Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada.
If you plan to go abroad—even on a day trip to the United States—you should purchase the best supplementary travel insurance you can afford―health, life, disability, driving, vehicle, and trip cancellation―before you leave Canada.
Purchasing travel insurance will help you avoid large expenses such as the cost of hospitalization or medical treatment outside Canada. Foreign hospitals and clinics have been known to refuse treatment to patients who lack adequate insurance or the financial resources to pay their bills. A single accident could result in years of debt for anyone who is not prepared.
You can purchase travel insurance through your travel agent, insurance broker or your employer’s insurance provider. Credit card companies may also offer their clients travel and health insurance. Do not assume that coverage is automatically provided or that the card alone provides adequate coverage.
You are likely not covered by your provincial or territorial health plan while travelling. It may cover nothing or at best a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad. For more information, contact your provincial or territorial health authority.
Travel advisories and insurance policies
No matter where in the world you intend to travel, make sure you check the Country Travel Advice and Advisories twice, once when you are planning your trip and again shortly before you leave. If a Travel Advisory is issued for your destination, after you make your travel arrangements but before or during your trip, it may affect or trigger your travel health insurance or your trip cancellation insurance.
Selecting travel health insurance
Carefully research your needs and verify the conditions, limitations and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.
When assessing a travel health insurance plan, ask if it:
- provides continuous coverage before you leave Canada and after you return
- offers coverage renewable from abroad and for the maximum period of stay
- has an in-house, worldwide, 24-hour/7-day emergency contact number in English and/or translation services for health care providers in your destination country
- pays for foreign hospitalization for illness or injury and related medical costs and, if so, whether it pays up front or expects you to pay and be reimbursed later
- provides coverage for doctor’s visits and prescription medicines
- provides direct payment of bills and cash advances abroad so you don’t have to pay out of your own pocket
- covers pre-existing medical conditions. Get an agreement in writing that you are covered, or you could find your claim “null and void” under a pre-existing condition clause
- provides for medical evacuation to Canada or the nearest location with appropriate medical care
- pays for a medical escort (health care provider) to accompany you during evacuation
- covers premature birth and related neonatal care, if required
- clearly explains deductible costs. Plans with 100-percent coverage are more expensive but may save money in the long run
- covers the preparation and return of your remains to Canada if you die abroad. In most cases, these costs will exceed the plan coverage
- covers emergency dental care
- covers emergency transportation, such as ambulance services
- does not exclude or significantly limit coverage for certain regions or countries you may visit
Meeting the terms of your insurance policy
It is your responsibility to know the terms of your insurance policy. Read the fine print carefully to know when your insurer is obliged to pay. Never lie about your medical history when applying for travel health insurance or you could invalidate a subsequent claim.
Obtain approval from your insurer before undergoing medical treatment. Routine health checkups, non-emergency care and cosmetic surgery are rarely covered by travel health insurance. Insurance companies may also exclude coverage for psychiatric disorders, drug- or alcohol-related incidents, or extreme sporting activities such as bungee jumping and rock climbing.
Some insurance companies will not honour medical claims made for injuries suffered in a country for which the Government of Canada has issued an official Travel advisory. Coverage for injuries resulting from war may also be limited.
Get a detailed invoice from the doctor or hospital before leaving a country where you have received medical treatment. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get the proper paperwork from thousands of kilometres away. Always remember to submit original receipts for medical services or prescriptions received abroad. Keep a copy of the submitted documents for your files.
Carry details of your insurance and tell your travel agent, a travel companion, and a friend or relative at home how to contact your insurer.