Travel Insurance Advice for Snowbirds
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Travel insurance is fairly straightforward when you’re taking a vacation for a week or two. But when you travel for an extended period - especially if you’re an Alberta snowbird - it can get quite complicated.
Alberta seniors can travel outside of the province for up to seven months without losing their Alberta Health Care coverage when they return home (provided they don’t take up permanent residence outside of Alberta during that time). But Alberta Health Care doesn't cover everything when you’re out of the country, so most travel-savvy seniors opt for the protection of a private health insurance plan that they can rely on in an emergency.
Do your research. The provisions of an extended healthcare insurance plan differ significantly from short-term plans and premiums can be costly. Take the time to do some research online or over the phone. Visit sites like Kanetix.ca, CARP.ca and Snowbirds.org to compare prices and find a price range you’re comfortable with.
Be honest with your answers. If you’re over 55, you will likely be required to fill out a medical questionnaire. The answers you provide will determine your insurance rate. Smoking, previous health issues, cancer, and high blood pressure can all affect your rate. If you have a pre-existing health condition, it may be considered stable if there haven’t been any changes to medications, dosages or treatments for a specified amount of time. Whether you’re filling out an online form or speaking with an insurance broker, it’s important to be honest. If your responses aren’t accurate or you forget to disclose a health issue or pre-existing condition, your coverage could be voided should you need to make a claim.
Understand your policy inside and out. It's important to make sure you have the right coverage before you need it. Healthcare in other countries, such as the U.S., can be extremely expensive. If you are uninsured while travelling in the U.S. and need emergency surgery, you may be looking at remortgaging your home just to foot the bill.
Since every insurer is different, it’s critical to go through your policy with a fine-toothed comb. Carefully review definitions on terms like pre-existing health conditions and stable health conditions. Examine and understand the plan’s rules and clauses so you are aware of what is and what is not included. If there is something in the policy that you don’t fully understand, ask your insurance representative or doctor to clarify.
Keep the following in mind. When you travel for an extended period, your health isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Will you be using your car to get to your destination or driving it while you’re away? Review your auto insurance policy and out-of-country coverage. Most Canadian auto insurance policies will cover driving in the U.S., but if you’re driving to Mexico or shipping your vehicle overseas, you will likely need additional coverage. If you’re renting a vehicle for more than 30 days, you may need to purchase additional coverage through the rental company or your insurer. Coverage for travelling with a recreational vehicle is similar to a car, but if you are moving to the U.S. for several months and using your RV as your temporary place of residence, you may need to increase your coverage.
You will also have to take your home into consideration while you’re gone. If you are escaping during the cold Alberta winter, have someone visit your home once a week to check that the furnace is still operating. If you neglect to have someone check in weekly, your home insurance policy could become void. Also don’t forget to shut off the water supply and drain the pipes before you leave.
And finally, Albertans leaving the province for an extended period of time are asked to contact Alberta Health before departing to ensure their health coverage is up-to-date.
The Conference Board of Canada states that 85% of Canadians purchase private health insurance for their trips south. Having the right health coverage means that no matter what you do or where you go, you’ll be taken care of in the event of an emergency. And peace-of-mind is the most important thing to pack in your suitcase.