Importance of Out-of-Country Coverage – Don’t Be a Cautionary Tale

Jan 12, 2015

You may have heard some horror stories about obscenely large out-of-country medical bills, usually in the U.S. Here’s a summary of my own story: In September of 2007, the morning after arriving in Las Vegas for a business conference, I went into labour while only 6 months pregnant. My son, Duncan, was born that day weighing only 2 pounds 11 ounces and his condition was dire. He spent the first 7 weeks of his 3-month hospital stay in Neonatal ICU in Las Vegas, before being transferred via air ambulance to Vancouver.

The U.S. medical bill was just shy of $500,000. Our provincial government’s portion? A mere $10,000. If I didn’t have out-of-country coverage or if it was deemed that the event was not sudden and unexpected, I would have been personally responsible for paying the full amount of that enormous bill, and it was due regardless of whether my son survived (thankfully, he did). Some minor pregnancy complications or travel later in my pregnancy could have made my insurance claim ineligible. How much did I actually have to pay? Not a penny. I was lucky.

Most travel insurance contracts include a pre-existing condition clause, which relates to a health problem that was previously diagnosed or treated, invalidating your claim. However, you may have coverage for a sudden and unforeseen complication of an existing, pre-diagnosed condition that was completely stable at the time of departure from Canada. The best way to protect yourself is to get a letter from your doctor prior to traveling, confirming that your medical condition is stable.

Please, contact your insurer before you travel to find out the details of your pre-existing condition clause (including the definition of ‘stable’), and any other possible restrictions and limitations. Don’t become another cautionary tale.

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