Will Canadian Travel Insurance Cover Heart Attacks?

“My husband had a mild heart attack in June.  His doctor says he is OK to travel south this winter.

He is also diabetic, but-well controlled.  Can he get travel insurance?” Of all the questions I get asked about  what can or cannot be covered, this is the most frequent.

Canadian travel insurers don’t all take the same approach to covering pre-existing conditions or applicants who have experienced recent medical emergencies. So to the lady asking about her diabetic husband I could only say: “If his heart attack has remained stable, not required further treatment, and is being managed by medications whose type and dosage has not changed over a given period (some insurers say 6 months, others a year, still others longer) he may be covered.” BUT be careful of the word stable—that depends on how the policy defines it, not necessarily by what your doctor considers stable.

Also: “How is your husband’s diabetes controlled?  Does he require insulin? If not, and the type or dosage of his other medications hasn’t changed within a certain period, he may covered.”

Maybe my answers are equivocal, but that’s the nature of the game. Fortunately, I didn’t have to offer a flat out NO, to my questioner. The point is that insurers don’t all go by the same underwriting criteria:

some will cover applicants that others won’t. Some will cover 3 months of stability for certain conditions

some require six months, some years.  Some will cover a stable pre-existing condition after a given period, some will only cover the applicant for everything but that condition.

What that means for you is that a rejection from one insurer, doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted by another.  In the case of the diabetic husband who had a heart attack last June, though he was rejected by at least two insurers, I was able to refer him to another who was prepared to cover him on the basis of a medically-underwritten application completed by his doctor.

Canadian travel insurers have come a long way since the early 1990s when there were only a handful of companies providing quite limited coverage to supplement the generous benefits provided by provincial government health insurance. But when the provinces withdrew their out-of-country benefits, travel insurers found themselves in a new ball game, and now in order to remain competitive, they have to meet the needs of a very diverse, and aging, population that is not in perfect health.

A search for coverage by people with some medical conditions can be daunting.  That’s why I recommend dealing with an agent who specializes in travel insurance and can access a number of different plans and insurers to get you want you need.  It saves time, and it saves you money. Don’t give up at the first sign of rejection.

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