What you Need to Know about Medical Insurance

2.2min read

Published 1 February 2016


For most, overseas travel is a rewarding experience. No one plans for things to go wrong, but unfortunately, sometimes they do. Being prepared for such problems is essential, and that's why travel insurance protection is so important. As you prepare for your next trip, you may be thinking to yourself, is emergency Medical insurance really necessary? While you may choose to skip this option when purchasing your travel insurance, here's a few important things you need to know before you make your final decision. 


Is Emergency Medical Coverage really necessary?

Our national health insurance program, also known as Medicare, is a true symbol of Canadian values of equality and solidarity that we hold near and dear to our hearts.  As a national program initially established by legislation passed in 1957, most Canadians have only known the concept of largely unrestricted access to medically necessary hospital and physician services on a pre-paid basis.  But, did you know that there are gaps and limitations to the program that could financially devastate the inadequately insured or uninsured traveller?


But, I’m Canadian – I’m totally covered… right?!

Within Canada but outside of your home province, included medical services may vary in what benefits and features are included, or the covered amounts.  Due to this, simple procedures or events that may have been covered back home in Vancouver could result in a horrifying bill when visiting emergency in Calgary.  Even if your medical procedure or service is covered, there is a very likely possibility that direct billing won’t be possible which could result you being required to pay for the service out of pocket and submitting a claim to be reimbursed.

Outside of Canada, one only needs to watch the news now and then to understand that medical systems are very different once we leave the safety of our borders.  Most countries will not recognize your provincial plan but even if they do, the plan may be severely limit in what they will cover.  For example, an outpatient visit to a US emergency room may cost thousands of dollars for the duration of your care, but OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) would only reimburse a total of $50.00CDN per day regardless of the severity of the situation.   Ambulance services are generally never covered outside of your home province, and the cost of such can vary greatly into the thousands of dollars and up.


But I have extended health or credit card coverage, so I’m good, right?

Possibly, but not necessarily.  Extend health programs vary greatly between companies, and every program has its limits and rules.  It’s important to discuss with your plan administrator to ensure that the coverage is what you expect and offers adequate protection for the trip you’re planning.  Credit card offerings are generally an added option, and coverage also varies greatly between the cards and the option you may have selected.  In addition, the benefits for both your extended health plan and credit card coverage may have changed since you last travelled so an up-to-date policy should be reviewed, and compared against a supplementary travel insurance policy so there are no unnecessary surprises.


Some good questions to ask:

  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Are they available 24/7/365?
  • Does my extended health care cover bedside companion?
  • Will I need to pay out of pocket and submit expenses on return?
  • Are all travelers covered?
  • What is the total lifetime limit?
  • Does your credit card coverage require you to be up-to-date in your payments?
  • Will they work with my provincial healthcare?


Do you need help understanding what policy is best for you?  A Flight Centre Travel Expert can review travel insurance options and help you decide, and for more complex questions and situations can work with the insurer to offer further clarification. Get in touch with us by calling 1-877-967-5302, visiting your closest store, or connecting with us online.

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