Ottawa criticizes Ontario for eliminating out-of-country health insurance

TORONTO — Eliminating out-of-country health insurance could jeopardize access to necessary medical care and become a hardship for some travellers, the federal health minister warned Wednesday in a letter to her Ontario counterpart.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the move announced by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government will hurt people who travel regularly to the United States.

“If all publicly financed reimbursement of out-of-country physician and hospital services is eliminated, private health insurance premiums for travellers will inevitably rise for all Ontario residents,” Petitpas Taylor said in her letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Even modest increases could pose a hardship for some individuals.”

The program currently covers out-of-country in-patient services up to $400 per day for a higher level of care, such as intensive care, as well as up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

In May, Elliott announced the decision to scrap the program following a six-day public consultation, saying it is very costly and does not provide value to taxpayers.

The change is expected to come into effect Oct. 1.

A spokesperson for Elliott confirmed Wednesday that the government intends to wind down the program and strongly encourages people to purchase travel health insurance.

“The program’s coverage is very limited with only five cents of every dollar claimed,” Travis Kann said in a statement. “With this limited coverage and low reimbursement rate, OHIP-eligible Ontarians who do not purchase private travel health insurance can be left with catastrophically large bills to pay.”

Elliott has said the province spends $2.8 million to administer approximately $9 million in claim payments through the program every year.

On Wednesday, Petitpas Taylor stressed that if Ontario moves ahead with its plan, it will be the first jurisdiction in the country to provide no coverage for emergency hospital and physician services received out of country.

The minister said this would be “inconsistent” with the Canada Health Act, which stipulates that all Canadians are entitled to continuing coverage of their provincial health plans when they are temporarily absent from home.

“Ontario’s approach will mean that Ontario residents will have to cover the costs of care out of pocket, should they require medical attention while travelling,” she said.

Opposition politicians have said ending the program will hurt frequent travellers. In April, NDP health critic France Gelinas wrote Petitpas Taylor and asked her to intervene and stop Ontario from eliminating the coverage.

“I am urging you to follow through on the prime minister’s commitment … where he affirmed the federal government’s responsibility to ensure provinces follow the requirements of the Canada Health Act,” she said.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has urged the government not to make the move and said it would not only impact seniors who travel south during the winter months, but also cross-border shoppers and anyone planning a family vacation.

In her 2018 report, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said the Ministry of Health processed an average of 88,000 out-of-country claims per year over a five-year period and paid an average of $127 per claim.

Lysyk also noted the high administrative costs of the program, but said they arise because staff must check varying physician services fee rates and process claims manually. She recommended that the government seek ways to reduce administrative costs by adopting a single reimbursement rate for all health services obtained out-of-country.

She also recommended the government bolster efforts to inform Ontarians of the limit on reimbursement rates under the program and on the need to purchase private health insurance before travelling.

 

Most Canadians leave their families exposed when it comes to travel insurance

TORONTO, June 25, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — While 72 per cent of Canadians had some form of travel or medical insurance for recent travels, most leave their family under-insured, according to a survey released today by InsuranceHotline.com. The study showed over one half of Canadians (52 per cent) would not think to purchase insurance for their university or high school-aged children travelling abroad this summer.

“This oversight is not surprising and brings attention to assumptions around coverage Canadians often make regarding purchasing travel insurance for themselves and family members,” said Anne Marie Thomas from InsuranceHotline.com.

Coverage misconceptions

Of the respondents who were not likely to purchase travel insurance for their next trip, 36 per cent believe they are covered by their employee benefits and one in five believe they have insurance through their credit card. Additionally, over 37 per cent think they have provincial coverage for health insurance when travelling outside of Canada.

“The general assumptions being made by many Canadians on what coverages they believe are in place or that are available to them illustrate an overall lack of awareness that could prove to be quite costly,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “Check with your credit cards, employee benefits and provincial insurance to see what coverage you actually have before you or a family member takes their next trip.”

Additional misconceptions of available insurance coverage

  • One in five Canadians are unaware of lost luggage insurance
  • 24 per cent of Canadians are unaware of illness insurance
  • 43 per cent are unaware of insurance for missing connecting flights
  • 55 per cent are unaware of severe weather insurance
  • 39 per cent are unaware of theft of goods or money insurance

The fact is Canadians are either unaware these insurance exist or typically do not think to ask for them, or generally assume that no harm will come to them while travelling.

While over one quarter of Canadians travelling do not get any form of insurance for themselves, when it comes to family members visiting Canada, a full 82 per cent would not consider purchasing medical insurance for relatives from abroad. This could be problematic if a family member from abroad is involved in a medical emergency and requires a hospital bed. Typically, accommodations range between $3,000-$5,000 per day depending on the hospital and choice of room.

“The reality is that Canadians are not alone in their passive approach to travel medical insurance,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “You should be equally diligent in making sure your family members visiting from abroad are covered, especially those who are elderly or considered higher risk.”

Travel insurance is recommended by the Government of Canada and helps safeguard your health, travel plans and finances while you’re away or while family is visiting. Without coverage, you will be solely responsible for what can easily become exorbitant medical bills or unexpected trip-related expenses. Comparing travel insurance quotes will help you to get the best rate and the best coverage for your needs.

Furthermore, Ontario residents should be aware of upcoming changes to travel coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). The Ontario provincial government is scrapping coverage for Ontario residents who require emergency medical services while travelling outside of Canada. The changes are expected to come into effect on October 1, 2019.

Policy coverage & cost examples*

  • 60-day coverage for student under the age of 30 travelling in Europe – $89/$1.50 day
  • 30-day medical coverage for student under the age of 30 travelling to Brazil – $51.60/$1.72 day
  • Three-week visit from parents both aged 65 in good health who live in Calcutta – $123.64/$5.89 day
  • Cousin aged 42 in good health visiting from Germany for four weeks – $50.85/$1.82 day

*all examples above are to illustrate relative costs and involve certain assumptions that may not be reflective of other considerations in finalizing available coverages

Emergency medical evacuation

The survey also revealed that 41 per cent of Canadians believe the cost of a four-hour emergency medical evacuation is under $2,000. Furthermore, 39 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 believes the cost to be under $500.

“The reality of any emergency evacuation for medical reasons is that your costs are going to be in the tens of thousands of dollars,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “Furthermore, there is a good chance this cost will be compounded by the hospital visit they are being sent home from.”

About the survey
The InsuranceHotline.com Travel Insurance survey was conducted by Forum Research between June 4th – 7th, 2019 and polled 1005 respondents across Canada. The sample’s age ranged from 18 to 65+ years old. To participate in the survey, respondents were required to have travelled outside of Canada in the past twelve months. Survey questions were presented via telephone and respondents provided answers through the touchpad of their mobile device or home phone.

About InsuranceHotline.com
InsuranceHotline.com publishes rates from 30+ insurance providers so that Canadians can find the best insurance rates for themselves. Use the site to find the best rates on Auto, Home, Travel, Life and Commercial Insurance.

Covering the Expense of Interruptions and Cancellations

Ingle International

An unexpected flight interruption could blow up your travel budget like a balloon. A sudden storm or illness that forces you to cancel a pre-paid vacation could cost you even more. But, just as it can shift the potential burden of medical emergency costs, the right travel insurance can also limit your risk of unexpected trip expenses.

Q: What should I know about trip cancellation and interruption insurance?

Various all-inclusive travel plans provide coverage for medical emergencies as well as for cancelled or interrupted trips. If you do not require an individual medical policy, it’s possible to buy a stand-alone cancellation and/or interruption plan.

Q: How much would it cost me to purchase a comprehensive all-inclusive plan?

Prices vary from plan to plan, and from person to person. The cost of medical emergency coverage will typically go up with the age of the traveller and with any existing (or previous) health conditions. The cost of trip interruption coverage alone usually depends on age and coverage limit, while trip cancellation coverage will vary with the cost of your planned trip.

Q: What reasons would make me eligible for a trip interruption or cancellation claim?

You may submit a claim for expenses if one of the following interferes with your travel plans:

  • a weather disturbance
  • a medical or mechanical problem
  • legal or personal obligations
  • actions, threats, warnings, or decisions of others (e.g., governments and airlines)

Q: What is the most common reason for trip interruption claims?

“Typically trip interruption is associated with weather-type conditions. Any time we have a winter with a lot of snow in Canada, we definitely see an impact on our trip interruption and trip delay claims,” explains Rob Iafrate, assistant VP at Manulife Financial. “In theory, you are less exposed [to weather delays in the summer]. The exception a few years ago was when ash clouds from a volcano in Iceland disrupted travel during the European [travel] season.”

Q: Is the cost of trip cancellation and interruption coverage higher at certain times of the year?

Iafrate says no: “When you are putting the product together and trying to balance the ease or convenience of the application process and the pricing, you take a holistic view of the year and to what extent that type of claim happens over a 12-month period.”

Q: Is the demand for this insurance higher at certain times of the year?

The number of travel insurance purchases rise in Canada when families plan summer vacations, particularly costly trips to Europe, and winter vacations. Older snowbirds who drive south for long periods tend not to pay extra for trip delay or cancellation coverage, says Iafrate.

Q: Do consumers worry more about trip cancellation than trip interruption?

Yes. Consumers realize they can lose more money if they have to cancel a prepaid vacation because of illness, a death in the family, job loss, or a life-threatening event at their vacation destination. There are daily and total limits for the value of interruption expenses that may be claimed, but consumers may purchase much higher coverage limits for a costly vacation. Iafrate has observed that trip interruption due to weather is often an after-thought.

Q: When do consumers typically ask for trip interruption insurance?

“The only time trip interruption is brought up in a pre-sale discussion is if somebody is connecting (flying between airports before reaching a final destination),” says Iafrate. Travellers may be exposed to a loss if weather causes them to miss their connecting flight and they have to pay for another ticket.

Some travellers only add trip interruption to their next purchase of medical insurance after they have had to pay for a return flight, when delayed by a weather, medical, or other emergency, notes Karen Cullen, the Ontario regional director for Travel Insurance Coordinators Ltd. (TIC).

Q: How are trip cancellation rates determined? Are the rates just a set percentage of the total trip cost, or are there other factors?

“Trip cancellation rates can be based on a percentage of trip costs—usually around 6 to 8 per cent,” says Cullen. “But this can vary significantly depending on the benefits you are purchasing. Some companies take the insured’s age and trip duration into consideration.”

Q: Why is medical information sometimes required when applying for travel medical insurance, but not trip cancellation and interruption insurance?

A medical emergency could cost an insurer millions of dollars, depending on the policy limits, but only hundreds or thousands of dollars for a disrupted trip. So insurers are simply more careful when screening applicants for medical coverage.

Q: What protection does cancellation and interruption insurance offer against hurricanes and other extreme weather?

A trip interruption policy will typically pay for extra accommodation and flight costs, up to a fixed dollar limit, if you miss a flight due to a hurricane or other extreme weather. Trip cancellation coverage would reimburse pre-paid costs you could not otherwise recover.

But if weather conditions merely delay arrival, you may be expected to proceed once it is safe. Cullen notes that TIC’s polices state that you would be covered to cancel if you are not able to depart on your trip because of adverse weather, volcanic eruptions, or a natural disaster that would result in you missing 30 per cent or more of your trip.

Q: Can I get cancellation insurance for a flight booked with rewards points?

“Reward point companies can sometimes offer protection (for a premium) so that, if you cannot travel, you may be able to get your unused points credited back to your account,” says Cullen. “Because there is no actual cash value assigned to rewards points, [other] insurers usually will not allow cash reimbursements back to clients if or when they have to cancel their trip.

While some travellers may accept the risk of paying extra costs when their travel plans are interrupted or may even be able to tolerate losing it all if a trip is cancelled at the last minute, trip cancellation and interruption insurance can lift any concerns for a set price. The cost of this type of travel insurance isn’t that high to begin with, and can be minimized by comparing plans and purchase options. It’s also good to know that there are annual plans available for frequent flyers that have a trip cancellation and interruption component.

Source: https://www.ingleinternational.com

DYK: Medical reasons make up one-third of Canadian’ travel claims

NEWS PROVIDED BY

RBC Insurance

Highlights:

  • Canadians’ biggest pet peeves while travelling by air include bad travel etiquette, followed by flight delays and going through airport security. And when it comes to the worst things they’ve lost while travelling, the top three items are baggage, their passport and their travelling companion.
  • Over a quarter of Canadians have made an insurance claim as a result of something that happened to them while travelling, with visits to the doctor accounting for 33 per cent of those claims, followed by flight delays.
  • When asked the most important item to insure while on vacation, almost three-quarters had said themselves, followed by luggage, rental car and mobile phone.

TORONTO, June 19, 2019 /CNW/ – Tight airport security and flight delays can definitely be a downside to air travel, but the biggest pet peeve for over a quarter (27 per cent) of Canadians is bad travel etiquette, according to a recent RBC Insurance survey. And when it comes to the worst things they’ve lost along the way, the top three items are baggage (20 per cent), followed by their passport (13 per cent) and, interestingly, their travelling companion (6 per cent).

However, the overall pleasures of air travel seem to outweigh the pet-peeves. Canadians are often on the move, travelling outside of their home province by air roughly once every six to seven months.

Before you go, ensure you’re insured
Along with such frequent travel comes a greater opportunity for mishaps to occur that could result in expensive bills. In fact, one-quarter (26 per cent) of Canadians have made an insurance claim as a result of something that happened to them while travelling. One-third (33 per cent) of those claims were related to visits to a doctor, hospital or clinic, while flight delays account for one-quarter (24 per cent) of claims.

“Travel is a wonderful, educational experience and it’s great to see that Canadians are exploring the world outside their own province or country so frequently,” said Stacey Hughes-Brooks, Head of Travel, RBC Insurance. “However, given the data from the survey, a quarter of Canadians have needed to make an insurance claim so it’s best to make sure not only that you have coverage, but that you have enough.”

When asked the most important item to insure while on vacation, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) responded themselves – and this increases among travellers aged 55 and over (81 per cent) as compared to younger travellers (64 per cent). When it comes to insuring physical belongings, 12 per cent stated luggage is the next most important item, followed by a rental car (7 per cent) and mobile phone (5 per cent).

Barriers to filing travel insurance claims
Of those Canadians who have never made a travel insurance claim, 79 per cent have been lucky enough to say they have never been in a situation where they needed to make one. However, the remaining 21 per cent said they needed to file a claim but did not or were unable to do so. The top reasons for not making a claim include that it was too much of a hassle, they were underinsured, they incorrectly assumed they were covered by their insurance policy or their credit card or they didn’t know where to go.

“With so many credit cards offering travel insurance many Canadians may assume that they are covered if something happens while travelling,” adds Stacey. “It’s important that Canadians do their homework to understand their coverage otherwise they could find themselves out-of-pocket for minor or major expenses.”

RBC Insurance offers the following tips for Canadian travellers this year:

  • Consider purchasing travel insurance even if traveling within Canada.
  • Ensure you understand what your policy does and does not cover and what other coverages you may have through work or credit cards.
  • Label luggage by putting your name and contact information on the inside and outside of the bag.

About the RBC Insurance Survey
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between May 23-27, 2019 on behalf of RBC Insurance. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About RBC Insurance
RBC Insurance® offers a wide range of life, health, home, auto, travel, wealth, annuities and reinsurance advice and solutions, as well as creditor and business insurance services to individual, business and group clients. RBC Insurance is the brand name for the insurance operating entities of Royal Bank of Canada, one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. RBC Insurance is among the largest Canadian bank-owned insurance organizations, with approximately 2,900 employees who serve more than five million clients globally. For more information, please visit rbcinsurance.com.

SOURCE RBC Insurance

Medical reasons make up one-third of Canadians’ travel claims

Poll also uncovers travel pet peeves, most important items to insure, claims barriers

NEWS PROVIDED BY

RBC Insurance

Highlights:

  • Canadians’ biggest pet peeves while travelling by air include bad travel etiquette, followed by flight delays and going through airport security. And when it comes to the worst things they’ve lost while travelling, the top three items are baggage, their passport and their travelling companion.
  • Over a quarter of Canadians have made an insurance claim as a result of something that happened to them while travelling, with visits to the doctor accounting for 33 per cent of those claims, followed by flight delays.
  • When asked the most important item to insure while on vacation, almost three-quarters had said themselves, followed by luggage, rental car and mobile phone.

TORONTO, June 19, 2019 /CNW/ – Tight airport security and flight delays can definitely be a downside to air travel, but the biggest pet peeve for over a quarter (27 per cent) of Canadians is bad travel etiquette, according to a recent RBC Insurance survey. And when it comes to the worst things they’ve lost along the way, the top three items are baggage (20 per cent), followed by their passport (13 per cent) and, interestingly, their travelling companion (6 per cent).

However, the overall pleasures of air travel seem to outweigh the pet-peeves. Canadians are often on the move, travelling outside of their home province by air roughly once every six to seven months.

Before you go, ensure you’re insured
Along with such frequent travel comes a greater opportunity for mishaps to occur that could result in expensive bills. In fact, one-quarter (26 per cent) of Canadians have made an insurance claim as a result of something that happened to them while travelling. One-third (33 per cent) of those claims were related to visits to a doctor, hospital or clinic, while flight delays account for one-quarter (24 per cent) of claims.

“Travel is a wonderful, educational experience and it’s great to see that Canadians are exploring the world outside their own province or country so frequently,” said Stacey Hughes-Brooks, Head of Travel, RBC Insurance. “However, given the data from the survey, a quarter of Canadians have needed to make an insurance claim so it’s best to make sure not only that you have coverage, but that you have enough.”

When asked the most important item to insure while on vacation, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) responded themselves – and this increases among travellers aged 55 and over (81 per cent) as compared to younger travellers (64 per cent). When it comes to insuring physical belongings, 12 per cent stated luggage is the next most important item, followed by a rental car (7 per cent) and mobile phone (5 per cent).

Barriers to filing travel insurance claims
Of those Canadians who have never made a travel insurance claim, 79 per cent have been lucky enough to say they have never been in a situation where they needed to make one. However, the remaining 21 per cent said they needed to file a claim but did not or were unable to do so. The top reasons for not making a claim include that it was too much of a hassle, they were underinsured, they incorrectly assumed they were covered by their insurance policy or their credit card or they didn’t know where to go.

“With so many credit cards offering travel insurance many Canadians may assume that they are covered if something happens while travelling,” adds Stacey. “It’s important that Canadians do their homework to understand their coverage otherwise they could find themselves out-of-pocket for minor or major expenses.”

RBC Insurance offers the following tips for Canadian travellers this year:

  • Consider purchasing travel insurance even if traveling within Canada.
  • Ensure you understand what your policy does and does not cover and what other coverages you may have through work or credit cards.
  • Label luggage by putting your name and contact information on the inside and outside of the bag.

About the RBC Insurance Survey
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between May 23-27, 2019 on behalf of RBC Insurance. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About RBC Insurance
RBC Insurance® offers a wide range of life, health, home, auto, travel, wealth, annuities and reinsurance advice and solutions, as well as creditor and business insurance services to individual, business and group clients. RBC Insurance is the brand name for the insurance operating entities of Royal Bank of Canada, one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. RBC Insurance is among the largest Canadian bank-owned insurance organizations, with approximately 2,900 employees who serve more than five million clients globally. For more information, please visit rbcinsurance.com.

SOURCE RBC Insurance

Child’s emergency near takeoff time voids rebooking despite ‘Flex’ airfare

Family purchased Transat’s Option Flex, which allows flight changes up to 3 hours prior to departure

Kate Bueckert · CBC News ·

A family from Fergus, Ont., had a vacation dream dashed after a medical emergency and now they’re warning others to pay close attention to the differences between flexible tickets and travel insurance.

Mark and Nicole Ruzycki and their two children were at the airport early in the morning on May 22, set to celebrate their daughter’s 8th birthday in Cuba. But about an hour before boarding, 3-year-old Jake developed a rash.

Airport paramedics recommended they not fly and instead, go right to the hospital.

“This has never happened to us, it was quite the scare,” Mark Ruzycki said.

The doctor at the Toronto-area hospital where they first went said it appeared to be a virus and sent them home. On the way home, Jake’s conditioned worsened and his face swelled up. They went to the emergency facility at the Fergus hospital, where doctors determined it was an allergic reaction.

It’s unclear what Jake reacted to and he has recovered, but the family missed their flight.

When Ruzycki tried to rebook their flight, Air Transat said they couldn’t rebook without further payment.

Credit offered

Ruzycki says the family paid $5,000 for the trip, including $59 per ticket for Option Flex through Air Transat. Option Flex allows people to change their flight up to three hours before the scheduled departure.

Because Jake had to go to the hospital less than three hours before takeoff, Air Transat has said the family cannot rebook without payment and will not get a full refund.

“When you book your dream vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy the ultimate level of flexibility should something unexpected happen. Option Flex lets you,” the airline states on its web page.

Air Transat has offered the family a $2,000 travel voucher, which is equivalent to the tax and fuel surcharge from their unused tickets.

The website also notes, “Option Flex allows travellers to change their departure date, destination or hotel up to three hours before departure, or to transfer their vacation package to a family member or friend up to 30 days before departure. They can also cancel their trip and obtain a full refund.” A footnote explains that the three-hour notice period also applies to cancellations.

Not insurance

The airline declined an interview request with CBC but in a statement said it’s “important to distinguish” between travel insurance and the Option Flex service.

“Option Flex is not a travel insurance and does not replace such insurance coverage, both of which should be purchased prior to departure,” Air Transat’s marketing director of social media and public relations Debbie Cabana told CBC in an email.

“The purchase of travel insurance could have prevented these customers from losing the value of their package.”

They did not purchase travel insurance, Ruzycki said, because they didn’t expect they’d have to cancel for any reason and if something were to happen, they’d just want to rebook the trip.

‘Feels for the passengers’

Ruzycki said his wife worked part time to pay for the trip.

“My wife was in tears,” he said. “Every penny she saved for this has gone down the toilet.”

The family says it’s considering taking the $2,000 travel voucher so they don’t lose all their money.

Gábor Lukács, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passengers Rights, says he “feels for the passengers.”

But unless an illness happens while on board the flight or is caused by the airline, it’s not the airline’s responsibility. He said the airline is within its rights in this case.

Lukács also said this kind of situation would not fall under the new airline passenger bill of rights recently introduced by the federal government. Lukács has been critical of the new bill of rights, saying it favours the private interests of airlines over legitimate concerns of travellers.

‘It just breaks your heart’

The Ruzycki family took a smaller vacation to Collingwood to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.

Ruzycki says his daughter was upset about not going to Cuba, but she understood the situation.

“We keep saying, ‘Look honey, we will go another time. But right now we have to concentrate on your brother’s health,” he said.

“But even our boy, now that he’s getting better, he goes, ‘So are we going to go on a plane now?'” he said. “It’s hard. It just breaks your heart.”

Ruzycki says he hopes Air Transat will change its mind and allow them to rebook their tickets rather than giving them money back.

“We just want to go on our family vacation that our kids and my wife were just so ecstatic to go on,” he said.

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