Take No Chances: Proof of Travel Insurance Is Required for Cuba

If you’re travelling to Cuba this winter, make sure you have proof of travel insurance. And it’s not enough to show membership in some association or pension/retiree group and expect the Cuban border agent to assume that health coverage comes with that. Have a card listing your insurer and/or assistance company.

Last year, the Cuban government announced that any visitor seeking entry to the country by air or seaport would be required to have health insurance to cover them while in Cuba, and be able to prove it. Visitors without such proof would have to buy insurance from Cuban companies at the point of entry, although several Canadian travellers have subsequently told us they were not asked to submit such proof at any point in their trip.

Nonetheless, the requirement stands, and you don’t want to be the one singled out for lack of such proof.

In issuing the directive, the Cuban government specified that border agents would accept proof of provincial health insurance for purposes of entry. The problem with that is that provincial insurance covers only a tiny share of out-of-country medical bills, does not cover air repatriation if you need to get back home with something serious, and (in the case of most provinces) does not pay out-of-country health care providers directly. They expect to pay up front and then file for reimbursement from your provincial health agency. That wait can go on for months, and then it will cover perhaps only 10 per cent of the submitted bills.

We have also looked at the insurance plans offered by the Cuban companies and the benefits are very sparse compared to what Canadian travel insurers offer, and they don’t cover such essentials as air ambulance repatriation or travel costs to bring a family member to your bedside, or even the costs of transporting you to another facility in Florida if you need specialty care. Even the limits on basic medical coverage are very limited, and medical costs in Cuba are not cheap.

So far, neither Mexico nor the Dominican Republic require proof of travel insurance, but that could change. We’ll keep you posted.

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