The Nova Scotia government is increasing medical coverage for snowbirds and others who vacation out-of-province for extended periods of time.

Previously, the Department of Health and Wellness provided Medical Services Insurance (MSI) coverage to residents who vacationed away for six months of the year. A change announced July 18 says effective Aug. 1, that time frame will be extended to seven months.

Quick look at the changes:

  • MSI coverage time frame extended by one month. Vacationers now get MSI coverage for seven months while they're out-of-province before their coverage expires.
  • Vacationers can take more medications with them.

Health Minister Leo Glavine points out Canadians can only spend six months in the U.S. He said the added month gives vacationers an added month of coverage in the event they want to visit a sick relative outside the province.

He said after consulting with other provinces that have made already made the change, including New Brunswick, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Ontario, he believes the change will be "cost neutral."

"So it's not an impact on our health-care dollars," said Glavine.

Vacationers are required to inform MSI of their absence by phone or email.

More medications in your suitcase

The province has also made changes to allow people to take additional medications with them for the extended time.

''In order to allow vacationers an adequate supply of medications while travelling outside the province for more than 100 days, the Nova Scotia Family and Seniors' Pharmacare Programs will allow pharmacies to dispense up to three 90-day refills to allow for a 270 day maximum supply of medication for beneficiaries to bring with them as vacation supply," read the MSI bulletin announcing the changes.

It was previously two 90-day refills.

Shelly Monroe, owner of Sweet Escapes Travel, welcomes the changes.

"I think that this is good news and that a lot of the snowbirds and clients that I deal with and help plan their winter vacations will be thrilled to know they will be covered up to seven months," she said.

She says many people have the time they can stay out of province "down to a science" and push the six-month limit right to the day their coverage expires.

She says with longer and harsher winters, people are looking to escape for longer periods of time.

Glavine says the change was made in part at the urging of some of the people in his riding over the years, but primarily because of the Canadian Snowbird Association's lobbying. The 70,000-member national not-for-profit advocacy describes its mandate as "dedicated to actively defending and improving the rights and privileges of Canadian travellers."