NS senior shocked by $25K air ambulance bill from Alberta

By Bruce Frisko | CTV Atlantic

A Nova Scotia retiree who needed medical attention during a trip to Alberta is upset after receiving a $25,000 air ambulance bill, which has since been lowered to $14,000.

Robert Carroll was visiting family last year when he became short of breath. He was flown from Grande Prairie to Edmonton, but his surgery was cancelled. He made a second trip later that week.

Carroll says he expressed concerns to a doctor about the possible air ambulance costs, but was assured the service was covered.

“The government pays for it, don’t worry about the cost,” Carroll says he was told. “That made me feel better.”

Four months later, the $25,000 bill from Alberta Health Services arrived. After family intervened, the provincial agency knocked about $9,000 off the total owing. But that’s still a lot to Carroll, who says it has caused him “terrible worry.”

“I thought it was all covered,” his wife, Pat Carroll, said. “And you know, something like that could affect your (credit) rating.”

A Nova Scotia government spokesperson said that ambulance services are not covered or subsidized when travelling out of province. “Residents who travel outside of Nova Scotia or outside Canada are encouraged to purchase travel health insurance,” Nova Scotia warns.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says that coverage differs from province to province, so people who travel outside their home provinces should make sure they have extended coverage through their employers or by purchasing it.

Carroll isn’t the first person to be surprised by a large ambulance bill while travelling. Last year, an Ontario woman received a $12,000 air ambulance bill after having a heart attack in Nova Scotia.

In 2015, an Alberta woman received a $30,000 bill after going into labour in northern Ontario. The case caused outrage and the two provinces eventually agreed to split the cost, but both continue to bill non-residents for air ambulance services.

5 Travel Packing Tips

5 Travel Packing Tips

Corey Deeth | Canada.com

Most will agree, the worst part of planning any travel is figuring out what to pack for vacation. Stuffing a week’s worth of clothing and toiletries in a small luggage can feel near impossible. Start your vacation off on the right foot with a few helpful tips on how to pack a suitcase.

Make a list

Obvious as it may be, creating a travel packing list a week in advance can ensure you don’t forget any of the essentials. Organize your list by clothes, toiletries, first aid, technology etc. Afterward, review to see if anything can be removed. Does your hotel offer shampoo and tooth paste? Take it off your list! Will your travel partner be packing a hair dryer? Avoid doubling up. This process will make sure you stick to the essentials and leave the excess at home.

Pack a smart wardrobe

Stick to a few staple pieces and reduce the number of items you pack by using coordinates that can be paired to create multiple fresh looks. Consider the duration of your trip, climate of destinations and activities in store. Then select those pieces from your wardrobe you can mix and match to go from daytime casual to evening glam without packing your whole closet.

Pack empty bags

Want to keep clean clothes fresh in your suitcase the whole duration of your trip? Empty bags are your answer. Not only are they useful to separate clean from dirty and wet from dry, they can be a life saver in protecting clothes from any potential toiletry spills. Keeping your wardrobe fresh your whole trip, empty bags should be a must have on your essential packing list.

Know your limits

Don’t get caught at the airport with luggage too big or too heavy. Review the limit guidelines set out by your airline for your carry on and checked baggage. Be sure to measure and weigh your suitcase before packing to avoid any unpleasant surprises the day of your trip.

Nail your carry on

What to pack in a carry on? We’ve got your answer! Ditch those snacks and magazines and opt for a more useful purpose. Pack your travel documents and valuables for safe keeping, and a phone charger just in case your battery life doesn’t quite make the hotel.  Tossing in a change of clothes, toothbrush and some face wipes can save you in case of lost luggage, while freeing up some real estate in your checked bags.

It’s smooth sailing once you’ve got your travel packing down.

Source: Canada.com

Make sure to pack your medical travel insurance

Diane Piacente | The Chronicle Herald

Do you purchase medical travel Insurance when you travel or take a chance and hope that nothing will happen?

By now you’re probably thinking you’ve had enough of winter and a quick “fly and flop” somewhere on a warm sandy beach would be just the thing to lift your spirits.

Before you make that reservation, make sure you have coverage. Maybe you and your family are covered by a medical plan through your employer; however, it could also be that you’re retired, are self-employed or recently divorced and you were previously covered under your spouse’s plan and now you’re not. Believe me when I say it’s crucial to have insurance because a stint in a hospital out of country could bankrupt you. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.

A Canadian relative recently required emergency surgery while wintering in Florida. After the operation, she was flown back home to Canada on a stretcher along with two attending nurses. The total bill was over $350,000 USD. Thankfully, she had private medical coverage which took care of the costs. Can you just imagine getting an invoice like that if you’re not covered?

Perhaps you don’t need insurance since you don’t really travel anywhere very far from home but what if you decide to jump in the car and take the family skiing at Jay Peak one weekend? I know it’s just a skip and a hop across the border but it is in another country. If you or a family member should have a serious medical issue while you’re there, you could just be transferred across the border (at your cost) but what if immediate emergency surgery is required or you need to be stabilized before the transfer?

While Medicare will generally be accepted in lieu of payment for some of the costs, it may only cover just a fraction of the total bill. Even when travelling out of province, prescription drugs, ground and air ambulance services are generally not covered outside of one’s home province or territory.

And if you’re getting close to retirement and dreaming of moving to a wonderful sunny paradise the other side of the world, make sure you budget for medical health insurance which can be quite pricey for expats. Living off the grid, drinking at the tiki hut with the locals and lying on the beach may seem like paradise, but don’t take a chance and go without medical insurance. A stint in the hospital will set you back thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Think that you can just come back to Canada if you need an operation or other procedures and as a Canadian citizen you will automatically have medicare health coverage right away? Think again.

Depending on which province in Canada you return to, you could have to wait up to three months to qualify for coverage, that’s even though you’re still filing income taxes in Canada on your retirement income. In Quebec, the RAMQ is inflexible on this point as I recently found out after I enquired for a relative. The RAMQ’s advice was to get temporary medical insurance while waiting for that card in the mail. Sounds easy enough, but insurance companies have about eight or nine medical conditions that will disqualify you from any coverage at all.

In addition, if you have any pre-existing conditions and have not been stable for the past six months, private insurance companies will not cover you for related treatment. I asked someone at the RAMQ if they had a Plan B for tax-paying Canadians who needed healthcare right away upon their return from abroad but who don’t qualify for interim private health insurance. I was told, “no Plan B”, Quebecers should already know that if they spend more than 183 days out of the country, they lose their medicare coverage until they re-qualify after three months. If they require treatment, they will be out-of-pocket for the costs.

For your peace of mind, get travel medical insurance and that’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Bon voyage!

By Diane Piacente

Study shows Canadians still confused over travel insurance

A recent study shows there’s still some confusion among Canadians when it comes to travel health insurance.

The study by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) shows 13 per cent of Canadians aren’t sure if they have travel insurance before they go on vacation, and of those who have bought insurance, 17 per cent don’t know what their policy covers.

THIA president Brad Dance said the confusion people have is because they don’t know what kind of coverage they have.

But he emphasized travel insurance is important for your health and wallet.

“A broken leg down in California could cost anywhere between US$35,000 to $50,000 in a hospital in California. Your provincial medical plan may contribute somewhere around five per cent of that amount.”

He said travel insurance would pick up the rest of the tab.

Dance said most importantly Canadians need to find out what kind of coverage they have.

He said some employers may cover travel insurance and even credit card companies can provide it, but travellers need to make sure they know what they have before leaving their province.

And if someone does need to buy standalone insurance, they can range in costs.

“Length of trip is obviously one aspect, your age is an aspect, your health is an aspect, where you may be travelling in the world is an aspect. What activities you might be undertaking while on your trip, that all goes into the rating of a travel insurance policy,” Dance said.

He said there are four golden rules consumers should take into consideration when purchasing travel insurance, one of which is knowing your trip.

“How long are you going to be gone, you need to make sure you’ve got the correct number of days. Are you going to be travelling many times throughout the year? If you are it probably makes more sense to buy a multi-trip policy than a single trip policy.”

Dance said what activities you plan on doing can also affect what kind of policy you should get.

“Do you plan to do things like parasailing, paragliding, scuba diving, those types of things. There are exclusions for travel insurance policies.”

Consumers should also understand their insurance policy, know their health and be aware of their rights and responsibilities within a travel insurance policy.

Almost two-thirds of Canadians either don’t buy or are unsure if they have trip cancellation insurance before leaving on holiday.

Read more

These Are The Most Common Travel Insurance Mistakes

The excerpreted article was written by Christopher Elliott

It’s peak season for travel insurance claims, a time of year when vacationers are sending their reimbursement requests for their ill-fated year-end holiday getaways. If you’re one of the unlucky travelers who are about to file a claim, be careful to not make one of several common travel insurance mistakes,` any of which can potentially lead to a rejection of your claim.

Travel insurance claim denial rates are not publicly reported, but they are said to be somewhere between 2% and 5%.

Don’t worry, you can easily avoid the most common travel insurance claims mistakes. All you need is a cheat sheet of the most common claim mistakes and a few insider strategies for getting around them.

If you’ve purchased a policy through a third party, there’s good news: The company will help you and ensure that you’ve filed all the paperwork correctly. For example, G1G.com, a travel insurance comparison site, can process a claim either through a customer care representative or through an online portal.=

“Unfortunately not all travel insurance companies claims process are as easy as they should be,” says Zubair Jeewanjee, G1G’s CEO. “As a result, travelers often miss out on valuable compensation due to antiquated and time-consuming claims procedures. The best way to avoid claims mistakes is having us do it for you.”

These are the most common travel insurance mistakes

As a consumer advocate, I deal with travel insurance claims — especially denied travel insurance claims — on an almost daily basis. Travel insurance companies with great customer service reputations handle their claims quickly and fairly. Others — not so much.

It’s the perfect time to think about this problem. More people than ever will buy travel insurance in 2019. A survey by Squaremouth, a travel insurance site, predicts 24 percent more travelers will need to insure their international trips because of new travel regulations.

Here’s a list of common travel insurance mistakes:

Incomplete paperwork

That’s the most common obstacle to getting a travel insurance claim paid, according to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. “While not especially difficult, filing an accurate claim requires attention to detail and having your travel documents and receipts organized,” he says.

Insider tip: Keep either an electronic copy or hard copy of all of your travel purchases in one place. If you experience an unexpected issue while traveling that you believe is covered under your travel insurance, keep all of those receipts in a separate folder or envelope. “If you have to file a claim, you’ll already have most of your documents organized,” says Sandberg.

Bad timing

Another common claim problem: Your claim occurs before your effective date. “Most people naturally purchase coverage for the first day of their arrival at their destination,” explains Justin Tysdal, CEO of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. “But what you may not think about is what can happen during your travel. Especially if you’re spending a whole day traveling across the world. You could sprain your wrist picking up heavy luggage, or you could eat some iffy airport food and end up sick. But if your coverage doesn’t start until the next day, you could be stuck with the doctor’s bill.”

Timing, as they say, is everything.

Another common timing problem is waiting too long to file the required paperwork. You typically have 90 days from the date of your loss to submit your claim. If you miss that deadline, you could get an automatic denial from a travel insurance company.

Insider tip: Make sure that coverage starts the day you begin your travel and that you file your claims paperwork as soon as you can. “Plan ahead so that if you do get sick or injured in an airport in a foreign country on a layover, you’ll be protected,” adds Tysdal.

Inadequate documentation

This may be one of the biggest roadblocks of all. If you can’t prove you have a claim, you’re out of luck. “The biggest barrier to processing a claim is missing or inadequate documentation,” says Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. “Just like with your auto or home insurance, when you file a travel insurance claim most plans require backup in order to process your claim.”

Insider tip: Providing correct, complete documentation from the start can mean faster reimbursement. To make sure you’ve covered everything, call your travel insurance provider or check its app or website to confirm what you need to submit. “Different scenarios require different documentation,” explains Godlin. “For example, travelers might need to provide a completed attending physician statement, along with the original trip itinerary, for a trip cancellation due to a medical reason. For a trip delay, they might need to provide receipts for extra costs incurred, or verification from their airline in order to be reimbursed.”

Filing an invalid claim

This is perhaps the most frustrating of all blocks, and it’s a permanent one. “When it comes time to file a travel insurance claim, many travelers don’t read the fine print of their policies,” explains Joe Cortez, NerdWallet’s travel expert. “Just because a plan says ‘trip cancellation,’ it doesn’t mean they can cancel their trip for any reason. It’s important for travelers to understand what situations are covered and not covered before they make any decisions about that would result in an insurance claim.”

For example, a State Department travel advisory may not be enough for a successful travel insurance claim, but getting involved in a car accident while on the way to the airport could be a covered situation.

Insider tip: You can avoid filing an invalid claim by understanding what’s in your travel insurance policy before you leave. And it works both ways, Cortez adds. “Many travelers don’t realize when they are covered under a travel insurance plan,” he notes. In other words, you might not file a travel insurance claim even though you were covered for the event.

What are your travel insurance claims stories?

I asked readers to share their favorite travel insurance claims stories, and, did I get an earful. It turns out that making a travel insurance claim mistake is too easy.

“Before you buy a policy, read it,” says Paula Miller, a retired teacher from Kitty Hawk, NC. “And known the difference between canceling for a covered reason or cancel for any reason.”

Miller bought insurance for her last trip through Expedia. Her mother-in-law died the day she was supposed to leave. Fortunately, she knew what was in her policy and what she had to send her insurance company.

“The claims process has been pretty smooth,” she says.

Shirley Kroot, a retired teacher from Huntley, Ill., says she’s learned to hold on to every piece of paper, particularly when she’s seeking medical attention.

“This would be the procedure for minor medical expenses, such as having a cold in a foreign country and going to a walk-in clinic or needing to go to the medical office due to a fractured clavicle on a ship,” she says. “I experienced both, the first in Perth, Australia, and the second on a cruise ship in Norway.”

Kroot says she buys all of her policies through Travelex Travel Insurance. “We have never had a problem with claims,” she says.

Choose the right policy for you to avoid a travel insurance claim mistake

I second that. I have an annual travel insurance policy through Allianz and have found that the claims process is dead simple and payment is lightning fast. My last claim, for a doctor’s visit on Hawaii’s Big Island, was processed within 24 hours — now that’s quick!

Even better: Having a third party like G1G or Squaremouth that can advocate for you if something goes sideways with your claim. I also have some claim advice on my consumer advocacy site, just in case your claim falls through the cracks.

Bottom line — chances are you’ll buy travel insurance this year. And if you have to file a claim, you can avoid a rejection by reading your policy, ensuring your paperwork is in order and filing on time.

Source: Forbes

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t.

I’m a consumer advocate. I write about customer service.


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