There are cases where buying travel insurance might leave you bereft of coverage. Here are a few examples.
Canadian snowbirds who were lucky enough to escape property damage from Hurricane Irma will still face higher costs as insurance providers jack up premiums and condo associations levy special assessments, say Florida insurance experts.
“We’re probably looking at an across-the-board 15 to 20 per cent increase in property insurance costs over the next year,” says Brad Hubbard, the Tampa owner of an insurance agency and an engineering consulting firm specializing in flood risk.
He said the higher premiums could come from greater insurance losses and reinsurance companies determining there is a statistical increase in the risk that future storms will be more frequent and severe.
Hurricane Irma is expected to be one of the most costly storms in history, with losses estimated at $20 billion to $65 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars), including up to $50 billion in the U.S., according to risk modelling software company AIR Worldwide.
Additional insurance costs will be borne by all insured Florida homeowners, including the estimated 500,000 Canadians who own Florida properties.
Condo owners could also face special assessments if their building sustains heavy damage that isn’t fully covered by insurance or its policy has a high deductible.
“Your condo can be fine but at the end of the year you could receive a bill that says $3,500,” added Martin Rivard, an insurance broker in Boynton Beach originally from Shawinigan, Que.
The situation could be especially acute in areas like the Florida Keys, where 25 per cent of homes were destroyed by heavy winds and storm surge.
“I’m hoping that Irma was a wake-up call,” he said in an interview.
The average price of homeowner’s insurance in high-risk wind areas of Florida is $2,055 or $1,500 if you buy through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a state-run provider. Flood coverage premiums average $450, providing coverage of $250,000 on the structure and $100,000 for the contents, says the Insurance Information Institute.
Canadians are eligible to buy homeowner’s insurance from Citizens Property Insurance and flooding insurance from the federal National Flood Insurance Programs. Only 16 per cent of Americans purchase flood insurance and less than 10 per cent have no insurance at all.
Canadians were eager to buy insurance after Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida in 1992, but Rivard said the concern has waned because the state hasn’t experienced a big storm in about a decade.
Renee and Dino Picchioni are relieved their mobile home north of Tampa was spared because they didn’t carry any insurance.
“It’s too expensive to pay for insurance down there for four months out of the year,” Renee said from Windsor, Ont.
Since they don’t own the land where their mobile home is parked, the couple was prepared to walk away if the unit was destroyed.
Rivard expects many others will do the same if their insurance doesn’t cover repair costs.
Realtor Jass Tremblay of Marathon said most of the Canadian customers she knows in the Keys don’t have insurance. While people with a mortgage are required to have insurance that covers wind, they can roll the dice if they pay cash.
Tremblay, a Quebec City native, said she hopes those without coverage would have put money aside so they can face such a disaster.
“Some of them lost everything. They’re probably panicking,” Tremblay said from Deerfield Beach where she holed up during the storm.
Brent Leathwood, a realtor in Sarasota who is originally from Burlington, Ont., said about 80 per cent of his Canadian customers are fully insured even though tougher building codes after Hurricane Andrew have helped to minimize damage.
“Canadians tend to be, I would say, sober and pragmatic in their assessments of things and they’re a little less inclined to take big, crazy risks like some of the people in the States are.”
Florida’s insurance system has been strengthened since Hurricane Andrew as the number of people living in coastal areas surged 27 per cent between 2000 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We feel that we’re in the best position we can be in at this time,” said Michael Peltier, spokesman for Florida’s public insurance provider.
“I want people to know that you need to get out-of-province insurance,” she said.
According to Allianz Global Assistance (Allianz), more than forty per cent (43.4%) of Canadian travellers who report not acquiring travel insurance every time they leave the country, were younger Canadians, aged 18 – 34.
The data, gathered for Allianz by The Conference Board of Canada, gives insights into the reasons why these millennial travellers chose to travel uninsured. For those surveyed who weren’t otherwise protected, 15.8 per cent felt travel insurance was unnecessary, while 15.3 per cent thought it was too expensive, and 14.9 per cent felt their trip was too short to warrant getting insurance.
“Seeing the results of these consumer insights paints a very clear picture about the need for better understanding among young Canadians regarding travel insurance,” said Dan Keon, Senior Director, Market Management, Allianz Global Assistance. “Factors such as the length of a trip don’t necessarily make anyone safer or less accident prone, or for that matter, lessen the resulting medical bills if something happens while on that trip.”
The statistic is unexpected when compared to internal claims data reviewed by Allianz which shows that from 2014 to 2016 people under the age of 30 made nearly 32 per cent of all claims submitted, the highest demographic bracket, while buying 21 per cent of all Allianz policies.
“Millennials and other young Canadians make up the majority of Destination Canada’s ‘Free Spirits’ category – travellers looking for adventure and more ‘authentic’ experiences. But the off-the-beaten-path travel experiences can also result in increased risks regardless of age,” added Keon. “When you boil it down, accident probability isn’t determined solely by age, time or the destination of your trip. Risk exists as a part of life and travel and everyone needs to be prepared to ensure they aren’t stuck with a much larger vacation bill than planned.”
About the Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance Consumer Insights by the Conference Board of Canada
Survey data was collected from 2,159 Canadians and weighted to the population by age, gender, and province of residence. Of the Canadians surveyed, 78.8 per cent had travelled outside of Canada in the past five years (2013-2017). Of these respondents, 81.5 per cent reported being covered by a travel insurance policy in addition to their provincial health care plan. While outbound trips by respondents were evenly split for the U.S. and destinations in other countries, Canadians heading overseas were somewhat more likely to have insurance coverage.
Allianz Global Assistance (Canada)
For more than 50 years, Allianz Global Assistance has supported travelling Canadians when they need it most with value-added travel insurance and assistance services. More than 800 employees support long-term partnerships with some of the best known brands in the travel and financial services markets. Allianz Global Assistance also serves as an outsource provider for in-bound call centre services and claims administration for health insurers, property and casualty insurers and credit card companies. Allianz Global Assistance is a specialist brand of Allianz Worldwide Partners for assistance and travel insurance, and is the registered business name for AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd. For more information, visit www.allianz-assistance.ca.
Allianz Worldwide Partners
Dedicated to bringing worldwide protection and care, Allianz Worldwide Partners are the leader in assistance and insurance solutions in the following areas of expertise: assistance, international health & life, global automotive and travel insurance. Known for embracing innovation and change, the Group offers a unique combination of insurance, service and technology. These solutions are available to business partners or via direct and digital channels under three trusted commercial brands: Allianz Global Assistance, Allianz Worldwide Care and Allianz Global Automotive.
This global family of over 17,500 employees is present in over 76 countries, speaks over 70 languages and handles 44 million cases per year, protecting customers and employees on all continents.
For more information, please visit www.allianz-worldwide-partners.com
SOURCE Allianz Global Assistance
If you plan to go abroad, even on a day trip to the United States, you should purchase the best travel insurance you can afford before you leave Canada. Your travel insurance should include health, life and disability coverage that will help you avoid large expenses, such as the cost of hospitalization or medical treatment outside Canada. If you are flying, being insured for flight cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage and document replacement will save you from major disruptions and additional costs. If you are travelling by car, make sure you have driver and vehicle coverage in case you have an accident abroad.
You can purchase travel insurance through your travel agent, insurance broker or your employer’s insurance provider. Your credit card company may also offer travel and health insurance. Regardless of how you obtain travel insurance, it is very important that you understand the eligibility requirements, terms and conditions, limitations, restrictions and exclusions of the policy.
Why you need travel insurance
Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada. Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad. For more information, contact your provincial or territorial health authority. Hospitals and clinics in some countries have been known to refuse to treat patients who become ill or who have had an accident and who do not have adequate travel health insurance or the money to pay their bills. You could face years of debt paying off the costs of treatment for an illness or accident you suffered abroad. The Government of Canada will not pay your medical bills.
Travel advisories and insurance policies
No matter where in the world you intend to travel, make sure you check the Travel Advice and Advisories twice, once when you are planning your trip and again shortly before you leave. If a Travel Advisory is issued for your destination, after you make your travel arrangements but before or during your trip, it may affect your travel health insurance or trigger your trip cancellation insurance. Make sure you understand any terms and conditions in the policy in regard to travel advice and advisories from the Government of Canada.
Some insurance companies will not honour medical claims made for injuries suffered in a country for which the Government of Canada has issued an official Travel Advisory. Coverage for injuries resulting from war may also be limited. Insurance policies often have exclusion clauses stipulating regions and/or activities that will not be covered.
Selecting travel health insurance
Carefully research your needs and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.
When assessing a travel health insurance plan, you should ask a lot of questions. Does the plan provide continuous coverage for the duration of your stay abroad and after you return? Does it offer coverage that is renewable from abroad and for the maximum period of stay? Does the company have an in-house, worldwide, 24-hour/7-day emergency contact number in English and/or translation services for health care providers in your destination country? Does it pay for foreign hospitalization for illness or injury and related medical costs and provide up-front payment of bills or cash advances, so you don’t have to pay out of your own pocket?
Be sure to ask whether the plan covers pre-existing medical conditions. Ask the company to explain the definition, limitations and restrictions of any pre-existing conditions and tests and treatments you may have undergone.
- Make sure you get a written agreement that your pre-existing medical condition is covered, or you could find your claim “null and void” under a pre-existing condition clause.
- Be aware that the agreement must also include a stability clause stating that for you to be covered for any pre-existing medical conditions you must have no changes to or new medical conditions, symptoms or medications during the stability period prior to your trip.
- The agreement should include a compassion clause stating that an inaccurate statement may not invalidate the entire policy, and a change of health clause.
And ensure that the plan provides for medical evacuation to Canada or the nearest location with appropriate medical care and pays for a medical escort (health care provider) to accompany you to and from your destination.
Ensure that deductible costs are clearly explained in the plan. Plans with 100-percent coverage are more expensive but may save money in the long run. The plan could cover health care provider visits and prescription medicines, or emergency dental care or emergency transportation, such as ambulance services. Check whether it excludes or significantly limits coverage for certain regions or countries you may visit.
Finally, ensure that the plan covers the preparation and return of your remains to Canada if you die abroad.
Gabrielle had insurance that lapsed three weeks before she was involved in an accident. Her Canadian family had to raise $300,000 over a three-day period to cover the costs of medical treatment and evacuation. Fortunately, she survived, but her family is left with a hefty debt to repay.
Meeting the terms of your insurance policy
It is your responsibility to know and understand the terms of your insurance policy. Read the fine print carefully and ask for help, if necessary, to fully understand the eligibility requirements and definitions, terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions of the policy.
The information you provide must be accurate and complete. If you have any questions about the application and your medical history, including prescription drugs, tests and other treatments, contact the insurance company and ask them to clarify the issue in writing.
Obtain approval from your insurer before undergoing medical treatment. Routine health checkups, non-emergency care and cosmetic surgery are rarely covered by travel health insurance. Insurance companies may also exclude coverage for mental health disorders, drug- or alcohol-related incidents, or extreme sporting activities such as bungee jumping and rock climbing.
Get a detailed report and invoice from the doctor or hospital before leaving the country where you have received medical treatment. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get the proper paperwork from thousands of kilometres away. Always remember to submit the original receipts for medical services or prescriptions received abroad. Keep a copy of the documents for your files.
Carry details of your insurance policy and tell your travel agent, a travel companion, and a friend or relative at home how to contact your insurer.
Source: Government of Canada
The Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR) is releasing its Travel Health Insurance Products Position Paper detailing its final recommendations to the issues it identified in travel health insurance. The recommendations are expected to enhance consumer protection and confidence in travel health insurance.
“We have heard the concerns of the public and insurance brokerage community and with this clear, nationally agreed way forward, we are reinforcing the pre-eminent goal of consumer confidence in their insurance protection when they travel,” said CCIR chair Patrick Déry. “It is our belief that these measures will go a long way towards meeting consumer expectations wherever Canadians live in the country.”
While the CCIR believes Canada has a strong and competitive travel health insurance marketplace, it also believes there are opportunities for improvements to be made. The final recommendations outlined in the Position Paper include:
- Development of common standardized definitions and terminology
- Improvements to the application, screening and claims process
- Simplifying and improving disclosure documents
- Ensuring adequate controls and oversight mechanisms are in place throughout the product lifecycle
- Improved training and information for sales forces
The CCIR is encouraged by the industry’s commitment to improve the consumer experience and will continue efforts to monitor the implementation of the recommendations to ensure they are adopted in a timely manner. CCIR members remain determined to see that the changes make a difference for all Canadians.
You can see the full document here: http://www.ccir-ccrra.org/en/
The CCIR includes representatives from every province and territory in Canada, and the consultation and implementation include the Canadian Insurance Services Regulatory Organizations (CISRO). Both the CCIR and CISRO recognize the insurance industry’s commitment to improving consumer confidence in the product.
About the CCIR:
The Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators is a national association of insurance regulators that traces its roots back to 1914. The mandate of the CCIR is to support an efficient and effective insurance regulatory system in Canada to serve the public interest.
The Canadian Insurance Services Regulatory Organizations is a national association of insurance intermediary (agents, brokers, adjusters) regulating authorities. Its objectives include creating a common voice to deal with issues that may be of interest to other financial services regulators, consumers and intermediaries.
SOURCE Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR)