Tips and Updates about Travel Health Insurance > Cold Facts about Medical Insurance when Travelling in Canada

Cold Facts about Medical Insurance when Travelling in Canada

by Ian Callaway, posted on 7:15 AM, January 12, 2024

Canadians make an average of 21.14 million monthly trips within Canada for various purposes and durations.

  • The 38% of intraprovincial/territorial Canadian travellers are known as “Staycationers.”
  • Many take multiple shorter trips ranging from the weekend getaway to the “four-day weekend”— the Micro-Trippers.

Travelling Risks

Regardless of age, all travellers are vulnerable to medical events ranging from gastrointestinal problems to accidents and injuries. As cars/trucks dominate intra-Canadian trips, those transportation modes are notable travel risks, with New Brunswick, Manitoba, and BC above the national injury rate average.

Other than transportation-related data, there is no centralized data collection centre for out-of-province medical events. Each travel insurer has its own claims data.

Universal Medical Care

Many Canadians assume the Canada Health Act’s “comprehensive” requirement will cover their emergency medical needs when travelling throughout Canada.

Each provincial or territorial Government Health Insurance Plan (GHIP) determines its own “comprehensiveness” for “medically necessary services” and reimbursement rates for medical services.

In the event of an out-of-home-province/territory accident, sickness, or unexpected medical emergency, the medical reimbursement level will not be that of the host Canadian jurisdiction where the event occurs; it is based on the home GHIP jurisdiction’s predefined “medically necessary services” and then, most often at a much-reduced level of “comprehensiveness and cost.”

Inter-GHIP Exposures

  • One Ontario hospital publishes a range for Day Surgical Fees, excluding the Hospital Visit Fee, from an $850 low to $3,126 medium to a $13,160 high.
  • A BC resident using a ground or air ambulance in BC will be billed $80 by BC’s Ambulance Service whereas in Ontario the flat fee is $240.

Travel Insurance

According to MSP, “BC residents are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance when travelling to other Canadian provinces/territories to cover the cost of services not included in the reciprocal agreement between the provinces/territories.” Other provinces have similar advisories.

At its core, travel insurance is designed to fill the gap between the cost of required emergency medical services and the reimbursement rate provided by their GHIP.

Many travel insurance plans provide additional protections ranging from returning the traveller to their home jurisdiction or bringing a friend or relative to the traveller’s bedside and also covering that person’s hotel and meals. Some travel insurance plans will also return vehicles and pets to the traveller’s home. The travel insurer does the heavy lifting concerning all the paperwork.

Accessing travel insurance can be relatively straightforward. While different travel insurers’ rates are based on both the extent of their coverages and their claims experience, the more common rate-setting factors are age, home jurisdiction, medical profile, pre-existing stability period, tobacco status, and trip duration and destinations.

Five Fundamentals

  • Find your good fit with a travel
  • Answer all the intake questions
  • Understand the plan's “pre-existing ”
  • Read the travel insurance
  • Do not rely on credit card or group insurance pamphlets.

Happy Trails!