health, the duration of the trip, the extent of coverage and deductible amount. Some policies contain clauses that require you to pay part of the costs of any medical treatment you receive, expressed as a deductible clause. For example, if your policy calls for a $250 deductible, you'll have to pay the first $250 towards any claim. You may be able to reduce your premiums somewhat by agreeing to a higher deductible, which some companies will waive if you're under a certain age. Standard plans should cover unexpected illness, disease or injury, emergency transportation, doctors' fees, hospital stays and medication. More elaborate plans may also include X-rays, diagnostic tests, dental treatment, air and ground ambulance, paramedic fees and private nursing. Some plans also cover transportation and related costs if you, your spouse or dependent children have to return home or stay at the bedside of the hospitalized person. They may also provide a per diem allowance for meals and accommodation, if the medical emergency prevents your return to Canada. Most insurers have a 24/7 toll-free number you must contact prior to seeking medical treatment. From there, they'll coordinate treatment with an approved network of medical providers, arranging emergency transportation, and making billing/payment arrangements. If you visit a doctor outside the approved network, you may end up paying these expenses, then claiming them from the insurer - not a smooth process. Be aware of what else may not be covered. Standard limitations include emergencies due to political unrest, suicide, high-risk sports, and alcohol or drug abuse. Pre-existing medical conditions are also often not covered and there's little value in playing dumb here. Before paying anything, the insurance company will ask to check records with your local doctor if they suspect problems are due to a pre-existing condition. Ask questions if you're not sure exactly what the pre-existing limitations refer to, how they apply to your medical history or how they affect your coverage. Some policies will still cover you, but at a higher price. The terminology in travel insurance policies is open to interpretation, so you have to study the fine print in order to discover what a "medical emergency" means to each company. When examining different policies, ask the following: What won't be covered? Is there a deductible? In the event of an emergency, do I have to pay upfront or will the carrier pay direct? What procedures need to be followed to obtain medical attention? Is childcare covered if I or my spouse is hospitalized? Will someone drive our vehicle back to our home if we're not able to? What happens if one of us dies while travelling?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Barbara I have traveled frequently and am about to take a trip I've never given this much thought. Great points though and something I believe I should consider after reading this.

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