As Canadians, we have a health care system that allows us to get the treatment we need, almost anywhere.  However, in some cases our health coverage doesn’t apply across the border.

If you are heading south, whether it’s for the winter in a milder climate, or a quick shopping trip, it’s important to consider travel insurance.

Related: Travel Medical Insurance – Don’t Leave Home Without It

“Travel insurance should be part of your travel plans,” according to Mark Anevich from CAA South Central Ontario.  “An unforeseen medical emergency can happen when you least expect it, and existing provincial plans do not necessarily cover all of your expenses.”

Travel Insurance

This is true when traveling to other provinces in Canada, and especially true when you head south of the border to the United States.  As you choose travel insurance, here are 5 things to keep in mind:

1. Multi-trip vs. one-time travel insurance:  Make sure that your coverage reflects the traveling you will do.  If you only go south once a year, for the winter, you can get one-time travel insurance that covers the specific period of your trip.

However, if you make multiple trips, it’s a good idea to get an annual plan.  These plans cover all of the trips you make in a 12-month period.

2. Don’t just rely on price to decide:  While the cost of your coverage is an important aspect to consider, it isn’t the only thing.  What happens if your medical emergencies are only covered up to $25,000 and you end up needing more coverage?

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Really evaluate your needs and then choose the appropriate coverage.  You might have to pay a little more, but the peace of mind is often worth it.

3. Pay attention to exclusions:  There are a lot of interesting things to do in the United States.  However, you need to make sure that you understand what might be excluded from coverage in your policy.

Some “adventure” activities like mountain climbing or whitewater rafting, might not be covered.  Know the exclusions before you leave.  Also, understand what constitutes a pre-existing condition, since that might not be covered.

4. How are claims paid?:  Some travel insurance policies pay the health care service provider directly.  Others require you to make all payments up front, and then reimburse you.  Find out the policy.

Related: Snowbirds – What You Need To Know Before Heading South

If you are worried about paying out of pocket, consider a policy that pays the health care providers directly.  You should also check co-pays and deductibles.

5. Customer service: Find out about the procedures involved when it comes to complaints, and do some research online into consumer reviews.  While no insurance company is going to have a perfect record, you can get a pretty good idea of general customer service when you poke around.

Find out if there is a toll-free line you can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the event of an emergency.

Planning a trip can be exciting.  However, don’t get so caught up in the fun aspects of trip planning that you neglect the more practical parts.  Travel insurance can ensure that you are prepared for almost any situation while you are out of the country.


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