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33% of Canadians File Travel Health Claims: Study

July 24, 2019
6 mins
A woman touches the magnet souvenirs she is considering buying

Shopping in New York or Italy on holiday. Summer vacation to Mexico or Cuba. If you imagine where you want to travel overseas, there are so many great destinations to choose from. But, the concern is that some Canadians are underinsured when they travel. An RBC insurance survey found that over 33% of people in Canada have had to file insurance claims for visits to a doctor while overseas. And, that’s concerning.

Travel While Exciting, Comes Packed with Safety Concerns

Norovirus is prevalent on cruise ships. It’s unsafe to drink tap water in parts of the Bahamas, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and China. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that public swimming pools in the U.S. may contain fecal matter. And, some parts of the U.S. may have swim advisories for oceans and lakes due to the presence of bacteria like Vibrio or red tide which is a toxic algal bloom. Hence, a sudden sickness can adversely affect your travel plans. “Travel is a wonderful, educational experience and it’s great to see that Canadians are exploring the world outside their own province or country so frequently. However, given the data from the survey, a quarter of Canadians have needed to make an insurance claim so it’s best to make sure not only that you have coverage, but that you have enough,” says Stacey Hughes-Brooks, head of travel with RBC’s insurance division. For those surveyed, most of the claims filed were for some kind of medical treatment. About 33% of surveyed respondents filed claims through travel insurance. These were for clinic or hospital visits or a visit to a medical professional.

What You Don’t Know Can Cost You

In an survey, about 40% of Canadians surveyed said they travel overseas two times or more every year. Or, once every six or seven months. But, 28% didn’t purchase travel insurance. Another 22% don’t know what travel insurance is and 34% said they likely won’t purchase it for the next trip they take. Many travellers don’t even realize their credit cards may offer some form of travel insurance. The concern is that if you don’t have travel insurance, you might come back with an unexpected healthcare bill for thousands of dollars. “With so many credit cards offering travel insurance many Canadians may assume that they are covered if something happens while travelling. It’s important that Canadians do their homework to understand their coverage otherwise they could find themselves out-of-pocket for minor or major expenses,” Hughes-Brooks noted. So, what's the worst that can happen? Actually quite a lot.

Misconceptions and Facts About Travel Insurance

Think it's safe to travel without insurance? Your employer's health insurance may not cover you overseas. Here are a few more:

Hospital Stays

  • Misconception: 61% of Canadians surveyed think average costs for a hospital stay for someone visiting Canada from overseas is no more than $2,000.
  • Fact: In reality, a hospital stay in Canada averages about $5,992. But, in California, if you break your leg, it can cost you $35,000 to $50,000.

Emergency Medical Evacuations

  • Misconception: 41% of Canadians think a 4-hour emergency medical evacuation will cost under $2,000.
  • Fact: The cost of an emergency medical evacuation in the U.S. can range from $25,000 to $50,000.

Travel Pet Peeves Stress The Need for Travel Insurance

A delayed flight. Lost bags. These are just a few of the pet peeves Canadian travellers have with overseas travel. But, their biggest complaint is with bad travel etiquette. That's according to 27% of those surveyed by RBC. However, international travel has so many perks. From exciting locations and activities to shopping, Canadians are willing to make accommodations. The RBC survey also found that 24% of respondents filed travel insurance claims if their flight was delayed. Another 20% of travellers filed claims for lost bags and 13% filed a claim to report a lost passport. Hence, the need for travel insurance that can safeguard against these. When purchasing travel insurance, most plans will have similar types of coverage. These include:

Trip protection

Trip protection covers lost, damaged and stolen bags and it can reimburse you if you need to buy essentials when your bags are missing. There's also protection if there's a flight delay or cancellation. And, it can cover hotel expenses and meals. In addition to flights, it can cover cruise tickets and hotel rooms. Also covered are tour packages, boat charters and golf course fees.

Cancelled trip coverage

Cancelled trip coverage can protect you if you want to cancel due to work, a job loss or severe weather. It also covers you if you cancel due to terrorism concerns, sickness or the loss of someone in your family.

Medical coverage

Medical coverage can cover you if you need to see a doctor, dentist or visit a clinic. Also included is coverage for emergency care or if you need to travel by ambulance to the hospital. This type of coverage can also help if you're on a cruise ship and need to be air-lifted from the ship to a hospital.

24/7 phone support

Lost your passport? Flight cancelled? Or did you have a medical emergency? 24/7 phone support is a lifeline for those in a foreign country that aren't sure what to do in the event of an emergency.

Other coverage

Travel insurance may also include life insurance, rental car collision coverage and identity theft protection. It may also include hazardous sports coverage for activities like scuba diving. Coverage types can vary by insurer.

Get the Right Coverage Before You Travel

Effective October 1, 2019, the provincial government in Ontario will scrap out-of-country medical insurance coverage. Even when that coverage was available, it was very limited in its scope and payout amounts. That means Canadians should always plan to purchase travel insurance to safeguard their time abroad. And the good news is travel insurance is more affordable than you might think. Let's say you have no pre-existing health conditions and are travelling for 10-days:

  • A 20-year old can get travel insurance for $22.20
  • A couple 35-years of age can find coverage for $41.16
  • A family with four family members can get coverage for about $42.24

How to Shop for Travel Insurance Before You Go Abroad

The easiest and fastest way to shop for travel insurance is to shop online for the best travel insurance rates. This lets you compare rates and you won’t have to look up insurers one at a time. Just find a quote that looks good and contact the insurance agent to lock in the rates. A few more tips:

Outline your trip

Estimate the number of days you will be away. Ensure your policy will cover the full duration. If you extend your trip, don’t forget to extend your policy.

Plan your excursions and activities

Some activities might be excluded from travel insurance. These might include parasailing, scuba diving and paragliding. Contact your insurer to confirm coverage.

Book the right type of travel insurance

If you’re only travelling once or twice, then you’re fine with an individual travel insurance policy. However, if you travel extensively, consider a year-round policy or one that will cover multiple trips.

Review your policy

Understand the type of coverage you need and then find the best policy for that type of trip. Then, review the policy and read the fine print before signing. You can always add additional coverage if you need it but you don’t want to go away underinsured. You should also read the claim process and timeframes for filing claims.

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Use RATESDOTCA to shop around, and compare multiple quotes at the same time.

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Ready to Shop for the Best Travel Insurance?

Travel abroad can be a rewarding time but travelling without travel insurance is taking a big risk. Safeguard your trip with travel insurance to cover flight delays and cancellations. You’ll also have coverage if you get sick during your trip. With RATESDOTCA, you can compare rates from the leading insurers in Canada (and travel with confidence!).


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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