While we pay higher taxes than the residents of many other countries, Canadians enjoy a world class public health care system. This system provides for many of our health related needs except when we are traveling outside of the country.

recent study conducted by Bank Of Montreal revealed that 60% of Canadians do not regularly purchase travel medical insurance before a trip abroad.  This is an alarming statistic since out of country medical services can be extremely costly.  Emergency evacuation, dental services or even prolonged hospital visits could end up costing you thousands of dollars in the event of an accident.

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The study also notes that only 50% of respondents knew they were responsible for coverage when outside of the country.  For the 50% that didn’t know they were responsible, let’s go over the coverage options that are available.

  • Medical Coverage:  This basic coverage includes trips to the hospital, emergency dental work, doctors visits, emergency evacuation, flying a relative to your bedside and more.
  • Trip Cancellation:  This added coverage lets you cancel your trip and get some or all of your money back.  Every policy is different but a trip can be cancelled for a variety of reasons such as: you change your mind, get sick or have important work commitments.  The trip cancellation premium charged to the purchaser is usually a percentage of the total trip cost.
  • Lost Or Stolen Baggage:  For even more coverage, you can insure your belongings against theft or loss.  This coverage is usually capped at a certain dollar value so if you lose a $5,000 watch you will maybe receive $500.  Again, this varies by policy.

Why Travel Medical Insurance Is Important

Now that you know the options, it should be clear that medical coverage is the most important of the three as a trip can always be rescheduled and lost or stolen items can easily be replaced.  Your health and well being cannot!

Perhaps the 60% of Canadians who do not purchase travel medical insurance feel that cost is an issue.  A quick check with the travel insurance company Travel Guard reveals that medical coverage for an individual between 0-59 years of age for 7 days costs just $23.  For those over 60 coverage can cost the same ($23) provided you are in good health and answer a medical questionnaire.

RBC Insurance also offers travel medical insurance for the same period for $35, a 50% difference in price.  It pays to shop around!  As always, read any policy for the fine details.

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When you leave your country of residence chances are you are going to a place that you are unfamiliar with.  Unfamiliar places bring their own dangers and pitfalls.  As an avid traveler I would never go on a trip without travel medical insurance and have needed to use it on a few occasions.

In Australia I needed to see a doctor when my ear became plugged with sand due to swimming in rough surf.  Jumping off a waterfall in Costa Rica yielded a sprained joint in my back which was determined after a visit to a clinic for x-rays and a visit with a doctor.

More recently at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico I tripped and fell on some stairs (no alcohol was involved!) and partially tore a tendon in my hand which again required medical attention.

As you can see both seemingly benign activities and more adventurous ones can lead to requiring medical attention.  Don’t be stuck paying out of your own pocket for treatment.

Be sure to check your credit card to see if you receive travel medical coverage.  Many premium credit cards include this as a feature for short duration trips.  Also, if you are travelling for business your employer most likely covers you under their insurance plan.  This should be verified of course.

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In closing, always remember to have travel medical insurance when travelling outside of the country.  ALWAYS read the fine print for any policy in order to know what’s covered, what isn’t and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Safe Travels!

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.

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