Ontario is about to scrap out-of-country emergency health care coverage

Travelling to the U.S.? Here’s what you need to know

The Star Vancouver

When Toronto resident Jill Wykes had a health scare over a racing heartbeat in Florida a few years back, the $3,000 hospital bill for a two-hour visit and three tests added insult to illness.

Fortunately, the seasoned snowbird had a comprehensive travel health insurance policy that paid the full tab.

But the incident, which turned out to be nothing serious, served as a reminder that medical emergencies can happen any time, anywhere.

Buying enough travel insurance to cover all eventualities becomes even more important for Ontario residents when the province scraps its out-of-country coverage of emergency health care expenses on Jan.1.

Until Dec. 31, OHIP will continue to pay up to $400 per day for emergency in-patient services and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services. Starting next year though, that coverage stops.

A new program will provide kidney dialysis patients with $210 toward each treatment — actual prices in the U.S. range from $300 to $750 — but travellers will be on the hook for everything else.

The province says it’s cancelling the existing “inefficient” program because of the $2.8-million cost of administering $9 million in emergency medical coverage abroad each year. OHIP’s reimbursements also tended to offset only a fraction of the actual expenses.

Without private insurance, travellers can face “catastrophically large bills” for medical care, warns Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen, who “strongly encourages” people to purchase adequate coverage.

Health care south of the border, in particular, costs an arm and a leg. On average, fees in the U.S. are double those of other developed countries, according to the International Travel Insurance Group.

The insurance provider cites an array of costs, including: ambulance, $500 and up; ER visit, $150 to $3,000; hospital stay, $5,000 per day; MRI, $1,000 to $5,000; X-ray, $150 to $3,000; hip fracture, $13,000 to $40,000.

The monetary ouch factor can be especially painful for snowbirds, who are flocking to warm spots like Florida, Arizona and Texas in growing numbers as baby boomers reach retirement age.

But a significant number of vacationers of all ages are putting their financial health at risk.

According to a recent survey by InsuranceHotline.com, 34 per cent of Canadian respondents said they were unlikely to buy travel insurance, often in the mistaken belief their province would cover them. And 40 per cent had unrealistic expectations of health care costs, thinking, for example, that emergency medical evacuation would be under $2,000. In reality, the service can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Jill Wykes and her husband Pierre Lepage leave nothing to chance during winters in Sarasota, Fla., an annual trek since 2011 when she retired as a travel industry executive.

The couple, now in their 70s, purchase a multiple-trip plan with a 60-day top-up for their four-month sojourn, which includes driving there and back and flying home for two short visits. Her policy costs about $900 while his is $1,600, because he falls into an older age bracket. They’re each covered for up to $5 million.

Wykes, a blogger and editor of, snowbirdadvisor.ca, calls it “foolish” to travel anywhere without health insurance and advises against thinking “you would just drive or fly home if you were sick.” The financial fallout from an accident or sudden illness “can quickly rise into six figures” in the U.S., she adds.

Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com, which provides free quotes for all types of insurance, echoes Wykes’s advice.

“Now, more than ever, you need travel insurance because there will be zero coverage (as of Jan. 1),” she says.

There’s no one-size-fits-all policy and insurance can cover everything from trip cancellation or interruption to lost baggage and medical costs, Thomas explains, so it’s important to match your needs and situation. A sunseeker driving south, for instance, wouldn’t need trip cancellation.

The need to understand travel health insurance coverage

The need to understand travel health insurance coverage

As 54 per cent of Canadians prepare to travel this already frigid winter, the Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) is releasing the results of its most recent traveller survey that reveals that 26 per cent of Canadians are unsure of their coverage when they travel.

Ninety per cent of respondents make mobile phones a part of life even on holiday, but these modern conveniences are increasingly a source of injury with 13 per cent overall (and 18 per cent of millennials) reporting that they’ve been injured while posing precariously for selfies.

“Everyone deserves a carefree vacation and travel health insurance is designed to pay for unexpected medical emergencies,” said Will McAleer, Travel Health Insurance Association. “Understanding what activities might impact coverage, whether it be climbing a mountain or consuming more alcohol than usual, is part of what’s required for a good getaway. With Ontario being the first province to eliminate coverage for out-of-country medical expenses, it’s more important than ever to know what is and isn’t covered by insurance policies.”

Starting on January 1, 2020, OHIP is changing its out of country travel health coverage for Ontarians and will no longer provide any coverage for travellers (aside from kidney dialysis). According to the survey, 45 per cent of Canadians believe provincial health insurance covers some medical expenses incurred while travelling abroad. These changes underscore the importance of consumer awareness and understanding of their travel health insurance coverage.

Being aware of what is or isn’t covered under a policy, or federal regulations related to marijuana, will go a long way in ensuring that hard-earned holidays aren’t jeopardized either by unexpected medical expenses or criminal changes.

Twenty per cent of survey respondents admit to having consumed more than five drinks in two hours on holiday while 31 per cent of millennial males have climbed mountains while travelling. And, 21 per cent of respondents believe it’s acceptable to travel with marijuana packed in their luggage.

The survey also revealed that Canadians are more likely to travel domestically this year and less likely to travel to the US due to the exchange rate (58 per cent) and current political climate (48 per cent).

Wherever Canadians plan to travel this winter, they are more likely to have a carefree holiday and navigate unexpected medical issues with appropriate travel health insurance. Will McAleer recommends that all travellers familiarize themselves with the following key elements of travel health insurance:

  1. Understand your travel insurance policy – Insurance providers have staff available to answer any questions related to policies.
  2. Know your health and consult a health care provider if you have any questions.
  3. Know your trip – How long will you be gone? Are you a snowbird? Will you be travelling many times during the year? Do you plan to scuba dive? Find a policy that is specifically tailored to your trip.
  4. Know your rights – The Bill of Rights and Responsibilities will help provide all travelling Canadians with additional confidence in their travel insurance purchase knowing their company is supporting their rights as a consumer and making them aware of their responsibilities.

About the Survey
The online survey, conducted in October 2019, polled 1,053 respondents, ranging from ages 18 to 60+ across Canada.

About the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA)
Founded in 1998, the Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) is the national organization representing travel insurers, brokers, underwriters, re-insurers, emergency assistance companies, air ambulance companies and allied services in the travel insurance field. THiA is the leading voice of the travel insurance industry in Canada and is engaged in public education and issues relating to regulatory affairs and member communications.

SOURCE Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA)

Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA)

VUMI® Canada partnered with Humania Assurance to launch a unique international health insurance plan

TORONTO, Nov. 7, 2019 /CNW/ — VUMI® Canada, in partnership with Humania Assurance, is proud to announce that this month will be launching a new product for the Canadian market.

Prestige VIP is an innovative health insurance plan specifically designed to expand the health care options for Canadians while offering them easy access to world-renown doctors and hospitals worldwide.

Outside of Canada, the plan will work without a providers’ network, allowing Canadians to seek treatment with the medical provider of their choice. While in Canada, the plan will complement the Provincial Health Insurance coverage and/or any other employer healthcare plan, allowing them to have more options and the peace of mind of being able to access the best treatment when they need it most.

Prestige VIP is underwritten by Humania Assurance and will be available for individuals, third party administrators (TPA) and corporations. The individual plan will offer deductible options starting at C$250 and a maximum coverage of up to C$5,000,000 per policy year, per person up to the age of 75. For third party administrators (TPAs), the plan will offer coverage up to C$1,000,000, and for corporate groups, coverage that ranges from C$1,000,000 up to C$5,000,000.

Humania Assurance is one the most prestigious and soundest insurance companies in Canada. Founded in 1874, it is a multiple award-winning company that provides insurance coverage to over 200,000 individual and corporate clients.

VUMI® Canada, Inc is a privately-owned Canadian company that is part of VUMI® Group, an international healthcare group that is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, USA and has more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. The VUMI® Canada sales and operations will be under the leadership of Gino Stirpe CHS, a seasoned insurance executive with a proven career track and 30 years in the insurance industry.

“The wide range of benefits of this new plan and the VIP service commitment of VUMI® Canada, together with the award-winning expertise of Humania Assurance, make Prestige VIP a must-have for any Canadian,” said David Rendall, CEO of VUMI®.

 

www.vumigroup.com

Manulife’s insurance app rewards healthy lifestyles, but also raises ‘health surveillance’ concerns

Making 10 per cent of Canadians less sedentary by 2020 would increase the national GDP by $1.6 billion, according to a study

BY Nicholas Sokic | Financial Post 

Elevators at Manulife Canada’s Toronto headquarters are now adorned with signage that reads, “the stairs go the same way.” It’s part of Manulife’s efforts to change sedentary lifestyles, as it rolls out its life insurance app to its employees and the rest of the country in partnership with Discovery Health, the South Africa-based subsidiary of the financial services group Discovery Ltd.

The Vitality app tracks your health based on several personalized physical and mental personalized assessments. Users can reach bronze, silver, gold or platinum ranking based on their own fitness goals, and win discounts and gift certificates for hotels.com, Amazon, Cineplex and Tim Horton’s, among others.

Manulife launched Vitality in the U.S. four years ago under its John Hancock Financial division, and on an individual basis in Canada in 2017. The group benefits version was launched for Manulife employees in July, which reported 50 per cent participation in its first month.

The Toronto-based insurer has now opened the group benefits program to other companies during a staggered rollout, and already counts Walmart Canada and Scotiabank as customers.

The Vitality app is used in more than 20 countries with 10 million participants. Manulife signed a global pledge with other life insurance companies to make 100 million people more active by 2025.

“About a year ago we decided to launch it in the benefits business so that’s been about developing the platform for the employer market and testing it,” said Donna Carbell, the head of group benefits at Manulife Canada.

Participation in the program is entirely optional and there are no consequences for choosing not to participate, the company notes.

“Customers can select the method, type and amount of information they share,” according to Manulife. “The information is used to encourage customer engagement with the program and reward customers for participating in healthy activities.”

Despite privacy and other concerns, getting people to move around is an uncontroversial goal. During a presentation, Manulife’s chief executive officer Mike Doughty stated that four chronic conditions — respiratory, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes — are responsible for 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide and 85 per cent of Manulife’s group benefits claims.

The highly personalized nature of the assessments in the app result in a radically different fitness experience for each user, even accounting for pregnancy, Carbell said.

“I may be a very sedentary person who has a chronic condition and it will create a different program for me so I will achieve a gold status with a very different exercise and fitness regime than a marathon runner will,” said Carbell.

Manulife cited a study from the Conference Board of Canada saying that making 10 per cent of Canadians less sedentary by 2020 would increase the national GDP by $1.6 billion and reduce national healthcare costs by $2.6 billion.

RAND Europe, an independent research institute, conducted a study last November surveying 400,000 people in South Africa, the U.S. and the U.K. and found that people using the Vitality app in conjunction with Apple Watch saw an equivalent of 4.8 extra days — an increase of 34 per cent — of physical activity on average each month.

Still, there are some obvious apprehensions in handing over the minutiae of your health information to a third-party.

“There’s always concerns about privacy,” said Carbell. “Any info an employee keys into the system, which might be my waist circumference or body mass index, all of that is housed with Vitality. We don’t even have access to that.”

Instead, the monthly report that employers receive would only contain demographic data such as how many employees are actively using the app.

“They could, theoretically, sell the information to third-parties without any consent on the part of the subject. But (totally voluntary) means nothing,” says Ann Cavoukian, the executive director of the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University. “Most people probably haven’t even looked at who the information is shared with, what that consent means.”

Toronto-based John Wunderlich of the self-named privacy and security firm also thinks the situation is not so cut and dry.

“I think it’s hard for me to see what the value offering is for both employer and insurance provider if it isn’t employee health surveillance.”

While employee consent is required, “the pendulum is swinging” on how rigorous that consent may be, Wunderlich says. For those that don’t want to participate, the impact could be anything from increased stress or pressure to perform in an unnatural fashion.

This hypothetical situation is not beyond the pale either. Last year, a statewide West Virginia teacher’s strike was partially brought on due to the Go365, a heartrate- and step-tracking app. A US$500 hike in a teacher’s annual insurance deductible was the punishment for failing to reach a certain amount of points. The program was later abandoned.

However, Manulife counters that it’s “committed to respecting and protecting” customers’ personal information.

“We have organizational, physical and technical safeguards in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data entrusted to us,” the company said.

Should you consider buying supplemental health coverage?

TARA DESCHAMPS

The Canadian Press

When Canadians seek medical attention for broken bones or emergency appendectomies, the country’s health care system allows most to head to the hospital and be looked after without the burden of a big bill.

But filling a prescription, seeing an optometrist or going to the dentist for a checkup all come with a price tag passed along to patients. While many have health insurance through employers, spouses or schools, plenty of people lack such a luxury because they are unemployed, self-employed or simply working for a company that doesn’t offer such benefits.

Jessica Moorhouse, a 33-year-old personal-finance blogger, says those without additional health care coverage should educate themselves on what is and what isn’t provided by the government to identify gaps they might need to cover.

Then, work out what kind of health expenses you typically have and calculate how much it would cost to pay cash versus paying an insurance provider for that extra health care, Moorhouse says.

People who require pricey prescriptions or a high level of medical attention not covered by the government might find signing up for a health care plan is a better value than paying out of pocket, but the opposite might be true for people who have few medical needs.

“The past few years it’s made more sense for me to just save and pay cash, but in the future as I get older or start a family, my position and needs may change,” Moorhouse says.

“Health coverage beyond what’s included in Canada’s medical system may not be necessary for everyone, so you really need to look at your situation right now and also consider what you may require in the future in terms of health care.”

If you decide that a plan is right for you, Moorhouse recommends putting aside plenty of time for research. Alternatively, you could go via a broker who will find you the best price and policy.

If you’re a university or college student, most schools will offer plans at discounted rates. Some will auto-enrol every student in the plan, but if you already have coverage, you can apply to opt-out of it and receive your money back.

When seeking quotes, Moorhouse recommends people take a peek at some of the online calculators run by health insurance companies that will provide a free quote. Sun Life Financial and Blue Cross Canada are among the dozens of businesses offering such estimates.

“In the past when I’ve asked for quotes I’ve heard $100 to $150 per month just for a basic dental and vision plan is the norm, but again, it really depends on a number of variables,” says Moorhouse.

Keep an eye on restrictions and percentages of coverage too, she says.

“Just because you’re on an insurance plan does not mean you will be covered 100 per cent for that dentist visit,” she explains. “Usually you’ll be paying your insurance premiums plus 40 to 50 per cent of the cost of going to the dentist.”

Moorhouse says if you decide to forgo a plan, put aside some money for health care expenses instead.

According to her, the best way to figure out how much to save is to calculate the costs of the services you’ll need.

“Everyone’s needs are different,” says Moorhouse. “For myself, my needs are dental cleanings twice per year and an eye exam and possibly new glasses every two years…. I don’t need any prescriptions and I don’t have any health issues.”

Once you determine what it will cost for the services you need, you should put that money in a savings account along with some extra cash for unexpected charges or changes in prices, says Moorhouse.

You should be putting automatic contributions into the savings account so it becomes part of your regular budget and so you’re never left with an empty fund, she says.

OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance introduces new CEO

The Board of Directors of Canada’s OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI) was pleased to introduce a new CEO and Ombudsman, highlight positive achievements, and outline future growth at their Annual General Meeting in Toronto on September 19th, 2019.

On August 19th, after an exhaustive search and recruitment process conducted by the Board of Directors, Glenn O’Farrellwas appointed Chief Executive Officer and Ombudsman of OLHI. A native of St-Malachie, Québec, Glenn’s previous roles include President of Global Television Québec, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and CEO of Groupe Média TFO. He is also a member of the Québec Bar and Institute of Corporate Directors. Before that, he studied economics, law, business and corporate governance at St. Francis Xavier University, Université Laval, the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto.

One of Glenn’s mandates will be to continue with a Western expansion plan, in order to ensure that more consumers in Western Canada are aware of OLHI’s services.

“We are pleased that OLHI’s profile with the regulators and consumers continues to grow”, said Dr. Janice MacKinnon, OLHI Chair. “Support from our stakeholders has been instrumental in enhancing our profile among consumers, and with the addition of Glenn to the team, we will drive further development and continue strengthening our various stakeholder relationships”.

Additional highlights included the following:

  • Number of contacts increased by 5.9%, reaching a historic record
  • Quebec complaints are still the highest at 54.5%, Ontario remains second
  • Total number of Complaints this fiscal year reached 2,290
  • Website visits increased by 6.4%

OLHI recorded 107,164 website visitors, with just over 90,000 being new visitors. By Function, Claims and Service related complaints made up over 80% of the total volume, while By Product, this number remained relatively consistent with previous year’s data.

Following the AGM, OLHI released its 2019 Annual Report on its web site. The report presents a comprehensive overview of all the achievements, statistics and case studies from the past year and is readily available at www.olhi.ca/news-publications/annual-report/ and www.oapcanada.ca/nouvelles-et-publications/comptes-rendus-annuels/.

About the OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance
The OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI) is Canada’s only independent complaint resolution service for consumers of Canadian life and health insurance. Canadians trust us to review their insurance complaints about life, disability, employee health benefits, travel, and insurance investment products such as annuities and segregated funds. OLHI’s free bilingual services are available to any consumer whose insurance company is an OLHI member – and, currently, 99% of Canadian life and health insurers are. OLHI also offers general information online about life and health insurance. To ensure impartiality, OLHI’s operations are overseen by the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR). For more information, visit www.olhi.ca and www.oapcanada.ca.

SOURCE OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance

Related Links

www.olhi.ca

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