For most people the changes will have little to no impact.
While it’s true that Ontario’s provincial health coverage no longer covers most out-of-country medical expenses, not much has actually changed. "The coverage that was there before represented such a small amount that it’s probably nothing that travellers really need to worry about,” says Will McAleer, past president and executive director for the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA). “What it does underscore is the need to make sure that they get the right protection before they start traveling outside of the province.”
The association represents members who span the travel insurance chain, including ambulance providers, assistance companies, claims processors and underwriters. McAleer estimates that OHIP covered about 5 per cent of a typical claim before the program was killed.
He notes that the concern for many lies not in the removal of OHIP coverage itself, but in a possible increase to insurance premiums for travelers.
Snowbirds, in particular, could be adversely affected if that were to happen.
But, based on discussions with THIA’s members, who represent the majority of insurers offering coverage in Canada, this doesn’t seem to be the case, McAleer says. He notes that most insurance programs are priced nationally and OHIP is an Ontario only issue.
So, what should you do instead of worrying about the OHIP changes? McAleer suggests you know your health issues and any conditions that could affect your coverage before signing up for a policy and make sure you understand the policy you’re purchasing. Don’t hesitate to ask clarity questions, via the online forms or 1-800 numbers. You’ll also want to understand the assistance services that are included with the policy. Travel assistance services provide support and guidance in the event of an emergency, such as helping you to find and obtain care in an unfamiliar place.
It also helps to understand the trip you’re purchasing for. If you’re planning on something more adventurous (mountain climbing, diving) ask specifically about your coverage for that activity, he suggests.
And finally, shop around for both the right policy and the right price.
“You don’t want to try to answer [questions about your policy] when you’re sitting in an emergency room,” McAleer says. “That’s the last place you want to check the fine print on your travel insurance policy.”
Need some travel advice or have a question about life on the road? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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