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Avoiding a Travel Insurance Nightmare

Vacation Time

We’ve seen the headlines recently about Canadians traveling abroad who find themselves stranded in a hospital, running up huge medical bills only to find out that their travel insurance will not cover the expenses. The most recent event was the lady who ended up with a hospital bill in excess of $900,000 after giving birth prematurely while on holiday. Payment was reportedly denied by the insurance company based on her failure to disclose a recent infection.

We all know what a $900,000 medical bill would do to our financial situation. How can we be sure that we have sufficient coverage, and that a claim won’t be denied?

It’s important to understand that travel insurance is not a health plan, but is designed to cover expenses if you suffered a medical emergency while traveling outside your province of residence.

It’s also important to understand what a pre-existing medical condition is. Many believe that if their medical condition is being managed and causing little disruption to their daily living, it’s of little importance to the insurer. In reality, travel insurance policies exclude coverage for some medical conditions, and failure to disclose these could invalidate the policy and leave you without any coverage.

If you plan to travel but have pre-existing medical conditions, travel insurance providers such as banks, travel agents or coverage provided by credit card companies may not offer a product that meets your needs. I would suggest that you contact a travel insurance specialist, as they can tailor a policy to meet your specific needs.

If you or a travel companion are physically disabled, again it’s best to deal with a travel insurance specialist, as they can often offer coverage for such things as mobility equipment or a care assistant in the event you cannot provide the needed personal support.

It may be safer to arrange disability or special needs insurance over the telephone or in person with a professional travel insurance specialist, as they are responsible for informing you of the coverage limits and your rights. Always tell your insurance provider if you’re taking any prescription medication, if you require continuous medical supervision or have ever suffered from any strokes, respiratory, heart or cancerous conditions. If you don’t declare previous or current medical conditions prior to traveling, it is very unlikely you will be able to claim for trip cancellation or any medical expenses you incur.

Applying for travel insurance online is easy, but you need to be aware that the responsibility is completely on you to declare all the medical facts which can be both confusing and contentious.

More than all other travel planning, don’t leave your insurance application to the last minute. Go over each question and make sure you understand each condition. Consult your doctor if you are uncertain of your answers to any medical question. If you have coverage provided by your credit card, understand the restrictions and limitations. Check the policy wording carefully and read what it covers, but more importantly what it does not cover. If you stay away longer than planned, contact the insurance company to get your coverage extended.

The last thing you need during a holiday medical crisis is finding out that you’re not covered!  Always give full disclosure about any medication changes, and any medical conditions no matter how insignificant you may feel they are to ensure you have travel insurance. 

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