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of their policy. Travellers blindly relying on the free travel health coverage offered by their credit card company, for ex- ample, may be in for a surprise. Most “free” coverage does not include anyone 65 years of age or older. Credit card plans offer only limited benefits at no cost, and the traveller may be required to purchase their travel accommodations with their card in order to receive any reimbursement on claims.

It is incumbent upon travellers not only to ensure that they

have purchased enough insurance for their needs, but that they have filled out the information accurately and honestly, and understand the limitations of their policy. Many definitions

When you, the traveller, determine your travel health care needs, consider the duration and quantity of trips you have planned for the year, your health status and whether you will need health, life, disability, driving, vehicle or trip cancella- tion insurance. Clauses regarding pre-existing medical conditions can be

some of the trickiest to understand, and every insurer is dif- ferent. Definitions for terms (stable, controlled, treatment, pre-existing condition) vary, as will time guidelines that de- termine the status of the condition. One insurer may require a condition to be stable and controlled (no change in status or medication) for a period of six months before offering coverage; another insurer may require a period of two years without a change. A traveller with a pre-existing medical condition needs to look closely at the limitations and restrictions offered in various plans: what benefits are offered and what a traveller needs to do to be eligible for them. It is imperative that the traveller know about and report all their health conditions. Lying in order to reduce premiums is never a good idea. Prescription changes, referrals to specialists, tests or treat- ment updates may influence the status of an individual’s condition as recognized by their policy. Travellers should consult their doctor and insurance company to understand how their particular pre-existing medical issues relate to any policy they are considering purchasing. For example, if you have borderline diabetes or high blood

pressure that does not require treatment at this time but you fail to mention it and then require medical assistance for it or a related condition on your trip, you may be denied cov- erage when you place your claim. If you are unsure, clarify with your doctor or ask if the doctor can assist you in filling out the form. Do not guess or think you know the answer when filling out your claim – verify, verify, verify! Check with the company

Most companies have 1-800 numbers with staff to assist

you with your questions; when in doubt, use them. If pos- sible, ask for a letter from your insurance provider confirm- ing that your pre-existing condition will be covered. If you pre-purchased your insurance and experience a

change in your health or medication prior to departure (e.g. referral to a specialist, awaiting test results), notify your car- rier immediately and ensure with your broker that this will not result in any changes to your coverage. THIA cautions that travel insurance is for unforeseen medical expenses; unstable pre-existing conditions are of-

Useful incidental information:

• Activities such as scuba diving or para-sailing can be determined to be high risk by insurance providers and may nullify your coverage, as could any incidents related to alcohol or drug use.

• Travel restrictions advised by the government may also affect your health insurance, so be sure to check travel advisories prior to booking and departing on your vacation.

• “Medical tourists” travelling for alternative treatments will often find they have no coverage. So, too, will those who could have had their treatment or service performed in Canada either prior to leaving or deferred until their return.

• Ensure your provider has a 24-hour toll-free contact number accessible worldwide should you need to place a claim.

• Ask whether you are required to pay for costs upfront or if your provider will.

• If cost is a problem, discuss purchasing a policy with a higher deductible.

• When travelling, take your health card, a copy of your policy and the company’s 1-800 number with you. Let your travel companions know where they are kept and leave a copy for a relative or friend back home.

• If you need to make a claim, ensure you receive and keep a detailed invoice from the doctor or hospital before you return home. File it promptly. Submit origi- nal receipts as most companies will not accept copies, but keep a copy for yourself.

• Call your provider’s emergency line as soon as possible if an incident occurs as some policies require notification within a certain timeline.

• If your claim is turned down, appeal it, especially if you have new information. Don’t be afraid to complain to the company about your situation.

ten not covered. Tere are a plethora of insurance products on the market offering you many choices. With a qualified, good broker and careful reading you should be able to find some coverage even with pre-existing medical conditions. On average, 500,000 claims are made per year in Canada,

and only 15,000 (three per cent) are denied. Insurance is a high risk business; companies can be out big dollars when claims are made. You can be sure that they will strictly up- hold their policies and if errors are found, you may be the one out of pocket.

• • •

For more information on travel health insurance visit: • Manitoba Health at toba.html

• Government of Canada at travel. • Travel Health Insurance Association at • Te Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (under consumer information).

Fall 2015 • 85

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