Did you know that, if you are travelling outside of Canada, you will not be covered by OHIP in the case of a medical emergency? Even if you manage to get some OHIP coverage it will be limited and you should not expect that it will pay for your medical bills in another country. If you want coverage for medical emergencies or illnesses while travelling abroad, you will need to buy travel insurance. This type of insurance is available to cover unexpected expenses, such as an emergency hospital visit or medical treatment while you are travelling.
The coverage available through travel insurance may differ from policy to policy depending on the company that issues it. One thing that all insurance policies have in common is exclusions. There are several exclusions that travel insurers typically include in their policies. The main exclusion found in virtually all travel insurance is for “pre-existing conditions”. A pre‑existing condition will be defined differently in different policies. You will need to read the policy wording carefully to determine what it defines as a pre‑existing condition. A common definition is “a medical condition that exists before your effective date of insurance”. Pre‑existing conditions can include disease, illness, injury, complications due to pregnancy and mental or emotional disorders.
While some policies will exclude all coverage for pre-existing conditions, others will only offer limited coverage if a pre‑existing condition requires treatment. It is important to read the fine print very carefully before selecting a travel insurance policy so that you know what is considered a “pre‑existing condition” and what coverage is available should you experience medical problems because of a pre‑existing condition.
Other common exclusions found in travel insurance are:
- “High risk” activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, etc.;
- Self-inflicted injuries or suicide;
- Treatment for substance abuse such as drug or alcohol dependency;
- Excluded destinations, especially those under travel advisories;
- Maximum payments; these vary from policy to policy. There may be a financial “cap” for individual fees or total coverage. There may be “co‑insurance” which only pays for a percentage of the total cost;
- Time limits may be set out in the policy so if you end up staying longer than anticipated you may need to extend your travel insurance or buy a new policy.
You may already have some form of travel insurance through your group health plan at work, a credit card, or a professional association. You should review your policy carefully before you leave Canada to ensure that you are aware of any exclusions it contains. You may wish to buy additional travel insurance.
Finding yourself in a foreign country after an injury or illness without sufficient travel insurance can make a bad situation worse. It may be worthwhile consulting a lawyer to review the fine print of a travel insurance policy. If you have already purchased the policy, or if you have travel insurance through a group health plan, it may also be worthwhile having a lawyer review the exclusions in it so that you are fully informed of the coverage that you have or, more importantly, do not have.