Half Of Canadians Travel Without Insurance

By: Justin Leung on May 18, 2013

Young Canadians are known to travel internationally between the months of May and October, according to John Thain, President of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.  However, fewer than half of all travellers buy travel health insurance prior to taking off, which leaves them vulnerable to expensive overseas medical bills.

Thain worries every year that Canadians will have a medical emergency while on vacation.  Travelling to the US is the most common vacation for young travellers, but without travel insurance, incurred medical expenses can cost thousands of extra dollars.

According to the latest figures out of the US, treating a broken leg in a hospital costs around $20,000 out of pocket without travel insurance.  Air ambulances from Florida or other southern states back to Canada cost an estimated $15,000 for the flight.  Hospitals even charge a standard rate for simply lying on a hospital bed, and most of these rates cost upwards of $1,000 per week.

Thain believes young travellers remain ignorant of how expensive unforeseen medical crises can be in a foreign nation.  Travel insurance covers medical emergencies and ambulance costs, as well as lost bags and cancelled trips.  Thain says young Canadians typically pay around $50 for weeklong travel insurance, which he feels is a very affordable fee considering the alternative.

Our government health insurance plans have very limited coverage when you leave the country.”

But before agreeing to pay for travel insurance, Thain advises Canadians to be honest on their forms about all medical history.  He says policies can be revoked if insurers feel there is a lack of transparency about a traveller’s personal health risks.

“You really need to know your own health.  Policies will typically have some exclusions, particularly for preexisting medical conditions.  If you have a preexisting medical condition, you have to look very carefully that you’re going to be covered.”

Thain also recommends that travellers determine if their travel insurance plans pay directly to hospitals, or instead reimburse the bill after an out of pocket payment.