Why is travel medical insurance important?

A trip to a foreign country or another province is an exciting experience, especially if you have not been there before. However, while you might be excited about the trip and have planned every single aspect of it, it is easy to forget about the possibility of unforeseen circumstances such as an accident or falling ill. These things can happen to anyone and could end up being costly.

Being prepared for your trip in every possible way, including protecting against medical emergencies that might arise during your trip, is wise. Here is how a travel medical insurance plan may help you stay safe and enjoy the journey.

Travel medical insurance is temporary insurance that provides eligible coverage for the length of your policy. It can provide you with financial protection in case of a covered medical emergency while you’re outside of your home province or country. In most cases, you probably won’t need to use it. Still, it is important to have if something unexpected happens, such as an illness or injury. If you do need it, the last thing you want is to not have the support you need through your experience or money to pay for the medical costs.

For example in some countries, like the US, a simple medical emergency can cost thousands. Moreover, your provincial insurance may not provide coverage for the expense.

The key aspects of an emergency medical plan may provide coverage for eligible:

  • Emergency medical and dental treatment
  • Emergency hospitalization
  • Transport to hospital (emergency medical evacuation) and/or home country (medical repatriation) if needed
  • Prescription drugs, x-rays, and lab tests when requested by a physician, and more.

Before or after buying a travel insurance policy, it is essential to read through the policy documentation, as this will become the legal contract. Spend time understanding the description of coverage, what is and is not covered (ex. pre-existing conditions), coverage limits and exclusions. To better understand how exclusions may play out in your coverage, picture the following situation:

Most basic travel medical plans may include coverage for eligible expenses related to treatment for a broken ankle. However, if a traveller breaks an ankle while hiking and the exclusion section of the policy states that injury from this activity is not covered, the travel insurance policy won't cover expenses for medical treatment related to this injury.

You and your wife decide to rent bicycles to explore the charming city of Amsterdam. Unfortunately, your wife takes a fall and ends up having a cervical spine injury. You might need assistance finding an ambulance and a hospital near you. At the medical facility, your wife needs immediate surgery for the injury. Following that, she may also need emergency transportation along with a medical attendant to travel back home.

  • Without travel medical insurance: You could be stuck with all costs, including for ambulance services, surgery and repatriation. An air ambulance alone can cost around $50,000 if required.
  • With travel medical insurance: After calling the 24/7 assistance line, an agent may help you find the most appropriate available hospital and arrange transportation if necessary. They can help overcome any language barriers, facilitate your care, and arrange billing with the health providers whenever possible. Even that emergency transportation back home when approved and arranged by the insurer may be covered.
Some, but not all, travel medical insurance policies may provide cover if you or a family member gets COVID-19 and need medical care or coverage for the quarantine costs. For example, some policies may include COVID-19 coverage benefits regardless of any government advisory in place advising to avoid non-essential (level 3) or all travel (level 4) to your destination. In some other cases, a traveller may need to purchase “complementary” COVID-19 insurance on top of the emergency medical policy if a level 3 or level 4 travel advisory is in place for the destination on the date of departure. Always check with your insurance provider to see if your emergency medical policy  includes eligible coverage for you for pandemics, and what the conditions are.

In deciding which coverage type to purchase, consider how often you travel in a calendar year.

Single-trip: With this type of plan, coverage begins when you leave your home province to travel to your destination, and ends when you return home. This plan may provide you with medical coverage for one trip only. For example, you could purchase single-trip travel medical insurance to insure a four-week vacation in Asia, where you visit several different countries.

Multi-trip: Also known as annual travel medical insurance, a multi-trip plan may cover you for a calendar year and is suitable for travellers who take three or more trips per year outside their province or territory of residence. For example, you could take a business trip to New York, come home for a few weeks, then travel again to Spain, come home again, and after that take off for Japan, and so on. Usually, a multi-trip insurance plan costs less than if you had to purchase coverage for every single trip separately. Be aware of the maximum number of days you can take per trip with this plan type.

When you consider the cost of a vacation, the thought of paying for emergency medical insurance during international or domestic travel may seem like an unnecessary expense. Fortunately, travel medical insurance is a small investment compared to the total travel expenses. Emergency medical policies may average between $40 and $80. But keep in mind that the traveller(s)’ age, any medical conditions, the number of insured people and coverage length typically increase the cost of the policy.

Learn more about travel medical insurance offered by Allianz Global Assistance. Get a free insurance quote or purchase travel insurance online.

Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.

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