Windsor

Out of country OHIP cut has Windsor-Essex travellers worried

Travellers are being urged to get private insurance in anticipation of cuts to out-of-country OHIP coverage.

Basic OHIP benefits for out of country travel are set to be discontinued on Jan. 1, 2020

Martha and Dennis Willis winter in Fort Myers, Fla. They're worried their private insurance premiums will increase with the loss of OHIP coverage. (Martha Willis)

Windsorites are able to travel to Detroit so easily that many don't think of obtaining out-of-country health insurance.

At the moment, Ontario's OHIP insurance system covers $400-per-day for out-of-country inpatient treatments, with an additional $50-per-day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

But that's set to change on Jan. 1, 2020, when only kidney dialysis will be covered up to a maximum of $210 per day when out of the country.

Dina Mejalli, a partner at the Greg Monforton and Partners law firm who has helped Windsor clients obtain legal representation in the U.S. in liabilty claims due to accidents, said health care costs can be astronomical.

Mejalli said many snowbirds have lost their company benefits and now rely on private insurers.

"So their fear now is their premiums are going to increase because the Ontario government is cutting their minimal provision of benefits," said Mejalli.

Windsor residents Martha and Dennis Willis live in Fort Myers, Fla. during the winter months. They lost their out-of-province benefits through their General Motors pensions, and now they're worried their private insurance premiums will increase with the loss of OHIP coverage.

Medical treatment in the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars. (CBC File Picture)

"Even travel in general is expensive. So now add the cost of out-of-province coverage on it and everything else that's going to impact not even snowbirds but everybody I think," said Martha Willis, from her home in Florida.

Sarah Hupalo, a travel agent with Goliger's Travel Plus, said approximately $60 or $70 gets you one years' worth of travel insurance at her organization. She said the price of the insurance sold by her company won't increase because of the OHIP cut.

"Anything can happen and it's very expensive. A 15-minute ambulance ride can be $10,000," said Hupalo.

Waseem Jarjis is a law student at the University of Windsor who is enrolled in a joint program with the University of Detroit Mercy. He travels back and forth regularly, and thinks he might be covered under the Detroit university but isn't certain.

"It might be nice to check my coverage now that these changes are coming about and see what I would have to do in that situation," said Jarjis.

Dr. Gina Bulcke, is director of organizational effectiveness at Windsor Regional Hospital (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor Regional Hospital sees more than 20 people each year who have come back from the U.S. after needing medical treatment there.

They believe American hospitals will discharge Canadians more quickly now that some OHIP coverage is drying up.

"Sometimes we find that insurance companies will exhaust the service in the US, so I think now with the changes that will be impacting the people of Ontario, I think we will see patients needing to come back sooner," said Dr. Gina Bulcke, director of organizational effectiveness at Windsor Regional Hospital.

The province has already urged residents to get additional coverage sooner rather than later, because service costs covered by OHIP that pays for services in the U.S. isn't usually enough.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported that out-of-province OHIP coverage is set to change on Jan. 1, 2020. Instead, out-of-country coverage is set to change on that date. The story has been updated to reflect these facts.
    Dec 05, 2019 2:53 PM ET

About the Author

Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is an award-winning video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print.

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