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Frequently Never Asked Questions for your Travel Medical Insurance

26 November 2012

So, you’re heading on vacation? More than likely you’ve been told to buy travel medical insurance “just in case”. The fact is travel insurance is just as important for you to pack as any item in your luggage. No matter where you’re headed to, ensuring that you’re ready for the what ifs of adventure is exactly what travel insurance provides.

While every emergency medical travel insurance policy varies, I looked to the team at online comparison website,, to offer tips on just how to find the right policy. While we originally set out to solve the top travel questions from customers, the team at Kanetix instead offered a different angle, “why don’t we look at the questions customers SHOULD be asking but never do?” And so, without further delay, take a look at the top Frequently Never Asked Questions (FNAQs) on travel insurance:

shutterstock 98294339 300x197 Frequently Never Asked Questions for your Travel Medical Insurance

Top Travel Medical Insurance FNAQ’s

1. FNAQ: What is supplementary travel medical coverage?

Answer: Travel medical insurance will provide coverage for all, or a portion, of the expenses you incur during a medical emergency. It will kick in the money needed over and above what your provincial health insurance plan will cover while travelling outside Canada. Supplementary travel medical insurance varies greatly from company to company but can include coverage for such things as:

Emergency medical expenses like care received from a physician, laboratory tests and x-rays, and prescriptions.

  • Emergency dental care
  • Medical evacuation services such as a ground or air ambulance
  • Medical devices like casts, canes, slings, trusses, walkers, wheelchair rental, splints, etc…
  • Incidental expenses incurred while in the hospital
  • Hospital room accommodation

Some policies will even return your dog or cat to Canada if Rover or Whiskers was travelling with you when you became ill or injured.

2. FNAQ: Can’t I just rely on my provincial health insurance to cover me?

Answer: It’s not advisable. Provincial government health insurance plans will usually cover emergency care but only for as much as that service would have cost in your home province. As a result, you are responsible for the difference in cost. Further, the difference between the actual cost of out-of-country emergency services and the amount you’re covered through your province’s health insurance can be significant.

In the words of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada you should “not rely on your provincial or territorial health plan to cover costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad. Out-of-country health care can be costly, and your health plan may not cover any medical expenses abroad.”

If you are planning to escape winter in its entirety (hello, Snowbirds), keep in mind that most provinces have a minimum number of days that you must reside in the province each year to maintain eligibility for coverage under your province’s Health Insurance Plan.

3. FNAQ: I have travel medical insurance coverage through my credit card so that will be enough, right?

shutterstock 63197617 300x225 Frequently Never Asked Questions for your Travel Medical Insurance

Answer: Maybe and maybe not. Read all of the information that comes with your credit card’s emergency health insurance coverage. You might be surprised to find out that if you only go with your credit card coverage, you could leave yourself open to major medical bills. Watch for:

Eligibility requirements, including any restrictions.

  • Coverage limitations, specifically the maximum they’ll pay.
  • How many travel days per year you are allowed.
  • Trip length limitations on individual trips.

Don’t forget you might have to pay for your trip with the credit card in order to even be covered by that card’s insurance offering, so if you’re relying on your credit card’s travel insurance coverage make sure it’s in force before you leave. And, don’t assume you can simply rely on the benefits/coverage offered through employer benefits either, as they too may not offer sufficient coverage

4. FNAQ: Can I buy travel medical insurance after I have left for my vacation?

Answer: Unlikely. Most Canadian travel insurance providers will not sell you travel insurance while already on holiday. While there are likely a select few insurers that could provide coverage it very likely would only be restricted coverage. Make sure you get it before you leave!

5. FNAQ: If my plans change after having already purchased a policy and I leave early to go on my vacation, or am late to come home, is my travel insurance policy affected?

Answer: Yes, in both instances you will not be covered. However (in better news!), usually this can be addressed with a simple call to your travel insurance company requesting they start your coverage early, or extend it. Make sure you make this call though prior to your early departure or before your policy expires to ensure that you are covered.

6. FNAQ: Will I still be covered if I decide to travel outside the country I originally said I was going to vacation in when applying for my emergency medical travel insurance?

Answer: In general it is somewhat irrelevant where the customer is travelling to – to a point. Generally rates are based on either ‘Travel Within Canada’, ‘Travel Within USA’, or ‘Travel Outside USA’. Insurers will ask where the primary destination is (where the majority of the trip will occur), and will base the rates on this destination. Typically, there would be no restrictions on visiting other countries, given there were no travel bans, etc.   Example, one travelling South-East Asia, would most likely be free to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc.

7. FNAQ: Can I get treatment from anyone, for anything, if it’s an emergency and be covered by my travel medical insurance?

Answer: No. When you buy your coverage, your travel insurance provider will give you instructions on how to get treatment along with a toll-free number to their service centre. It is the role of this centre to help you manage your medical needs. The centre will have a list of preferred hospitals and physicians and will give you a referral. Even with this, you should get authorization for medical care or treatments proposed to you. This is because your insurance company may not recognize and cover you for some medical, laboratory and diagnostic procedures they deem not needed in your particular “emergency”. If in doubt, call (or have someone trusted call) the toll-free number and check with them first before you get the procedure done.

Make sure you get detailed receipts for all the work you get done.

8. FNAQ: What is NOT covered by my travel medical insurance?

Answer: This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Every policy is different, which is why you should read over your materials carefully.

In general, an emergency due to a pre-existing condition is not covered; a pre-existing condition is one that has been diagnosed by a licensed physician (the length of time since diagnosis varies by company), the medical condition has not been stable prior to leaving for holiday, or you started taking medication or began treatment for the condition recently (again length of time prior to departure varies by company.)

You can get coverage for emergencies that arise due to a pre-existing condition-but only if the travel insurer knows about your pre-existing condition beforehand. When applying for coverage, you will be asked about any pre-existing conditions for which you will then have to answer a full medical questionnaire.

Along with pre-existing conditions, there are other instances that are typically excluded from your policy’s coverage including: self-inflicted injuries; pregnancy, childbirth or complications from either (if you’re travelling in the late stages of pregnancy); participation in contact sports or risky activities such as scuba diving; drug or alcohol abuse; involvement in criminal activities or acts of war; or simply travel to countries where a Travel Warning has been issued by the Government of Canada advising Canadians not to travel to this country, region or city. [BR1]

Finally, non-emergencies-like routine health care, elective surgery, investigative or diagnostic services-will not be covered by your emergency travel medical insurance policy.

9. FNAQ: What can I do if I have a dispute with my travel medical insurance provider?

Answer: Thankfully, you can take your concerns and travel insurance complaints to the OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI). The CLHIO was incorporated as a separate and independent entity from the industry association.

Ready, set, shop!

Now that you’ve got the answers to our “Frequently Never Asked Questions” about travel medical insurance, you’re ready to shop for your coverage. Compare travel insurance quotes today from top Canadian travel insurance companies. At, you can get quotes from competing travel insurance companies, so you save money while getting the coverage you want — and need!



 [BR1]Need to confirm

About the Author

lucas taylor

A graduate of York University, Lucas has worked for a number of financial institutions before joining as a contributing editor in 2009. Lucas' background in business provides him with a unique perspective on insurance, mortgage, and financial industry news. Outside of his writing gig, he can be found biking across his native Toronto – yes, even in the snow.

Comments (1 )

Highly relevant info. If the traveler is a senior, is it enough to make a travel notice to the government insurance provider in order to make a valid claim in case of medical emergency?

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