Does Your Benefits Plan Cover Children Who are Studying Abroad?

Sep 29, 2015

The dog days of summer are over and it’s back to school for many, and that may include studying abroad for some students. Often this is an exciting time, but also filled with many unknowns which may include appropriate coverage for the student while out of province.

Some common misconceptions include:

• The provincial health plan (eg. MSP) will continue to offer regular medical coverage for the student who is studying abroad.
• The parents’ group insurance will continue to cover non-emergency and emergency care for the student while abroad.
• There is no need to buy additional medical coverage for the student while abroad.

Unfortunately, these assumptions can prove to be costly and here’s why: Provincial healthcare limitations may be an issue if the student is out of the province/country for an extended period of time. In BC, the trip limitation is 6 months. Other provinces will likely have different limitations. It is best to seek prior approval for an extension of the government benefits if your child will be studying outside of your home province for longer than allowable limits.

When it comes to coverage under the group insurance plan, the student status of the dependent should be updated with the provider. Equally crucial, is the need to understand the out-of-country plan coverage, such as the type of care (non-emergency and emergency) and policy limitations on trip duration. Many policies have 60, 90, or 180 day trip limitations for the out-of-province/country emergency care. Extension of coverage can be made for the dependent on an exception basis with the provider, but it does need to be applied for.

Where the student is attending school is also important. For example, if the student is going to be studying in the US, some the insurance plans with out-of-country coverage and emergency travel assistance do not meet the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirements for coverage. In this case, the student would be deemed an international student, which requires him/her to purchase medical coverage through the educational institution. The cost of coverage may be embedded in the student fees and is likely more expensive through the school compared to coverage purchased in Canada.

So, before parents can enjoy a quiet household once again, they need to be certain that proper coverage is in place for their student-children educating abroad. This will ensure that their hard-earned dollars will go towards higher learning and not towards costly and unexpected medical expenses.

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