The excerpted article was written by Ross McLaughlin | CTV News Vancouver

When a Kitchener, Ontario man was admitted to the hospital in December in Thailand and diagnosed with a brain tumor, his travel insurance company denied coverage to fly him home. Why? Because he had seen a doctor about a headache a month earlier thinking he was suffering from the flu.  Following media coverage the company rescinded and paid for the emergency evacuation.

When a man from Mississauga had a heart attack in Las Vegas in July, his travel insurance refused coverage because he’d been on oxygen and was unstable two months prior to the trip. Although not necessarily obligated, the insurance company flew him home after he received a pacemaker. He’s now stuck with a Las Vegas hospital for $877,000.

These stories are not uncommon but that doesn’t mean you should avoid buying travel insurance. It’s better to have it than not have any protection at all.

“Over 95 per cent of all the claims that get submitted are paid,” said Will McAleer, past president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.

Yet, according to a survey by THiA, many Canadians leave home without travel insurance; 45 per cent mistakenly believe that they’ll be covered by their provincial health plan while 25 per cent who do buy travel insurance don’t understand it.

“A lot of people go and get insurance thinking they’re covered for everything, don’t know what they have and then are surprised to find out they aren’t covered for certain things,” said Flight Centre’s Allison Wallace.

That’s why you need to read your travel insurance policy carefully and ask a lot of questions before buying it.

Some possible exclusions

  •  High-risk activities like parasailing and downhill skiing
  •  Pre-existing conditions
  •  Alcohol consumption prior to being injured.

“A lot of insurance companies have clauses that will exempt them if they’re under the influence and that could be one drink,” said Wallace.

The THiA survey showed 20 per cent admitted to having more than five drinks in two hours while on vacation.

“We we’re surprised to see that many Canadians have participated in binge drinking as well,” said McAleer.

And you should always check travel advisories before you booking your trip and buying travel insurance; if there’s a travel advisory in place that could void your insurance.

If you’re going to be taking part in high risk activity like scuba diving you might have to shop around for supplemental insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Travel Insurance checklist

  •  Understand your policy – read all the fine print.
  •  Know your health – talk to your doctor if you have questions.
  •  Know your trip – where are you going, how long and what types of activities will you participate in?
  •  Know your rights – the travel insurance industry adopted The Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for travel insurance.
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