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Travel Insurance: Travelling Outside Canada

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

(TORONTO, ON) – If you really wish to become a penniless pensioner just fall ill abroad without any travel insurance.


The OHIP website advises Ontario residents travelling abroad that it will only offer limited reimbursement for foreign medical costs and strongly advises against out of Canada travel unless it is backed up by private out of country medical coverage. It states you’ll be covered for unexpected conditions that arise out of Canada.

In other words, if there is even a whisper of health issues before you leave Canada, that flare up outside of Canada, you aren’t covered.

So, on a trip to Detroit for dinner you suffer a stroke or heart attack. Sure you only intended to eat dinner and return to nearby Windsor. Or, perhaps, you just wanted to shop at some discount outlet in Michigan for a few hours. While I have no complaints with US health care, if you have no insurance coverage rest assured it is expensive.

As an air ambulance flight from Istanbul to Toronto will cost you $160,000, you get an idea how quickly you can become a penniless pensioner.

Is a good steak and martini in Detroit, with a heart attack for dessert, worth an enormous health bill? Your choice. Last time I looked for out of Canada medical insurance its cost was paltry, particularly if you are under 60 years old. The older you are the more onerous the exclusions.

What’s that? Exclusions?

Don’t be a twit. No insurance company really wants to make a costly pay-out and, rest assured, when you signed up for your out of country medical coverage you signed away any right to privacy to your medical records. Any comment or analysis made by any doctor you have consulted prior to your trip is open book for the insurance company’s legal team to deny your claim.

Do not assume your purchase of out of country medical coverage offers you protection, particularly if you have been undergoing some medical tests prior to your departure.

For example, you have a colonoscopy and suffer a heart attack abroad. As the colonoscopy is a non routine medical test, any medical expenses incurred as a result of the abroad heart attack could be denied. While many insurance companies will offer out of country coverage for pre-existing conditions, or even undiagnosed conditions, there may be severe reductions in coverage for these conditions to the extent that coverage may be restricted to $150,000 instead of $5,000,000 for those without pre-existing or un diagnosed medical conditions.

It makes no difference how well you feel. Use your common sense and take the time to read the insurance policy, particularly the section entitledExclusions/General Exclusions and most importantly Out of Country Coverage.

Reading these insurance policies is not easy. My advice is that if you have been tangled up in the medical system lately, and are about to travel, you must review the out of country medical coverage section of your policy very carefully. If you have any doubts, seriously consider reviewing the insurance contract with a lawyer or ask as many questions as you like with the insurance representative on the phone.