Travel Insurance is Not For Permanent Out-of-Country Residents

Retired Canadians permanently living out of the country are not qualified to receive provincial health benefits, even though they may hold property or do their banking and financial business there, or have long-standing family connections in Canada. Canadian citizenship is no guarantee of medicare coverage.

If you live abroad year-round, in Mexico, the U.S. sunbelt, the Caribbean, Europe or elsewhere, your options for obtaining comprehensive medical coverage are limited.  You need to do your research.  One thing though is certain: do not look for out-of-country health care coverage from Canada, even though you have taxes for it all your life.

Once you cease to be a legal resident of your home province—which means you have not physically resided there for the required six months in the year (five for Ontario and four for Newfoundland),– you will have lost your eligibility for Canadian medicare. You must then look to your new home country for domestic insurance (if available) or search out expatriate insurance on the international market.  Several of the insurers advertising on this site offer such coverage.  It is more inclusive than travel insurance, but also more expensive.

Mexico, for example, does offer some private forms of health insurance for expatriates from other countries, but you need to investigate it carefully for limitations and exclusions as well as for coverage of continuing care for chronic conditions, pre-existing conditions, health checkups, diagnostic services and the choice of  hospitals and doctors.

In the U.S., private insurance for seniors not qualified for U.S. Medicare is virtually impossible to get on the domestic market no matter how much you are willing to pay. If you plan on living permanently in the U.S. (provided you have a green card or other immigration authorization to do so) you need to go to international insurers for comprehensive expatriate products and you need to do this ahead of time. Do not think you can move to the U.S. and easily buy health insurance for the long term if you are not a legal permanent resident.

Similarly in Europe, you will need some guarantee of private health insurance coverage before you can get a visa to spend extended periods there. But you need to investigate this carefully before you make your plans to purchase a condo or villa.

In fact, the best rule of thumb I can offer is: before you consider buying property or committing to residing abroad permanently, get your health insurance confirmed.

Once you lose your provincial coverage, you cannot fly back to Canada for medical treatment and immediately reclaim your medicare benefits.  You will have to be physically present as a resident for at least three months before those benefits can be re-instated. Until then, you will be treated as a foreign visitor, paying the retail rates that Canadian hospitals charge foreigners–$4,000 to $5,000 or more per day.

Living abroad takes a lot of planning. You can’t just pick up and go.

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