Air Canada first out the gate with new COVID-19 related insurance
Staying in Canada but travelling to a different province this summer? Then, yes, you need travel insurance
Once COVID-19 hit full force this spring, Toronto residents Michael Schneider and his wife, Debra, cancelled their plans to see their grandchildren in Calgary and Atlanta, Ga.
While the Canada-U.S. border is still closed to non-essential travel, the Schneiders were able to reschedule their Calgary visit for late July. Along with their airline tickets, they made sure to purchase interprovincial travel insurance.
“We were concerned because of COVID, since we’re retired and no longer have insurance through work,” said Schneider.
They had purchased their tickets with a credit card, so Schneider first checked to see if the medical insurance the card provided included coverage for COVID-19. The bank that issued the card indicated it would, but Schneider wanted to be sure so he contacted the insurer directly and discovered that the bank was incorrect; COVID-19 wasn’t covered.
Interestingly, even prior to the pandemic, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) did not cover all out-of-province medical expenses, but it wasn’t something most travellers considered. According to the Ontario government’s website:
“When you show your valid Ontario health card in another Canadian province or territory, you will be covered for some of the same services you’re covered for in Ontario including:
- physician services (e.g. visit to a walk-in clinic)
- services provided in a public hospital (e.g. emergency, diagnostic, laboratory). Any service or treatment you receive in another Canadian province or territory must be medically necessary for it to be covered by OHIP.”
In response to the Star’s query about COVID-19 coverage, the Ministry of Health responded:
“In keeping with the requirements of the Canada Health Act, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan provides coverage for insured physician and insured hospital services when Ontario residents are temporarily in another province or territory or moving to another province or territory and serving an interprovincial waiting period before coverage takes effect. This coverage does not extend to other services such as ambulance transport, home care, prescription drugs, or additional services that may be funded when the patient is in Ontario.
“Reciprocal hospital billing arrangements exist between all provinces and territories to facilitate payment of these services. For insured physician services, all provinces and territories, except Quebec, participate in a reciprocal medical billing arrangement. If an insured Ontario resident is billed directly for an out-of-province hospital or physician service, they may submit the receipts to the ministry for consideration of reimbursement.”
Schneider and his wife decided to take no chances, especially in these uncertain times. They are members of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), so they looked into CAA’s travel medical insurance and discovered that CAA offers a yearly plan for travel within Canada that includes COVID-19 coverage.
Elliott Silverstein, the director of government relations for CAA South Central Ontario, confirmed that their emergency medical coverage plan includes coverage for COVID-19. Orion Travel Insurance underwrites CAA policies nationwide, so wherever in Canada you purchase one, you obtain the same coverage.
By Audrey Carleton
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Like many realtors working Canada’s recreational markets, David Jurek says he’s seen properties move unusually quickly since the start of COVID-19.
The RE/MAX real estate agent in 100 Mile House, B.C. recently listed a $140,000 home in an off-the-grid region where he’s had difficulty in the past: “The last and only sale that we had there took about three years to sell,” Jurek says. “I listed this property thinking, ‘okay, well, this year maybe we’ll get more action.”’
But shortly after listing, Jurek started receiving daily inquiries on the house. Before long, he had three offers on it.
“Some of the stuff that normally would sit, that wasn’t as choice of a property necessarily in the past is now selling very quickly,” Jurek says.
He attributes the quick heat-up in the B.C. recreational property market to COVID-19 lockdown orders, part of a growing trend in which Canadians are looking to vacation property in search of space, an alternative place from which to work remotely or a driveable vacation destination while travel is not an option.
“People who maybe weren’t in the second home and recreational market 1/8before 3/8 are now saying, ‘Hey, we need to do that. If we can make it happen let’s make it happen,”’ Jurek says.
He’s seen month-over-month sales increase by an estimated 30 per cent in his region since the start of the pandemic. And while demand has risen across the market, he says prices have yet to climb to match, so those looking to buy should explore their options quickly.
The same has occurred in the greater Vancouver region, home to the Sunshine Coast and Whistler, according to Colette Gerber, realtor at Sutton West Coast Realty and chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. “Last month we saw a 21 per cent increase in sales,” Gerber says. “So, yes, it looks like vacation homes are now becoming a hot commodity.”
The Muskoka region and other parts of Ontario’s cottage country have seen similar upticks in demand, according to David Reid, sales representative at Enjoy Muskoka Realty in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and former president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. “One of the big drivers really is high speed internet,” he says. “You’ve got such great quality internet now and the paradigms have changed.”
Not every cottage comes with strong cell or web service, of course, and for many this is a non-starter. Those unfamiliar with the area in which they’re shopping should look for a realtor who knows the region well, all three agents suggest.
While this rule typically goes without saying, it’s especially important when searching for lakefront, rural, and two- or three-season properties, which come with their own quirks. In B.C., for example, it’s important to understand the underground system from which a property sources its water, Gerber says. “You need local knowledge to know what the ramifications are, how to deal with a well, how to deal with septic fields,” she says.
And in lake country, buyers should understand the permitting rules and nuances of the specific piece of water they’re looking at. A good realtor with hyper-local knowledge can help with this.
“We do have a lot of waterfront, but it can be very different from one lake to the next,” Jurek says of 100 Mile House. “Are you wanting to buy that second property and be able to waterski or are you just wanting to be able to fish? What lake you back on to 1/8determines 3/8 what you can expect that you can do there.”
Recreational properties also come with their own specific maintenance requirements. While year-round homes have owners’ constant attention, summer spots need an extra set of eyes (and hands, in the event of snowfall) during colder months.
Reid suggests finding a helpful neighbour or enlisting the services of a local road maintenance or cottage sitter program, like Muskoka Cottage Sitters, which typically comes with fees of a few hundred dollars per month but offers owners peace of mind and protection from accidents.
In addition to maintenance fees, prospective buyers should budget for repairs and winter-proofing expenses such as replacing windows, adding insulation, and updating utilities which can run in the thousands depending on what a home needs. Ensuring that a house is protected from winter weather will “keep insurance happy,” Jurek says. “If you don’t follow the proper procedures and you have a problem, you don’t want to be denied the claim.”
While the costs of owning vacation property go far beyond a home’s sale price, first-time buyers shouldn’t be intimidated. Go into the process with eyes wide open, do your research, spend a few days in the area, and ask your realtor as many questions as possible. The more you know about a home, the better.
“The best way to find a vacation home is start driving,” Gerber says. “Go to these areas. Look around.”
The excerpted article was written by
Some travellers are questioning why they are still paying for travel insurance when the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to all non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gail Bourne travels to the United States at least twice a year. The Vancouver resident says she bought an annual travel insurance policy with BCAA for $845.21 for coverage between Nov. 9, 2019 and Nov. 9, 2020. However, when the borders shut down this past March, her travel plans were put on hold.
“I just thought it was unfair that I’m paying for something I can’t do,” Bourne said.
Bourne has been a BCAA member for 51 years. She says she reached out to BCAA to cancel her insurance or at least extend her current policy but says she was initially denied.
“I felt slighted. I had been a faithful customer for all these years and they wouldn’t do anything for me,” she said.
Consumer Matters reached out to BCAA on Bourne’s behalf. BCAA told Global News under normal circumstances once a customer uses their annual policy to travel there is no refund, but also acknowledged these are not normal times and states it’s looking at these situations on a case-by-case basis.
Bourne says within days of Consumer Matters reaching out, BCAA agreed to give her a partial refund of more than $400 with her policy still in effect until November 2020.
North Vancouver resident John Rowlands didn’t have the same success when it came to getting a refund for his wife’s travel insurance. She has MEDOC travel insurance, an annual 17-day base travel plan with Johnson Insurance. Her premium is $913 with monthly deductions of $75.31 a month. The policy states it cannot be cancelled until the end of the policy year.
“What are we paying for? It’s supposed to be for travel insurance and yet it means nothing,” he said.
When contacted by Consumer Matters, Johnson Insurance stated:
“Our annual base plans have a fixed one-year term and are designed to cover multiple trips, allowing customers to take advantage of trip cancellation, trip interruption and medical coverage throughout the year. Clients with specific questions about their policy should contact us directly.”
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), which represents life and health insurance providers, says typically an annual travel plan covers an individual for any travel taken over 12 months. In most cases, a policyholder may cancel an annual plan as long as there has been no travel taken in that period.
However, once travel occurs, the plan can’t be cancelled because the plan works by spreading the insured’s risk over the term of the plan. Still, many insurers it says have offered to extend coverage on annual plans during the pandemic.
Once the border opens to non-essential travel, the CLHIA recommends the following for travel outside of Canada:
- Check with insurer to see if your current workplace travel insurance, or the policy offered by the insurer includes treatment related to COVID-19 outside Canada
- Know the entry requirements for the country (eg. 14-day quarantine, COVID-19 tests)
- Ensure travel insurance coverage for entire duration of trip
- Consider purchasing “cancel for any reason” trip cancellation insurance for maximum flexibility
Source: Global News
Some countries plan to welcome tourists next month, but your travel insurance may not cover COVID-19
Wondering when Canadians can start travelling again? Here’s what you need to know
· CBC News
For many Canadians, their most exciting adventure over the past couple of months has been a weekly trip to the grocery store.
But now that provinces are easing COVID-19 restrictions, some people may be contemplating travel abroad.
Here’s what you need to know about travelling outside Canada while COVID-19 still lingers in our lives.
Can I travel now?
Yes, but with a lot of conditions to consider.
On March 13, the federal government issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.
Despite the advisory, Canadians can still travel abroad. However, they may struggle to find flights and their travel insurance likely won’t cover their medical bills if they fall ill with COVID-19.
International travellers will also have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to tourists crossing by land until June 21. And that date could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — now totalling more than 1.6 million — remains a concern.
Where can I go?
Due to closed borders and a fear of flying during the pandemic, airlines have slashed their routes.
WestJet has grounded all transborder and international routes until June 25. Air Transat and Sunwing have stopped flying altogether until June 30 and June 25, respectively.
Air Canada is currently flying at about five per cent of its capacity. On Friday, the airline announced an updated summer schedule that offers flights to 97 destinations including Rome, Athens and locations in the Caribbean.
Once travel restrictions are lifted, airlines will start adding more routes, said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for the travel agency Flight Centre.
But she warns it could take up to two years for carriers to resume normal operations.
“The airlines aren’t going to come back and go to 100 per cent,” she said. “There’s sort of a general agreement that international travel will start to come back around 20 per cent by the fall — like September — and then it’ll grow from there.”
But travellers may face stiff entry requirements. For example, St. Lucia and Iceland will require that visitors get a COVID-19 test before flying and provide proof upon arrival that they’re virus-free. If travellers to Iceland can’t get a test beforehand, the country plans to test them when they arrive.
Airline analyst and McGill University Prof. Karl Moore is set to fly to Iceland in August to teach for a couple of days at Reykjavík University.
But if he can’t get tested in Canada beforehand, Moore is unsure he’ll take the trip. That’s because, if he tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, he’ll have to foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine in a Reykjavik hotel. Travellers suffering from COVID-19 can’t fly back to Canada until they recover.
“It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to be quarantined,” said Moore. “I love Reykjavik, but I may end up teaching [instead] on Zoom.”
What about travel insurance?
Insurance broker Martin Firestone believes that when Canada lifts its advisory against international travel, travel insurance providers may continue to exclude coverage for COVID-19-related illnesses — until there’s a vaccine.
“A person who ends up on a ventilator in the U.S., it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so [insurance providers] are in no position to take that risk,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure in Toronto.
The Chronicle Harold
ST. JOHN’S — With travelling a few times a year, an annual travel insurance policy once made the best sense, but Tom Gordon is re-evaluating that logic after dealing with his insurer.
Gordon contacted The Telegram after seeing the story of senior Joan Jackson, who said she was threatened with being reported to the credit bureau or taken to small claims court if she stopped her monthly payment on her MEDOC travel insurance even though she can’t go on a trip while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
Gordon and his wife pay $93.69 a month combined for their policy.
They had planned a spring trip to Cuba, which they cancelled with reimbursement in the form of vouchers for future travel from Air Transat. Those vouchers have a 24-month expiry date.
Gordon said he understands completely that MEDOC will not approve a claim if he already received Air Transat vacation vouchers, as that would be double reimbursement.
But the decision made him ask about what his protections were under the policy should it be impossible to redeem the vouchers before they expire.
“The situation of cancelled international travel owing to the pandemic spread is certainly fraught. The decision of the federal government to uphold airlines’ policy to issue vouchers rather than refunds is problematic enough. Consumers are involuntarily in the position of giving long-term interest-free loans to airlines,” Gordon told The Telegram.
When he asked the insurance provider what would happen if Air Transat goes bankrupt or either he or his spouse dies before they can use the vouchers, the answer leaves him on the hook for the $3,000 the couple spent on the trip.
“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel.” — Tom Gordon
MEDOC said the claim is closed.
“Federal advisory against travel outside the country; subsequent cancellation of Air Transat flights to Cuba. Air Transat has indicated they will issue a voucher valid for 24 months in lieu of a refund. However, we do not foresee the possibility of utilizing this voucher and need to recoup these costs. We have received full refunds from Air Canada for connecting flights that we had for travel between St. John’s and Toronto before and after the Cuba flights,” Gordon wrote on the online form explaining reasons for filing a claim.
“Regarding scenario 1 (the bankruptcy of the airline), since Air Transat has offered you the travel voucher, it is now their responsibility to honour it. As for scenario 2 (a death of either spouse), we sincerely hope that is not one you will need to face. In both cases, your insurance policy does not provide coverage for a travel voucher,” adjusting agency GlobalExcel responded to his inquiry in an email exchange.
“In short, Global Excel contends that because I now hold a theoretical voucher for travel rather than an actual ticket, I no longer have any right to claim regardless of circumstances,” Gordon told The Telegram.
“These circumstances include the cessation of operation of the airline or the death of myself or my spouse — circumstances that are clearly otherwise covered under my policy with MEDOC. … Global Excel has responded unequivocally: the money I paid for a vacation that I may never take is not insured because it now exists in the form of a voucher rather than a ticket.”
The annual travel insurance they once thought was a great idea given their age and amount of and type of travel they do is now being given more scrutiny by Gordon.
Planned vacations to New Zealand and Norway this year are unlikely to go ahead, but the monthly bill continues.
“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel,” Gordon said.
Their policy expires in September and they only took one trip so far, last October.
Given the fact that auto insurance premiums were reduced a little to reflect that people are driving less, Gordon said it would have been nice to see some leniency with travel insurance customers, especially when the annual sums can be more than $1,000 and there’s no place they can go.
In a letter emailed to customers on May 15 — the same day the original Telegram story ran — Johnson Insurance, the broker for MEDOC, reminded clients, similar to information in a statement to The Telegram that week, that thousands of MEDOC customers were helped to get back to Canada and that it continues to provide health insurance coverage for those who could not return to the country.
“The number of travel insurance claims has tripled and our teams are working around the clock to ensure that we serve all members to the standards that they deserve,” the statement said.
“For all customers we understand how this pandemic has impacted your plans. Rest assured that your trip cancellation coverage continues for trips booked prior to the travel advisory. Travel within Canada is also still covered, and your policy is still in force.
“However, we truly understand the concerns of those who are unable to travel and we are reviewing how MEDOC® can continue to provide exceptional value to all our customers now and for years to come.”
In response to the latest story, a spokeswoman for Johnson said the following: “We are not able to comment on individual claims due to privacy. As each customer’s situation is different, they should contact us directly if they have questions regarding their claim.”
Source: The Chronicle Harold