As snowbirds plan their annual trip down south, one question is whether or not to get travel insurance.  The answer is they probably should.

Insurance is necessary to protect ourselves from big medical bills when we travel out of the country.  So whether it’s a 24-hour cross border shopping trip, or a two-month trip to a condo in Florida, you need to ensure you’re covered in case of medical emergency.

Related: What Snowbirds Need To Know Before Heading South

But according to a BMO survey, only 40 percent of Canadians who travel outside the country buy travel insurance.  And a CBC Marketplace report revealed some alarming examples of people who’ve bought travel insurance and had their claims denied.

Canadians aged 18-34 are least likely to buy travel insurance, while those aged 60 and older have to fill out a complicated medical questionnaire, likely with their doctor’s help, in order to buy insurance.

There may be a couple of reasons why we don’t take extra precautions when we travel.  For one, we assume we’re already covered, either through our group benefits at work or through the coverage on our credit cards.

You should review those policies carefully to understand all the terms and conditions before you travel, particularly when it comes to things that aren’t covered by the plan.  You may find your group plan and credit card coverage are not adequate.

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What to know before buying travel insurance

Despite all the pitfalls and warnings, the reality is you need travel insurance when you leave the country and you need to be diligent when you apply for coverage.  CBC Marketplace listed nine things you need to know about travel medical insurance before you buy.

The insurance itself is relatively cheap for a single trip.  A 30-year-old traveling from Ontario to Florida for seven days can get emergency medical coverage for as little as $22.

A healthy 60-year-old making the same trip for seven days would only pay $25 for coverage that includes up to $5,000,000 in emergency medical treatment and dental expenses.

But travel insurance prices are heading up industry-wide as of October 1st, according to the Canadian Automobile Association.  That’s why the CAA is promoting its annual plan to members so they can lock-in their travel insurance at today’s prices before rates increase.

An annual plan is worth a look if you take multiple trips per year.  It currently costs $80 per year to cover multiple trips of 15 days or less, and $135 per year for multiple trips of 30 days or less.

CAA also offers a more comprehensive policy that not only covers medical emergencies but also things like trip cancellation and trip interruption.  An annual plan that covers multiple trips costs about $185.

More answers to your travel insurance questions

Here’s Globe & Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick discussing travel insurance with Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure.

Do you need travel health insurance even if you’re just visiting the U.S. for the day?

Why are travel insurance claims denied?  We’re not giving the proper answers to medical questions.

Related: How Seniors Benefit From Joining CARP

So remember to include travel insurance in your itinerary when planning your next trip, and if you need to fill out a medical questionnaire then you should leave yourself enough time to discuss the form with your doctor.


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