Travel insurance tips for Canadians — Or, how $150 can save you $100,000

NORTH VANCOUVER, Jan. 24, 2007 — As winter settles in, many Canadians start dreaming of warmer climates. Those lucky enough to be planning a vacation in the sun should remember to pack sunscreen, a bathing suit — and their travel insurance policy. Travel insurance is an affordable way to make sure your trip doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

It’s always a good idea to buy insurance that covers trip cancellation and interruption, as well as baggage loss and theft. But even more important is emergency hospital and medical insurance, which protects you against the astronomical medical bills that can be racked up should you require treatment in another country. Bills for medical professionals’ fees, hospitalization, drugs, X-rays, diagnostic tests, dental treatment, and ambulances can add up quickly.

Some Canadians are under the impression their provincial health plan has them covered while on vacation. This is only partially true — provincial plans provide only a small fraction of costs of treating illness and accidents outside Canada. Depending which province you live in, your government health plan coverage is capped at rates between $75 Cdn. and $400 Cdn. a day. But in the United States, a typical hospital will charge $1,800-$2,000 a day, and as much as $10,000 per day for intensive care and complex cases. Without travel insurance, a serious illness or injury can not only ruin your vacation, but it can leave a huge financial scar.

“We’ve seen cases where $150 travel insurance policy has saved families over $100,000 in medical bills. Considering rates start as low as $1.15 per day, travel insurance is a prudent and very worthwhile investment,” said Ruth Simons, president and CEO of TIC Travel Insurance Coordinators, a member of The Co-operators group of companies. “Travel insurance not only covers those costs, but our travel assistance service also plays an important co-ordination role. We deal directly with the hospital abroad and get the patient home as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we serve as a vital link between the injured traveller, the attending physician abroad, the family doctor back home, relatives, and even the person’s employer — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

For example, The Co-operators recently assisted a 72-year-old Canadian who fainted while visiting North Carolina. The man was taken to the hospital, where doctors treated him for a heart disorder. The company arranged an ambulance to take him to the airport, where which he was flown home under the supervision of a nurse in an air ambulance. The aircraft was met at the airport in Ontario by an ambulance that took the patient directly to the hospital. The cost of this transportation was almost $13,000, and the total, including air ambulance and hospital bills, added up to over $100,000, which was covered by The Co-operators.

“We typically pay bills directly, so the sick or injured traveller is not out-of-pocket any funds,” said Simons. “Our policies also cover various associated expenses, such as the cost for family or friends to fly and stay at your bedside while you’re in a foreign hospital.”

There are many different travel insurance policies, each designed for different types of travel, from extended visits to the USA by Canadian seniors, to short fun-in-the-sun getaways, to visits to neighbouring provinces. To find out which policy best meets your needs, speak with your agent or broker, or visit