The 10 commandments of travel insurance for snowbirds

We all think snowbirds travel insurance is a pain to deal with and that insurers are out to get our money. Many travelling Canadians feel the questionnaires are not fair, asking vague questions in terms only a healthcare professional would understand and that policies are built to confuse and exclude. The fact is, whether you are travelling to Florida, Cuba or anywhere else in the world, snowbird travel insurance is the most important thing you will need while travelling besides your passport. The responsibility, no matter how tedious, falls on you to complete the application properly and to know what your snowbird policy covers. So here are the 10 Commandments of Travel Insurance for Snowbirds to live by to avoid a very unfortunate result should you have a claim:

1. Thou shalt meet the Eligibility Requirements

The first thing to remember when it comes to travel insurance is that each product has a different set of eligibility requirements. You must meet these requirements in order to purchase the insurance. Just because you may not qualify for one product doesn’t mean there isn’t a product for you out there. Shopping around is always a good idea.

2. Thou shalt not make a mistake on the application

Filling out a travel insurance application can not only be a tedious and complicated business, but a scary one as well for many Canadian travellers. The stress of knowing you might not be covered should you make a mistake on the medical questionnaire is reason enough for many snowbirds not to bother getting insurance at all. A tip to avoid mistakes is having your family doctor review your application before you sign it. Keeping notes on your health conditions and prescriptions is also a plus.

3. Thou shalt read the policy

Granted insurance policies are long enough to put anyone to sleep, the importance of its content is undeniable. Especially the sections relating to what is and what is not covered. Too many snowbirds travel under the assumption they are fully covered for a condition when in fact, it is excluded in the policy. For instance, most insurers do not cover Arthritis or Lupus, but do not ask about it on the medical questionnaire. Our tip – Read your policy before you travel!

4. Thou shalt be Stable

The stability period for pre-existing conditions is of the utmost importance as the insurer uses it, amongst other factors, to assess the risk covered. Any pre-existing condition that does not meet the required stability period will not be covered, as well as any emergency related to it. The periods vary from one insurer to another, so make sure you find out from your travel insurance broker the stability period you must meet to be covered for your specific conditions. The definition of stability can be found in the Definitions Section of your policy.

5. Thou shalt call the assistance company prior to seeking treatment

Every insurer requires that you contact the emergency assistance company as soon as reasonably possible before seeking treatment. That is a rule across the board. Of course, some emergencies are so great that you may be unable to do so and the hospital may do it for you. For that reason, you should always carry your emergency wallet card with you as it contains the necessary information in the event of a claim. However, do not assume that someone will contact the assistance company on your behalf. It remains your responsibility to ensure they have been contacted, so make sure you verify when you are able to do so.

6. Thou shalt understand the definition of Treatment

These days, doctors like to “prevent” a condition rather than “treat” it. The problem is, once a medication has been prescribed, it is in your medical record and the insurer considers it a treatment for that condition. The idea behind it is that if you did not take the medication, you might develop the condition it is prescribed for. The definition of treatment can be found in the Definitions Section of your travel insurance policy.

7. Thou shalt not look for elective care or treatment that is not deemed medically necessary

Insurers generally will not cover hospital or medical treatment, elective surgery or medical care during a trip when the trip is undertaken for the purpose of receiving medical or hospital services, whether or not the trip is taken on the advice of a physician. Simply put, if you are awaiting treatment before you leave or are planning to receive it while travelling, it will not be covered.

8. Thou shalt be aware of Travel Advisories

No matter where you are travelling to, some countries may be subject to a Travel Advisory due to situations that may affect your safety or your health, which may affect your travel insurance or your trip cancellation insurance. The complete Travel Advisory list can be found on the Government of Canada website at in the Travel section – Travelling abroad. Make sure to verify shortly before your departure date because situations in those countries can change rapidly.

9. Thou shalt understand the selected deductible

Selecting a deductible is a great way to save on your premium. The higher the deductible, the more money you save. But, make sure you are aware of the insurer’s policies regarding the deductible option because some insurers will apply the deductible per trip, and some will apply it per emergency.

10. Thou shalt be stable on each departure date for the duration of an Annual Multi-Trip policy

An annual multi-trip plan is a great way to save on cost if you travel often during the year. It provides coverage outside of your home province for the period selected, as many times as you travel during the year, providing you don’t go over the limit allowed by your home province. The thing to remember here is that you must be stable for any pre-existing conditions you may have on each departure date, so be sure to inform your broker of any change in your health to find out if you will be covered for that condition.

To sum it all up, the idea is to be a well-informed snowbird and traveller. The more you know, the better prepared you will be in case of a medical emergency while travelling outside of your province. Yes, snowbird insurance policies are long and boring, but a little reading never hurt anyone and information is the best tool you have to protect yourself.