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Travel Medical Insurance: What You Need to Know

By Britney Hope

No one ever expects to need emergency medical care while on vacation. But these days, in-the-know Canadians rarely leave home without coverage. But with workplace benefits, credit card plans and individual plans, it’s more confusing than ever to know which plan covers what.

“When people receive travel coverage with an employee plan or credit card, they usually assume it includes everything. They may not realize they need to read all of the details and limitations,” says Pam Murray, insurance manager at AMA Travel.

So how can you tell which plan suits your needs? Consider the following before booking your next getaway.

Benefits packages that offer travel medical insurance are great workplace perks. But such plans rarely cover expenses upfront—meaning travellers must pay emergency medical fees them- selves, submit the bills to Alberta Health Care, and embark on a lengthy claims process before being reimbursed.

Furthermore, some employee insurance plans only cover a percentage of prescription medications, which can easily add up during an unexpected hospital stay abroad.

Even if you’re stable, many policies offered through employee benefits may have limits and might not include pre-existing conditions. Always read your policy carefully to understand its stability requirement, exclusions, terms and conditions.

Accepted almost anywhere, credit cards that include travel insurance for cardholders are an alternative way to ensure you’re prepared for anything. With that said though, many credit card plans are designed for all-purpose protection—meaning the coverage you get is not necessarily the coverage you want. And in some cases, you may only be covered if you paid for your trip using that card. Cardholder eligibility can also depend on age and length of trip.

Many credit card plans provide up to $1 million in coverage, but not all services are included, and some medical providers—particularly air ambulances—require immediate payment before providing assistance. While you can certainly charge an airlift to your credit card, just be sure it (and the resulting interest) is covered in your policy.

Every trip and every traveller is different. Individual/private insurance policies, such as those provided by AMA Travel*, offer a host of advantages that go beyond one-size-fits- all coverage.

Plans are tailored to your specific travel needs, medical status and history. They are also surprisingly affordable—starting at just $25—and can offer up to $5 million in emergency medical coverage. They’re often sold as annual plans, perfect for frequent travellers and snowbirds.

AMA Travel’s medical plans also include coverage for pre-existing conditions (if stability criteria are met), with no age limits. And when possible, upfront medical expenses can be arranged to be paid directly by the insurance company. Applying for coverage is fast and easy: The medical questionnaire takes just five minutes to complete.

Individual/private insurance also offers services not available through standard plans. With AMA Travel or with these products, policyholders receive private medical evacuation in an emergency. Such coverage provides an essential safety net when venturing beyond Alberta borders.

CAA’s medical service partner, Skyservice Air Ambulance, recently rolled out its Bombardier Learjet 45XR, an aircraft built for worldwide emergency response.This exciting new addition to the Skyservice fleet features state-of-the-art critical care technology, including cardiac monitoring, in-flight lab testing and ventilator management. The aircraft can transport up to two patients—as well as a medical team—and carries enough medical oxygen for a 24-hour flight.

*AMA Travel Insurance is underwritten by Orion Travel Insurance Company. Subject to certain terms, conditions and limitations.