A recent online survey of Globe and Mail readers has shown that 62 percent of respondents claim they buy travel insurance before leaving the country on their holidays, 13 percent say they sometimes do, and 26 percent say they don’t.
Since this is not a scientific survey, it’s hard to discern if it shows any trend over time, but what it does show is that many Canadians are still not convinced of the value or necessity of out-of-country travel insurance, and that means the producers and sellers of travel policies have a big job of education to do.
I would also add that provincial and federal governments have a responsibility to spread the word about how essential such insurance is. Let’s remember that it was the decision by all provincial governments to cut back their coverage of out-of-country services in the early 1990s, that forced their residents into the private insurance market.
They got themselves off the hook. But they left you on it.
There are still many travellers who rationalize their way out of buying travel insurance by touting how healthy they are, how small a risk they run by just staying out of the country for a weekend, how if they would ever start to feel ill, they would hop a plane and return home. Sounds great; if only accidents or illnesses cooperated.
Most heart attack victims I know never expected that sudden chest pain precisely when it happened; and they certainly never expected it a 3:30 in the morning when airlines hadn’t started their daily schedules (as if they would be let you on board if they said they were having a heart attack and needed to get home). And how many parents really expected their kids to step on a sting ray while frolicking in the ocean.
Accidents and illnesses do not strike only during bankers’ hours, or when you are within a few minutes drive of an airport with an open flight waiting just for you.
The reality is that without private health insurance you are responsible for any hospital, clinic or doctor’s bill when services are rendered. You can pay it by cash, cheque, credit card, or perhaps work out a payment arrangement or promissory note with the provider of services. And don’t think the border will protect you from collectors; it won’t.