How to Buy Snowbird Travel Insurance

Canada’s travel insurers are warning snowbirds they must have proof of travel insurance prior to leaving for any trips to the United States, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or elsewhere in the Caribbean this winter.

In a press release issued to national media on October 15, the Travel Health Insurance Association (THIA) said that travel insurance is essential for all international destinations, particularly in the US, where soaring health care costs are forcing many hospitals to demand up-front deposits or direct-payment arrangements of patients who can’t prove they have coverage.

THIA suggests the following tips when shopping for travel insurance:

  • Don’t buy on price alone. Insurance plans differ. All policies need to fit your health profile.
  • Read your policy. Discuss it with your advisor. Examine a plan’s exclusions and limitations (i.e., what it doesn’t cover, as well as what it does). No travel insurance plan covers everything for every applicant—no matter what price you pay.
  • To keep your costs down, consider deductibles. The higher the deductible, the lower your premium.
  • Many plans cover pre-existing conditions that are stable and controlled, but you have to understand what “stable and controlled” means. If you must complete a medical application, do it completely and accurately and get your doctor’s help if you need to.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your travel insurance. If you need to provide medical information, you may want to consult your doctor, pharmacist, or a family member who knows about your medical history. Leave time to do this properly.
  • If you buy early for a trip you’re taking later in the year, and your health changes in the interim, notify your insurer immediately.
  • Understand your own obligations and what you’re required to do if a medical emergency strikes while you’re out of the country.

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