Tourists planning to travel to Canada should make sure they have emergency medical travel insurance coverage prior to beginning their trip. The fact is, even the most minor injury or illness can become a major expense and Canada's healthcare system does not offer free medical care to visitors or tourists.
Fortunately, there's travel insurance designed specifically for tourists in Canada. It's most often referred to as Visitors to Canada travel insurance and essentially acts as an equivalent to what you're covered for under your provincial health plan, as well as any supplemental coverage you may have elsewhere like through work or your credit card.
Cost of a standard hospital stay in Canada
According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the average cost of a standard hospital stay in Canada is $7,619. And depending on the province you live in, your visitors could be in for a much more expensive bill than that.
Of course, depending on the reason you’re hospitalized, the costs will vary.
“A heart attack will be a lot different than a broken toe,” says Ryan Beaulieu, vice president of operations at Travel Guardian. “Usually, in Ontario, the billing rate [for those without insurance] is three times that of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).”
Visitors to Canada travel insurance: what’s covered and what’s not?
Visitors to Canada travel insurance policies will vary by company, but coverage will typically pay for the costs associated with an emergency that requires:
- Hospital and medical services
- Diagnostic services, X-rays and lab tests
- An ambulance
- Dental work
- Prescription drug expenses
However, there are limits to this coverage.
“It’s not like an extended health plan where you can go to the dentist for cleanings,” explains Beaulieu. “It must be an emergency, such as chest pains, that would make you go seek medical attention. And unless you purchase a plan that includes pre-existing conditions, or a policy that encompasses it, you will have no coverage for something that has happened prior to arrival, which is always something to remember.”
It's also important to know how this coverage treats COVID-19. Visitors to Canada insurance will typically provide emergency medical coverage for COVID-19, provided there’s no active travel advisory in place on the effective date of the traveller’s policy. However, if it’s not a medical emergency, you may not be covered. And whether COVID-19 is included in your Visitors to Canada policy depends on the provider.
“It is possible with some companies for [COVID-19] to be viewed just like any other sickness,” says Beaulieu. However, some travel insurance companies will only provide coverage for COVID-19 dependent on your vaccination status.
Visitors to Canada insurance may also cover you if, after arriving, you decide to take a side trip outside of Canada — with the exception of returning to your home country. Check your policy for limitations around this, though. You may only be able to travel for a set number of days.
Who would benefit from a Visitors to Canada insurance policy?
In general, any person who is not a Canadian citizen and is travelling to Canada for any amount of time would benefit from getting Visitors to Canada travel insurance.
There are a few groups of people for which this type of coverage might be particularly useful this year:
- Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine
- New immigrants coming to Canada
- Relatives or friends coming to stay with family for the summer
- International students preparing to come to Canada in the fall semester
In many ways, Visitors to Canada insurance is better than regular travel insurance — mainly because Canadian insurance providers know the country’s healthcare system best and can provide the quickest turnaround time on claims. This coverage is also ideal for newcomers who aren’t yet eligible for their province's health insurance plan but in need of coverage in the interim.
“As many Canadians do not see a bill, we forget that health care service does come at a cost,” says Beaulieu. “If you do not have government health coverage, you would be subject to the cost of these procedures should something arise.”
How much does Visitors to Canada insurance cost?
“Visitors to Canada insurance is always done on a per day pricing model,” says Beaulieu.
Similar to traditional travel insurance, your policy will be priced based on the following factors:
- Your age
- How much coverage you’re seeking, and how long you need it for
- Any pre-existing medical conditions you might have
- The provider you choose
We used the RATESDOTCA Visitors to Canada travel insurance quoter to find today’s lowest rates. On average, if you’re a 30-year-old, single applicant with no pre-existing health conditions in Ontario, for example, who is:
- Travelling for seven days, you can get $50,000 in coverage starting as low as $10 CAD
- Travelling for one month, you can get the same coverage for as low as $43 CAD
- Travelling for six months, you can get the same coverage for as low as $272 CAD
If you’re a parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen and know you’ll be staying in the country for longer than six months, you should consider Super Visa insurance instead.
How to find Visitors to Canada insurance for your family members
If you’re expecting visitors this year, whether for a few days, a week or a month, be a good host and encourage your guests to get Visitors to Canada health insurance.
“When securing this type of policy, it is important to have the proper spelling of the family member’s name and date of birth as it appears on the passport,” says Beaulieu. "And if they are getting a visa, know the requirements for this visa should any exist.” According to Beaulieu, some visas have a coverage limit linked to the length of your stay.
“You should also know the medical history of the family member,” he adds. “This way you can find a policy that best suits them.”
No matter where your friends or family are coming from, securing them health insurance is a helpful gesture that can ensure their trip to Canada isn't remembered for all the wrong reasons.
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