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Travel Medical Insurance in Canada

By Kellie Davenport

We’re accustomed to buying medical insurance before travelling south of the border. Without coverage, we know that an unexpected visit to a U.S. hospital could end up costing an arm and a leg (figuratively speaking, of course). But what we don’t always appreciate is that situation can play out within Canada too.

Consider this: A young, recently married Alberta couple hitches a trailer to their car and drives to B.C., excited to hike Vancouver Island’s rugged West Coast Trail. Leaving their vehicle in Victoria, they set off along the rugged, 75-kilometre route. Midway, however, the man slips and breaks his leg. Instead of indelible memories and scenic photographs, the couple leaves the trail with a $25,000 air ambulance bill, plus another charge of $2,000 for the return of their vehicle.

Knowing what’s covered—and more importantly, what’s not—is essential before embarking on a getaway beyond Alberta’s borders. Brush up on provincial coverage and follow this checklist when planning a trip outside the province.

To fill the gaps in coverage, be sure to purchase travel medical insurance—you’ll avoid out-of-pocket expenses on your out-of-province vacation. Get an online quote or visit an AMA centre to find the coverage that’s right for you.

TRAVEL MEDICAL INSURANCE ESSENTIALS

Always carry your provincial health card. Hospitals, physicians and some emergency services will request it before administering any care. If you don’t have your valid Alberta Health Care card with you and you require or seek medical care outside of Alberta, you may be asked to pay upfront for services.

What’s covered? The same basic services covered by your Alberta Health Care Insurance plan—such as doctor’s visits, necessary medical exams and hospitalization—are covered in other provinces. But it’s important to know that there’s also a lot that isn’t covered.

What’s not covered? Care by non-physician practitioners—including chiropractors, physiotherapists and massage therapists—as well as routine dental services, non-emergency eye care, prescription drugs, ambulances or transport back to Alberta are among the services that are not covered. Remember that services not covered in Alberta won’t be covered in other provinces either. It’s not that hard to imagine being involved in a collision and requiring an air ambulance and having family members flown to your hospital bedside. Without travel medical insurance, all those costs will be yours.

Reciprocity reigns. For emergency care and physician services, all provinces (except Quebec) have reciprocal agreements. This lets them bill one another for the care of Canadians travelling outside of their home provinces.

Be mindful of Quebec. Without travel medical insurance in la belle province, you will have to pay upfront for services and apply to the province for a reimbursement once you’re back in Alberta. It’s best to save yourself a bill for thousands of dollars and unnecessary paperwork by getting travel medical insurance before you leave the province.

Purchase before you leave. Travel medical coverage must be bought before you leave Alberta—you can’t buy a plan when an emergency happens.

Make sure you qualify for coverage. Certain eligibility requirements, restrictions and stable pre-existing conditions will apply when you seek coverage. Ask about different available plans, such as the Canada Medical Plan for travel outside Alberta but within Canada only. There’s also the Multi-Trip Annual Plan, for frequent travellers who criss-cross Canada and the U.S, which provides 365 days of coverage within Canada and 15, 30 or 60 days per trip outside of the country, as many times as you want throughout the year. If you’re travelling outside of Canada and are age 55 or older, you’ll be asked to complete a medical questionnaire to help determine eligibility and coverage. Speak with an AMA counsellor for more details.

Honesty is the best policy. Always complete the questionnaire correctly. We know insurance forms can be confusing, so take the guesswork out by following our questionnaire tips.