Travel medical insurance needs to be discussed. When building our camper van and planning for the vanlife, travel medical insurance is one of the last issue we addressed. Don’t be like us; it should be on top of the list! Accident happens when we expect it the least and a dream vacation planned for years ahead can quickly turn into a nightmare. Still not convinced? Guess how we got the idea of writing this article…
The goal of this article is to share the knowledge we gained about travel medical insurance. But before we go any further:
- This article is about travel medical (health) insurance, other types of insurance (belongings, vehicle, etc.) will be covered in subsequent articles.
- This article concerns Canadian residents traveling abroad (out of province / out of country). For all the others, your situation is different than us and we’re honestly not interested in doing your homework 😛 USA residents, here is a good read: “Your Health Abroad” (Travel.State.gov)
- For simplification we use Quebec (RAMQ) as example in the article.
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Risks are part of our lives: riding our bike, driving our car, taking a selfie, etc. The key to enjoy our favorite sports and activities everyday is risk management: we can’t completely eliminate risk, but we can manage the risk versus consequence.
Having a travel medical insurance when traveling abroad is a good way of managing risk/consequence too!
2- Universal health care for Canadian Residents
Like most advanced economies (hu-hum), Canadians have access to a publicly funded medicare system. It is a Federal law that all residents of all provinces have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without paying out-of-pocket.
But as opposed to popular beliefs, there is not a single plan all over Canada; the provincial governments are responsible for the management, organization and delivery of health care services for their residents. In other words, the health care coverage is not exactly the same for all Canadians…
Resource: Government of Canada
3- Canadian Residents Traveling Out of Province
Yes, a Quebec resident (for example) can receive health care services in another province, but the RAMQ (government health insurance board of Quebec) issues reimbursements for amounts not exceeding Quebec rates, even if the insured person paid more. In other words you might, or not, get full reimbursement…
If you visit a medical clinic and you don’t have a travel medical insurance, present your medicare card;
- If the doctor accepts your card, you have nothing to pay. You win.
- If the doctor refuses your card, you have to pay now. Keep all the receipts and apply later for a reimbursement to the RAMQ (using this form). You have 1 year to apply for professional services and 3 years for hospital services.
Moreover, there are certain conditions regarding the duration of your trip to remain eligible; the condition varies with provinces, but for Quebec you must be present in Québec 183 days or more per calendar year (January 1 to December 31) to remain covered (absences of 21 consecutive days or less are not tallied, nor are the days of departure and return).
Under Quebec’s regime, you are allowed an out-of-province stay longer than 183 days (up to a full calendar year), once every 7 years. If that’s your case, you must phone the RAMQ before leaving for your trip. They will send you a form that you have to complete and send back to them. Because there is quite a lot of back-and-forth involved, we suggest phoning the RAMQ at least two months prior your departure date.
Let’s take as an example:
- A trip out-of-province from September 2017 to May 2018 is roughly 270 days total. That’s 120 days in 2017 and 150 days in 2018. You are not exceeding 183 days per calendar year; you’re fine!
- A trip out-of-province from January 2018 to September 2018 is roughly 270 days total. It’s all in the same calendar year (2018); you have to use the “once-every-seven-year” privilege and warn the RAMQ about that. You will have to wait 7 years to use that privilege again. Make it count!
- RAMQ “Temporary stays outside Quebec“
- RAMQ “Eligibility during the stay“
- RAMQ “Reimbursement of the cost of services received during a stay“ (if you don’t have private insurance)
- Trip Length Calculator
4- Canadian Residents Traveling Out of Country
The rules are the same than for an out-of-province trip. Except there’s a catch: the rates in the USA (for example) are much, much, much higher than in Canada. Let’s look at some numbers:
- Broken arm without surgery treatment: $3300 (CAD) or more
- Broken arm with surgery treatment: $21,000 (CAD) or more
- Intensive care for 3 days following a heart attack: $26,000 (CAD) or more. Amount reimbursed by the RAMQ: $735…
If traveling to the United States, don’t risk it! Even if going for one day, really. Travel medical insurance is very affordable, there’s just no excuses!
5- Shopping for a Travel Medical Insurance
First of all, you should know that private travel medical insurance is complementary to your province’s medicare plan. In other words, make sure you are still covered by the RAMQ (or your province health care program) during your trip. The travel insurance will take care of claiming the reimbursement to the RAMQ and will pay for the exceeding costs not covered by the RAMQ. You win.
We called many travel insurance carriers and distributors; TuGo are the only ones who would insure us for mountain biking (including lift-assisted) and backcountry skiing. With other carriers, we got confusing information… we don’t want any bad surprises when it’s time to claim, so we passed. We compared the price of TuGo with their competitors (supposing we don’t need coverage for extreme sports, to get a fair comparison) and the price is right. TuGo it is!
Curious about pricing? You can get an online quote (no purchase or personal info needed, unless you commit to buy*):
- Choosing a Canadian province as origin & destination will get you the “Canadians at Home” (Emergency Medical Within Canada) coverage; this is valid outside your home province within Canada only.
- Choosing a Canadian province as origin & United States as the destination will get you the “Leaving Canada” (Emergency Medical Worldwide) coverage; this is valid outside your home province anywhere in the world (including Canada).
- Under “Medical Plans”, click customize to choose an optional Sports & Activities coverage. Depending on what sports you practice, make sure to select the appropriate optional coverage (Contact, Adventure or Extreme). According to TuGo:
Contact Sports Coverage
Applies if you participate in, coach, teach, train or practice on behalf of a registered team, league, association, club or while competing in a registered tournament, competition or sporting event:
- Ice Hockey
- Australian Football
Adventure Sports Coverage
Applies if you participate in, coach, teach, train or practice:
- Freestyle Skiing/Snowboarding in organized contests
- Mountain Biking
- Endurance Activities over 6 hours
- Flying as a pilot or passenger in a glider or ultralight
- Hang Gliding
- High Risk Snowmobiling
- Ice Climbing
- Mountaineering up to 6,000m
- Non-motorized X Game Sports (or those sports in similar type events)
- Parachuting/Skydiving/Tandem Skydiving (more than one jump per trip)
- Parasailing/Parascending over land
- Snow Kiting
- Stunt/Aerobatic Flying
Extreme Sports Coverage
Applies when travelers participate in, coach, teach, train or practice:
- Scuba Diving (if not certified by an internationally recognized and accepted program)
- Scuba Diving or Free Diving over 30m
- Base Jumping
- Bull Riding/Bull Fighting
- Running with the Bulls
- Mountaineering over 6,000m
- Motorized Speed Contests
- Motorized X Game Sports (or those sports in similar type events)
- Ultimate Fighting & Mixed
- Martial Arts
- Wingsuit Jumping/Wingsuit