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Travel Trauma
Dream vacations can turn into nightmares when travel insurance claims are denied

At a time of year when we shovel driveways and scrape windshields, it's only natural for thoughts to drift to the tropical locales where ice is something that is added to drinks. Or maybe you dream about snow that covers a ski slope instead of a sidewalk.

No matter where travels take you, an illness or injury can quickly turn a dream vacation into a nightmare - especially if you fail to secure the proper travel insurance.

"Provincial health plans only pay for approximately 9% of out-of-country medical costs," Travel Health Insurance Association (THIA) president Alex Bittner recently observed. The costs can certainly accumulate. In addition to hospital stays themselves, care can require diagnostic services, prescription drugs, transportation by air ambulance, repatriation back to Canada, or even the need to bring a family member to your bedside.

Some travelers find themselves exposed to many of these costs despite the insurance cards in their wallets.

The Huculak family likely knows this better than anyone. Saskatchewan Blue Cross has ruled it will not pay a $918,000 medical bill that was incurred when Jennifer Huculak gave birth to her son Reece while on vacation in Hawaii. She was only 26 weeks pregnant at the time, and her premature son required two months in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Blue Cross only paid $32,000, claiming that Huculak had a pre-existing condition in the form of a bladder infection two months before the pregnancy. The family, left to cover the rest, is reportedly facing bankruptcy.

About 5% of travel insurance claims are rejected. The most common reasons are failing to disclose a medical condition, misrepresenting the condition, or having a pre-existing condition that is not as stable as a policy requires. "Be aware that if there are any changes in your medical status between the time you buy the policy and leave on your trip, you need to notify the insurance company," the THIA stresses.

Not everyone is heeding such advice. In a recent survey, 18% of respondents told the association that they mistakenly provided inaccurate information on insurance forms. Even worse, 14% deliberately provided inaccurate information to secure a lower rate.

Just 33% reviewed the insurance forms with their physicians, even though such a discussion could answer questions about medications, scheduled tests and recent referrals.

The definition of a pre-existing condition is also much broader than many travelers believe. A change in the type or dosage of a particular medication, treatment by a medical professional, or simply recommendations for further consultations can be cited as proof of a pre-existing issue. Some policies require all medical conditions and medications to be declared, while others strictly define the eligibility criteria.

"If you have any doubts about changes you may have experienced during these time frames, or don't understand terminology in the policy or your medical application for insurance, check with your doctor and your insurance advisor," the THIA recommends.

It's good advice.

And consider these other factors when arranging for travel insurance.

  • Read the fine print - In addition to identifying limitations around medical issues, some policies will not cover injuries linked to high-risk activities such as bungee jumping, alcohol abuse or scuba diving. 
  • Check the limits - The $100,000 limit on a credit card's travel insurance may care for a broken limb, but not the costs of a bigger issue such as a heart attack.
  • Find a policy which reflects your travel habits - Ask about policies which cover multiple trips a year, or top up an existing policy to ensure coverage. And keep in mind that the workplace benefits designed for shorter trips may leave a semi-retired business owner exposed to extra costs during extended vacations.

Top Tips:

  • Read the fine print. Travel insurance policies can place limits on dollar amounts, risky activities, and the length of a trip.
  • Pack proof of insurance coverage, the number for the travel insurance emergency hotline, and contacts for your doctor.
  • Be open and honest. About 5% of insurance claims are rejected, most often because of a non-disclosed or misrepresented medical condition, or a pre-existing condition.

Copyright Notice

All rights reserved. All of the content herein is the sole property of the Callery Group, and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system - in whole or in part - without the written permission of the Callery Group. Links to the originating article at www.callerygroup.com are permitted.

The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Blue Cross won't pay 'million dollar baby' medical bill: Global News

Know what you're buying to avoid a vacation disaster: Robin Ingle

Travel insurance guide for Canadian travellers: Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

Disability costs The rocky road ahead: Benefits Canada

"You hit your sales targets. But you're behind on your yoga.": Canadian Business

Workplace wakeup call Pulling back the covers on sleep deficiency: Ceridian

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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