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Updated on Feb 14, 2014

It’s absolutely understandable: even with March only two weeks away, Toronto travelers just can’t pass up the lure of a warm-weather escape. Embrace the wanderlust, but don’t let your inner snowbird fly without giving your travel insurance coverage a once-over.

When worse comes to worse on vacation for Canadians abroad, expensive can come to back-breaking. At least 10 per cent of Canadians annually venture south to sunny climes when our own mercury takes a dive, especially to locales in the southern United States. Most of them depart our country without adequate travel and medical insurance, leaving themselves vulnerable to potential worst-case emergency medical expenses hitting them for between $50,000 and $100,000.

Just last year, Toronto Star guest columnist Gordon Pope recalled a previous unfortunate Florida vacation that left he and his now-late wife with a $40,000 hospital bill as a souvenir – luckily, covered in full by their insurance. Not every Canadian comes away so lucky. Before you embark on your sunny reprieve from Toronto’s chill, set aside some time between loading down luggage and trying on swimsuits to verify that an adequate travel insurance policy has your back should unfortunate circumstances befall you.



Beware pre-existing conditions – just as importantly, be honest about them.

Overall, Canadian healthcare providers deny few claims annually. However, when claims fall through, there’s often an improperly filled-out application to blame, despite standard policy warnings that adjusters will deny nearly any preexisting condition claim.

That goes double for changes in your own health care, including prescription and treatment changes. The stability of your health is a direct indicator to your insurer of your insurability. Your policy provider could ask for a reasonable 90 to 180 window of healthy “stability” following an improvement in your condition before making a policy adjustment or approval for good health.


It happens all the time: an unsuspecting Toronto traveler departs on a vacation certain of adequate travel insurance. Suddenly, disaster strikes and the health care provider must become the bearer of bad news that existing coverage won’t cover the costs of treatment.

Older travelers especially should beware. Credit cards, employer benefits and retirement health care-based coverage can come with strict coverage-day limits. Contact your provider’s underwriter for each policy before leaving and confirm a few important details to understand:

Who pays emergency medical bills and how?

Will you have to pay the bill initially and request reimbursement later?

How much coverage do you currently carry, and at what cost?

What preexisting conditions, if any, does your policy cover?

Cost and misconceptions about the adequacy of existing coverage, more than any other influences, prevent most Canadians from purchasing additional travel medical insurance. Nevertheless, the cost of a policy – though potentially high – could be dwarfed by expenses that have to be paid out of pocket.


There are three often-expensive professionals that almost every Toronto adult leading a fairly financially stable life pays handsomely for advice in exceptionally complicated matters with life-altering consequences in store for badly informed decisions: accountants, lawyers and doctors.

If you have a single doubt in your mind when applying for a travel medical insurance policy, consult your doctor. When it comes to claim investigations, insurance providers afford virtually no room for fudging on grey areas. Doctors deal perpetually with the insurance system and can guide you toward the safe side on which you should err if questions concerning medications or preexisting conditions trip you up.

After all, courts on more than one occasion have backed insurance providers who denied claims based on fraudulent or even unintentionally misleading applications.

Have your own travel-insurance tales with a good lesson attached? We’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, if you’re planning a getaway and have questions about purchasing additional coverage, a Blue Umbrella representative would be glad to consult with you at absolutely no charge.

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