There are some pretty broad misconceptions that in some countries, foreign travelers can get emergency health care free and travel insurance isn’t necessary. They cite the U.K. as an example. Not so.

Unless you are a legal resident of the U.K. or of other European Union countries that have reciprocal health benefits, you do not qualify for National Health Service benefits and will be charged for any medical services provided to you, or your insurer will if you were wise enough to get insurance before you left home. And also understand that you will pay more for certain services than they would cost when delivered to an NHS beneficiary. It’s the same thing with visitors to Canada. There is no such thing as Free when it comes to health care. It’s the same story if you travel to France or Belgium or Norway or Italy or virtually any other country you dream of traveling to.

You may also think that in some countries with a lower standard of living the costs of medical care will be substantially cheaper and will negate your need for health insurance. If they are that much cheaper, you have to ask about the quality of care you are buying? And is that the level of service you or your loved one will be satisfied with?

The bottom line fact is this: quality health care is expensive wherever you go. Somebody does pay for it—through taxes, payroll deductions or cash on the barrelhead. The fact that in many countries residents don’t have to pay when they leave the hospital or doctor does not mean they are getting it free. And you, as a visitor in their country, will certainly not be getting it free. Would you want visitors from Europe or Asia coming to Canada and getting their health care free while you pay for it? Don’t answer that.

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