Ellen Roseman: Read the fine print on your travel insurance
- May 20, 2009 8:49 AM |
- By Ellen Roseman
Money Talks is a daily business column from CBC radio.
Ellen Roseman is a business writer at the Toronto Star.
(Listen to the original audio of this column.)
If you’re going on a trip outside Canada, make sure you have travel insurance. You need the right policy that will protect you from unexpected costs - not all will.
For example, a man in his 80s went on a two-week cruise without ensuring he was properly insured. The $900 travel medical insurance policy he bought covered nothing.
While in the United States, he felt severe heart pains and was flown by air ambulance to a major medical centre. Despite spending less than 24 hours in the hospital, he had so many procedures performed that the total bill was more than $70,000 (U.S.).
His Canadian physician said his heart condition was pre-existing. This meant neither the insurance company nor his Ontario health care plan paid for any of the costs.
The man died three weeks after coming home. Since then, his family has been hounded by collection agencies. They may have to hire a lawyer and go to court to prove the bills are impossibly high.
His daughter wrote to me because she wanted to warn others about the dangers of buying the wrong travel insurance policy.
“I don’t dispute that my Dad made a grave error in judgment,” she said. “But the travel agent did not seem to have any hesitation in assuring him that the insurance product she steered him to was entirely adequate for him! That type of half-truth seems typical of a commission-driven environment, with no sense of responsibility for the client.”
So, here’s advice for anyone buying travel medical insurance:
- Don’t take the travel agent’s advice that you will be covered.
- Disclose all your pre-existing health conditions to the insurer. If you’re not sure what conditions are relevant, call your family doctor.
- Find a travel insurance policy that covers pre-existing conditions. Some do, but at a higher price.
- If you can’t afford the proper policy, don’t travel outside Canada.
Remember, too, that you can buy insurance for other travel-related issues. It’s good to be covered for illness while you’re away, but you may have to cancel for medical reasons before you leave. Trip cancellation insurance is helpful here.
And if you do get sick while travelling, you will want to be compensated not only for medical costs, but for the cost of the trip you didn’t enjoy. Trip interruption insurance will do that for you.
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