Snowbirds file challenge against cuts to OHIP travel insurance

TORONTO – A group representing Canadians who spend part of the year in sunnier climes has filed a legal challenge against Ontario’s decision to scrap out-of-country health insurance, saying the government’s move violates the Canada Health Act.

The Canadian Snowbird Association announced Thursday that it was seeking a judicial review of the changes, which came into effect on New Year’s Day.

“These cuts are an egregious violation of the portability requirement of the CHA and must be addressed head-on,” association president Karen Huestis said in a written statement.

The program covered out-of-country inpatient services up to $400 per day for higher level of care, and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

Health Minister Christine Elliott announced last May that the government would cut the program, saying it was costly and did not provide value to taxpayers. The announcement followed a six-day public consultation.

The snowbird association had previously said it was seeking an injunction, but spokesman Evan Rachovsky said that’s still up in the air as they focus on the upcoming review, which has a court date set for June.

He noted that the organization was founded on the issue of travel health insurance in the early 1990s, when the provinces were making cuts to the program.

A spokeswoman for Elliott wouldn’t comment on the case as it is before the courts, but noted that the program was largely ineffectual, paying out only five cents of every dollar claimed.

“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,” Hayley Chazan said in an email.

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

In a July letter to Elliott, the federal government warned that scrapping the program could cost Ontarians.

“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,” then-health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor wrote. “Even modest increases could pose a hardship for some individuals.”

Provincial NDP health critic France Gelinas said the change means Ontario is the only province or territory that does not provide some basic health coverage to residents while they are outside Canada, even if it is a small amount.

“There are so many people who will never be able to buy insurance,” she said. “It’s just not feasible or affordable for them. For them, that little wee bit of a guarantee was there and was meaningful.”

 

‘Snowbirds’ challenge Ontario’s cut to travel insurance

The Star Vancouver Edition |

Just a day after Ontario’s move to axe out-of-country emergency health coverage came into effect, a group representing Canadian “snowbirds” said it will fight the change in court.

Arguing the change violates both federal law and provisions of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the Canadian Snowbird Association is now asking for a judicial review.

“Portability is enshrined in the Canada Health Act,” said Evan Rachkovsky, director of research and communications for the association. “These people worked their entire lives and paid into the system and should be receiving those benefits for out-of-country emergency service.”

The program provided up to $400 a day for emergency in-patient care and up to $50 a day for outpatient services. That ended Dec. 31, making Ontario the only province that does not to provide some coverage for residents outside of Canada.

The Ford government has said the program was inefficient, costing taxpayers almost $3 million a year to deliver $9 million in coverage, and that the reimbursement rate was low compared to users’ actual medical bills.

Following an initial outcry from seniors, the province postponed the cancellation to the new year and has since started a new program to provide travelling dialysis patients with $210 per treatment, a fraction of what it costs in the U.S.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office had no comment Thursday on the court challenge, but said “the Out-of-Country Traveller’s Program, which spends a third of its funding on administration costs alone, has not historically provided Ontarians with meaningful travel coverage.”

Spokesperson Hayley Chazan also said “the program’s coverage is very limited with five cents of every dollar claimed. Fully 95 per cent of claims are paid directly to insurance companies. 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.”

The government, she added, “has always strongly encouraged individuals to purchase additional travel health insurance so they are adequately covered every time they leave Ontario to travel abroad.”

Both the federal government and the snowbird association have raised concerns that private health costs will increase as a result of the change.

“Snowbirds” — seniors who fly south in the winter months to avoid the cold in Canada — “may need coverage for the duration for any conditions they may have. Those premiums could be thousands of dollars” and make travel unaffordable for those living on a fixed income,” Rachkovsky said.

The provincial auditor has made a number of suggestions to streamline the program, including offering a daily flat rate for emergency coverage, rather than a range of $200 to $400.

The non-profit snowbird association represents more than 115,000 Canadians, including more than 50,000 Ontarians.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: 

Changes to Out-of-Country Medical Coverage Now in Effect

As of January 1, 2020, OHIP no longer covers any portion of out-of-country medical expenses

THORNHILL, ON, Jan. 2, 2020 /CNW/ – CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) is reminding travellers that changes to out-of-country medical coverage in Ontario are now in effect, prompting the need to review travel insurance coverage.

“We are working to educate travellers to make sure they know what they are buying. We are an organization founded to help keep our members safe, and coverage while travelling abroad is a big part of that,” said Elliott Silverstein, director, government relations, CAA Insurance. “Travel insurance protects from unexpected and costly emergencies and it’s important to evaluate available coverage, based on personal needs, to determine how to best safeguard you and your family. This is even more important now that there is no coverage through OHIP.”

Some of the key things to consider when it comes to buying travel insurance are how many trips you are taking a year; if you want comprehensive coverage or medical-only insurance; and whether or not the insurance provider offers additional assistance such as interpreters, hospital recommendations and other coordination services.

Additional tips to consider when buying travel insurance

  • Ask questions. Speak to a knowledgeable travel insurance advisor that understands your needs.
  • Be honest. It is important that you answer any questionnaire accurately to disclose any pre-existing conditions, and ensure you have the proper coverage suited specifically for you, so you can travel with peace of mind.
  • Build travel insurance into your travel plans. Purchasing travel insurance must be done in your home province. As you begin to consider your next destination, add travel insurance to your “to do” list.
  • Don’t base your decision on price alone. Look at what coverage is most appropriate for your circumstances and consider all different types of plans and levels of protection.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the eligibility and exclusions?
  • What is the pre-existing and stability clause?
  • What are the benefit limits?
  • How many days am I covered?
  • Is there a deductible?
  • Do they offer upfront payment if a claim occurs?

It’s important to remember that the intent of travel medical insurance is to treat emergency conditions, and return you to your home province for ongoing treatment once your medical condition is stabilized.

Emergency travel medical insurance may require completion of a medical health questionnaire depending on age. Medical questionnaires determine premium, NOT coverage.

    • Always answer questions related to your health accurately
    • If you aren’t sure how to answer, ask your physician to help you.

For more information resources on travel insurance and what you need to know before you travel, go to: https://www.caasco.com/insurance/resource-centre/travel.

About CAA South Central Ontario
For over a hundred years, CAA has been helping Canadians stay mobile, safe and protected. CAA South Central Ontario is one of nine auto clubs across Canada providing roadside assistance, travel, insurance services and Member savings for our over 2 million Members.

SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario

For further information: Nadia Matos, Media & PR Consultant, P: (905) 771 3058, C: (416) 523-0663, E: nm12@caasco.ca; Kaitlynn Furse, Director of Communications, P: (905) 771-3194, C: (647) 227-7559, E: kfur@caasco.ca

Related Links

http://www.caasco.com/

Changes Coming to Out-of-Country Medical Coverage in 2020

Ontarians encouraged to take a closer look at their travel insurance

THORNHILL, ON, Dec. 16, 2019 /CNW/ – As the busy holiday travel season approaches, Orion Travel Insurance, a CAA-owned company, is urging Ontario travellers to take a closer look at their travel and medical insurance coverage. As of January 1st, OHIP will no longer cover any portion of out of country medical expenses.

“We know that 25 per cent of Ontarians travel without insurance and that’s the reason for concern. Medical emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere,” says Kellee Irwin, vice president, Orion Travel Insurance Company. “It’s critical that people are aware of the upcoming changes to OHIP. Knowing that they have coverage that meets their needs, whether it’s for a long international trip or a quick cross border trip, will give them peace of mind.”

Currently, OHIP offers a maximum of $400 a day for emergency in-patient services outside of Canada and an additional $50 a day for emergency outpatient services as well as doctor’s services, but this will end on December 31st.

Going forward, the provincial government will continue to cover $210 per treatment for kidney dialysis patients abroad, which can cost up to $750 a day in the United States. Any other medical coverage outside of the country will need to be paid by the traveller.

“Depending on the situation, medical bills and any associated emergency travel can be very costly for travellers, and can often cost more than the trip itself,” says Elliott Silverstein, director, government relations, CAA Insurance. “Even if you think you are covered under your credit card or your private insurance, now is the time to take a closer look at the fine print. Travelling protected means understanding what you are covered for.”

Questions to ask before you buy travel insurance

  • What are the eligibility and exclusions?
  • What is the pre-existing and stability clause?
  • What are the benefit limits?
  • How many days am I covered?
  • Is there a deductible?
  • Do they offer upfront payment if a claim occurs?

Orion Travel Insurance is urging travellers to be aware of their up-to-date medical history and to be honest about any pre-existing conditions.

“Many people are under the false impression that they won’t have insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions,” says Silverstein. “Medical conditions won’t disqualify you, they will just help to ensure you have the right coverage, so be clear and honest when shopping around for insurance.”

To learn more about the basics of travel insurance coverage go to:  https://www.oriontravelinsurance.ca/en/the-carry-on-blog/travel-insurance-education-series.aspx

About Orion Travel Insurance Company

Orion Travel Insurance, a CAA company, protects over 500 000 Canadians a year. Orion was incorporated in 2013 and underwrites in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Orion is known for its exceptional claims service and strives to protect travellers and their loved ones wherever their travels may take them.

SOURCE Orion Travel Insurance

Canadian diagnosed with brain tumour in Thailand has travel insurance declined

The excerpted article was written by Sean Davidson CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — A Canadian man diagnosed with a massive brain tumour while travelling in Thailand is fighting to get home after his travel insurance was declined because he told doctors he had a headache while suffering from the flu over a month ago.

Kitchener resident Alex Witmer and his wife Jennifer Witmer, who had been living in Moncton for the last five years, quit their jobs earlier this year and went on a six-week trip to Thailand before planning to relocate to Toronto.

The couple was about a month into their trip when the 30-year-old began suffering from a severe migraine.

“He got a migraine that didn’t go away,” Jennifer Witmer told CTV News Toronto from a hospital in the southern Thailand island of Koh Samui on Monday. “It just got bad.”

Jennifer Witmer said they went to the hospital and were expecting to be given pain medication for the migraine. But after doctors completed scans they were told he had “massive tumour deep inside his brain” that was cancerous.

“My husband was extremely healthy, he was an international athlete. He has never had any issues.”

Alex Witmer was immediately given medication to reduce the pressure inside his brain that was causing the severe headache, but was told he needs to have brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as soon as possible.

The couple was then told the medication to reduce the pressure inside Alex’s head will only work for a few days and it would only be safe for him to fly home during that time.

“We have travel insurance, so we opened a claim and there was no issue we just got the go ahead yesterday. They were sending an air ambulance,” she said.

“A few hours later they called back and said they received his medical records and it showed he checked into an emergency room in Moncton a month ago and had symptoms of the flu. He reported a mild headache and because he said that they cancelled our claim based off having a pre-existing condition.”

“I don’t even remember him reporting a headache. I thought he just said he was vomiting, it didn’t even register to me. When the insurance company told me about the emergency room visit I said ‘Oh, well that was for the flu’ but they said ‘he reported a headache.'”

“They offered to still send an air ambulance service and quoted me $265,000 but that’s obviously not an option.”

“We are right now waiting for them to call and give the final word on our claim but they have been telling me it doesn’t look good.”

“The longer we wait, the higher the risk becomes.”

The couple is now searching for other safe options to get Alex home, including flying on a commercial flight accompanied by a medical team. If they can’t find a better option before the pressure in his head returns, he’ll be forced to have the surgery in Bangkok.

“It’s just cruel. Our neurosurgeon here said his flu symptoms are not pre-existing conditions. It’s insane they are flagging this.”

“Right now we are trying to find private companies that can transfer him home for less money,” she said . “We have amazing friends and family that are doing everything they can to get us home.”

She said her husband is awake but has been mostly sleeping because of the medication he is taking.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the insurance company, Allianz, and is awaiting their response.

On their website, Allianz defines a pre-existing condition as “an injury, illness or medical condition that caused someone to seek treatment, presented symptoms, or required medication.”

“This may have taken place anytime within 120 days prior to and including the plan’s purchase date.”

“Note that you don’t even need an official medical diagnosis from a physician for something to be considered a pre-existing condition.”

A GoFundMe page has been organized to help raise funds for Alex Witmer’s care and has received more than $50,000 in one day.

 

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

MARSHA MOWERS | Travel Pulse Canada

Manulife held their annual partner appreciation event in Toronto last week, where attendees gathered to hear from Millennial expert and marketing research leader Dave Coletto, CEO of research firm Abacus who delivered strategic advice to many of Canada’s top companies.

“Tonight is a reflection of getting our great partners into the room to celebrate the year, but it’s also an educational opportunity where we bring in a guest speaker that really addresses the issues and trends in the market place that everyone as a business owner wants to be made aware of,” Rob Lafrate VP, Client Relationships and Business Development told TravelPulse Canada.

We’re here to recognize our top customers, to thank them it’s our client appreciation day,” said AVP & GM Travel Insurance Jacques Gilbert.

“It’s a way for us to thank them for business over the year, timing before holidays, it’s always a lot of fun. It’s to make it more than just about having a cocktail with us.”

Manulife is launching a number of programs this coming year, include the re-launch of their popular protection plan.

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