3 Ways to Keep Your Children Covered When Studying Abroad

Aug 30, 2018

Summer’s end is quickly approaching, and for some the school year has already started. For many, that means education and study abroad. The whirlwind of organizing passports, visiting consulates for visas, downloading maps, etc may be ahead, or for the lucky ones put behind you. But, what about health care while abroad? It is time to dust off your benefits plan booklet and read it. Carefully. Failure to do so could cost you - a lot.

Don’t be too alarmed. It’s actually quite simple as long as you keep in mind three things: What, Where and When. So let’s dig in and uncover some surprising myths about insurance and then look at a strategy to save you time, trouble and money. 

WHAT

MYTH: Your group insurance will continue to cover non-emergency and emergency care for your child while they study abroad and will assume continued student status.

FACT: Group insurance coverage distinguishes between emergency and non-emergency care with varying coverage amounts. Continued coverage as a student needs to be regularly confirmed. 

SOLUTION: Clarify coverage for non-emergency and emergency care. Confirm student status for your child. 

WHERE

MYTH: All out-of-province/country health insurance coverage is the same. 

FACT: Each province/country and state has its own domestic healthcare requirements which may or may not be covered by your benefits plan group travel insurance. For example, if your child is studying in the US, some plans do not meet state requirements for coverage and your child is deemed an international student and will be required to purchase additional medical coverage through the destination school. With the current healthcare debates and changes in the US, a little due diligence at this time is even more important.

SOLUTION: Check with the destination school to see if the cost of this ‘extra’ coverage is already included in their fees. If it is, note the amount, because it is likely more expensive through the school than buying coverage before leaving Canada. 

WHEN

MYTH: Our provincial and group health benefits plan will continue to offer regular medical coverage for however long my child is studying abroad.  

FACT: Well yes, they do cover your child outside the country. BUT most provinces limit coverage after a specific period of time and it can vary. For instance, in BC coverage stops after six months out of the country. AND group health benefits insurance companies impose their own time limits that are often referred to in days, ie., 60, 90, 180 rather than months like the provincial insurer. So it’s important to make sure all the dates line up between the program duration, provincial health coverage and group insurance coverage. 

SOLUTION: First, check the last date of your child’s program. Then check with your provincial health care provider and simply ask for a coverage extension beyond the allowable limits. Not all provinces will do this but you may be lucky. Then check the specific day limits on your group insurance and apply to extend coverage on an exception basis if necessary. 

Education is expensive enough as is. Unexpected health care costs can add to the challenge so a little preparation goes a long way. Some things going in that suitcase will be one size fits all, but don’t assume health care coverage is one of them. 

And if your child announces they’re going traveling AFTER their program finishes and AFTER their health coverage ends well, then you have to start all over again.

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