Navigating travel health coverage

Nothing ruins a trip like a health crisis. We pay attention to the condition of our van before we leave (getting a top-to-bottom check of all the safety and wear and tear aspects) and we most definitely do the same when it comes to our health. So, being properly covered as we head down the highway? Absolutely. Plan ahead. To leave finding adequate health insurance until the last minute is courting disaster. Best to do a little legwork first - find out what coverage you may have (as an employment benefit, credit card coverage, annual add-on to your home policy, etc.) and then top up if necessary. And make sure to do a little research into the rules governing the length of times Canadians can visit the United States annually and how it effects their provincial health coverage. Pack prescription medications you will need for the time away (bringing extra doesn't hurt) and bring the original containers from the pharmacy, a list of your regular prescription meds and the contact info for your doctor back home. You just never know when you'll need the information (and if you don't bring it along, that's usually when you need it!). Here's what we've done: We're both self-employed and as a result we are without out-of-province health care coverage. For the first few years, we signed up for multi-trip plan coverage travel health coverage through our credit card, the AMEX Gold Card. There is an annual fee for the card (although there are frequent sign-up specials that waive the fee for the first year) and it comes with a host of benefits, including out-of-province health coverage for eligible emergency medical expenses for the first 15 consecutive days of a trip (under age 65). This year, we tried something different . . . This year we joined the Explorer RV Club and got information on Sanderson Travel Insurance who shopped around and got us an excellent multi-trip annual policy with Lloyd's of London. The new policy covers us for an unlimited number of 35 day trips out of Ontario with zero deductible and $10 million coverage. If we go for longer than 35 days, we top up the plan at a very reasonable cost. According to CBC News: "OHIP pays up to $400 CAN per day in U.S. hospital costs, depending on level of care. The plan also reimburses outpatient visits at $50 CAN per day. And it reimburses physicians costs at the rate they would be paid in Ontario. If a U.S. physician charges more than a Ontario doctor for the same procedure, the Ontario patient pays the difference." And costs in a province like Ontario are generally significantly lower than in the United States. Now, a few sobering numbers about costs to a U.S. hospital visit:
  • broken arm: $5,000
  • stitches: approximately $500/stitch
  • kidney stone treatment: $4,300
  • urinary tract infection: $2,600
  • sprained ankle: $1,500
  • headache: $1,700
You get the idea. The smart thing to do is to determine your exact circumstances and your needs. Call around, investigate and gather information on the alternatives. Try CAA or AAA, your credit card company, travel agents and your insurance provider (the latter often has separate coverage available). It's a matter of finding the right fit for your needs. But whatever you do, don't do without.  

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