When the thermometer drops, Canadians travel abroad – hoping to catch some sun or experience an adventure before the new year begins.
But travel comes with the risk of injury and illness.
A Canadian man was diagnosed this month with a brain tumor while vacationing in Thailand and was told he needed brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation immediately.
His insurance company initially said they would not cover the cost of an air ambulance because the man had checked into an emergency room about a month ago with symptoms of the flu, including a headache.
A pre-existing condition is “an injury, illness or medical condition that caused someone to seek treatment, presented symptoms, or required medication.”
“This may have taken place anytime within 120 days prior to and including the plan’s purchase date.”
It is broadly defined as a condition known to you before you travel.
“It’s kind of like a backpack that you bring with you,” said Will McAleer, executive director for the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada. “You may know what the condition is, or you may just have a symptom.”
McAleer also mentioned that if you visit a medical professional and they give you a diagnosis, or even a suggestion to have some tests done or to investigate a situation further, that qualifies as a pre-existing condition for most insurance policies.
He recommends to consumers to be honest with their health when they apply or purchase travel insurance, as there is a period of time where companies can require health to be stable. For an average young healthy person, that period of time is about 90 days, depending on the company.
If your condition changes, it’s also important to update your insurer.
McAleer also said that some people deliberately leave information off an application in order to keep their premium low – but once they get to a hospital and have to disclose an illness, symptom or condition to receive proper care, the “truth comes out.”
“When you are sitting in an emergency room, it’s not the time to be looking at the fine print of an insurance policy. You’ve been asked the questions about your own history so you can have that carefree trip.”
Consumers should also be aware of the additional services available to them through their travel insurance. Some policies will connect hospitals with Canadian medical professionals to ensure the patient is getting the help they need. In some cases, that includes making arrangements for the patient to return to Canada.
“Travel insurance is not out-of-country, provincial medical care,” McAleer said. “It’s not for you to see the doctor just to see the doctor. It’s for sudden, unexpected emergencies.”