If you’re heading somewhere extra snowy or extra warm for the March Break, you’re probably pretty wrapped up in dealing with suitcases, passports and bathing suits, not paperwork - thought when it comes to travel insurance, it's well worth the time to fill out a form or two. However, many of us are not buying travel insurance — and possibly putting ourselves at physical and financial risk.
No safety in numbers
A 2012 survey by American Express Canada found that only 59% of Canadians planning a trip in the next six months will purchase travel insurance. Those findings are backed up by a BMO Insurance survey that found 60% of Canadians don’t regularly buy travel insurance, and only half of those surveyed know they’re responsible for most medial costs they incur when outside the country.
Why are we passing on peace of mind?
Many Canadians believe that our public health system will reach them across borders — but the fact is, it won’t. And since many of us have health insurance through work or via theirtravel rewards credit card, many think these programs will cover medical costs outside the country. Some do -- but you need to read the fine print to be sure.
As well, so many of us have the experience of travelling and not encountering any problems at all. Most of us sail through our vacations with no more than the need for a Band-Aid. Meanwhile, since we often buy our travel insurance when we purchase a flight, the whole business sometimes seems a bit shady. You often get very little information about what insurance coverage you’re buying and how to submit a claim.
The reality about your risks
The truth is, many Canadians are injured or become ill while travelling. The flu or a heart episode can happen anywhere. Also, vacation activities such as skiing, boating and the like can lead to accidents.
Without coverage, you’re on the hook for your medical bills and they are not cheap. It costs US$15,000 to get an air ambulance from Florida to Ontario. A broken leg can run about $20,000 in the U.S. International costs for medical emergencies go up from there. The right coverage can save you in the neighbourhood of thousands of dollars.
How to be sure you're covered
Read the fine print: When you buy insurance, take the time to read the policy carefully. Do you have to pay for expenses up front and get reimbursed later? Will it cover you if you are injured doing a sport? Does the coverage last for your entire trip?
Shop around: You don’t have to buy the insurance offered by the airline when you click “pay.” Compare rates and coverage terms.
Be organized: Take all your travel insurance documents with you.
Be honest: If there is a discrepancy on your forms, or you don’t disclose a medical concern, you could be denied insurance.
Buy in bulk: Consider getting an annual policy that covers you and your family for the whole year, especially if you travel a lot.