According to a recent survey, only about half of Canadians aged 50 and over bother to check their insurance coverage before leaving for vacation. Others wait until they are at the airport and buy something without knowing what coverage they have. Are you fully protected before you travel?
Before traveling, you should make sure everything you take is covered, as well as what you leave behind. Does your home insurance cover you for extended absence? Do you know what you are not covered for, such as high risk activities? Have you declared all pre-existing medical conditions? The horror stories we hear are usually about people who purchased insurance and think they are covered, only to find have their claim denied because they didn’t disclose a medical condition they had before travelling.
With hospital bills running as high as $15,000 a day in the U.S. it doesn’t take much time to get into serious money.
Snowbirds generally are more experienced, often stay in the same place, and compare notes with other snowbirds. The risk-takers are the day-trippers or those who go for a week or two of sun, beach and golf, with the attitude that nothing will happen to them.
Unfortunately, stuff happens and it may not even be their fault. It could be somebody else running into them with their car. Medical costs are enormous and provincial insurance will only pay a small portion of these horrendous costs. Travelling without coverage puts you at huge risk of losing everything that you own.
Travel medical insurance is easily available, and costs vary depending on age, health and length of stay. About 1.3 million snowbirds travelled south last year, with the average individual premium at about $700. This amount almost doubles for those 65 years and over who are staying for three months or more.
Adding to the risks inherent with travel, there are other types of coverage travelers should consider before leaving. Many home insurance policies don’t cover certain risks unless the homeowner can prove they made arrangements with a neighbour, friend or a home inspection service to regularly check their home. Some may require that you have an alarm system installed.
Most auto insurance policies cover travelers driving their own vehicle in the U.S., but you should make sure your liability coverage is high enough to cover claims that the American court system hands out these days, so the recommended coverage is $2 million.
All this adds to the cost of any vacation, but it may be the best money you spend. Consider the case of a client of an associate of mine who had a heart attack while traveling in the U.S. She indicated that she had no pre-existing heart condition when she applied for the coverage, but had discounted a couple of episodes as indigestion. She ended up with $350,000 in medical expenses plus the cost of the air ambulance back to Alberta, none of which was covered by Alberta Health Care.
There are also some happy stories about travel insurance claims. Of course, the happiest stories are when you return home with only good memories. An acquaintance broke his hip while on an Alaska cruise ship. He was stabilized at a hospital at Juneau, then a Medivac plane was dispatched from Vancouver to transport him to his home-town hospital in Alberta. Along the way, the patient asked if he could be transported to where his doctor practiced in a different town. No problem! The insurance company even paid for a plane ticket for his son to retrieve his car in Vancouver!
Are you fully protected before you travel? Talk to a trusted insurance agent before you leave so that you can travel with peace of mind.
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