Survey reveals what Canadians don't know about their travel health insurance

Hiking, intoxication, blood tests and late-term pregnancy can lead to claims being denied

TORONTO, Sept. 30, 2015 /CNW/ - Canadians need to better understand their travel health insurance policies if they want to ensure they aren't in debt for out-of-country medical expenses, based on findings from a Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) survey. Forty-seven per cent of respondents have never reviewed their policies even though 23 per cent have required medical care while travelling.

"Policies vary from provider to provider. It's important to understand what will impact your coverage for medical expenses outside of Canada, or even within Canada," said Alex Bittner, THiA President. "Everyone should have a carefree holiday and not worry about unexpected medical expenses".

A survey of Canadian travel insurance providers shows that more than 95.3 per cent of travel health claims are successfully paid. THiA wants to see this number increase. This year's survey was designed to identify the public's understanding of common factors that can lead to a claim being denied. Some key points that travellers need to read and understand about their travel health insurance policies include the following.

Diagnostic tests or prescription changes
A claim can be denied if a physician orders you a diagnostic test or prescribes a change in medication prior to travelling. If you have a pre-existing condition that you are looking to cover, it needs to be stable for a period of time as specified in the policy, meaning no change in health or even a change of meds (dosage or type).  More than 55 per cent of respondents did not realize that a blood test that indicates a change in health status could compromise their medical stability, and as a result their coverage. Sixty-four per cent do not realize that a change in prescription can qualify as a change in health status.  "I've coined it 'Doctor Disconnect'.  To have a physician unwittingly compromise travel insurance coverage is unfortunate. None of us want that." said Bittner.  Education is key.

Travelling while pregnant
Most travel health insurance policies do not cover women more than 31 weeks pregnant. This means that any kind of health condition experienced after the specified period in the policy will not be covered. Forty-three per cent of respondents believe that pre-term infants are covered by travel health insurance when the reality is that virtually no policies cover pre-term infants born while travelling. Neo-natal intensive care can bankrupt a family. Does this mean that the ever popular 'baby-moon' should be banned? Not necessarily but perhaps consider taking that last trip in the first half of the pregnancy, and realize that even if you are covered, the baby may not be.

Being intoxicated
Thirty-nine per cent admitted to being intoxicated while on vacation but a full 52 per cent admit to being unaware that an injury or illness that occurs with high blood alcohol levels can lead to a claim being denied.

Business travel requires travel health insurance too, especially for entrepreneurs
Less than one per cent of respondents purchase travel insurance when travelling for business. Many companies have extended travel health insurance but it's the travellers' responsibility to understand their coverage. Employee benefit plans also are subject to exclusions and limitations.  Small business owners should double check and ensure they have the necessary coverage.  And good news, it's tax deductible.

What constitutes an extreme sport?
Some policies consider hiking a form of mountaineering. Thirty-four per cent of those surveyed have hiked on vacation. Buying the wrong policy can be costly as a broken leg can cost up to $10,000 per day (and much more if there are complications) for medical treatment in the United States.

"We want people to have confidence in their travel health insurance policies. Understanding your policy and coverage will help ensure that you are looked after in the event of unexpected medical emergencies," said Bittner.

Three Golden Rules
THiA recommends that Canadians do the following to have carefree vacations:

  1. Understand your travel insurance policy – Insurance providers have staff available to answer any questions related to policies
  2. Know your health and consult a health care provider if you have any questions
  3. Know your trip - How long will you be gone? Are you a snowbird? Will you be travelling many times during the year? Do you plan to scuba dive? Some policies will be more suitable for you than others

The THiA website has a guide available to help Canadians understand their travel insurance needs before they investigate policies.

About the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA)
Founded in 1998, the Travel Health Insurance Association(THiA) is the national organization representing travel insurers, brokers, underwriters, re-insurers, emergency assistance companies, air ambulance companies and allied services in the travel insurance field. THiA is the leading voice of the travel insurance industry in Canada and is engaged in public education and issues relating to regulatory affairs and member communications.

SOURCE Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA)

Image with caption: "Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) (CNW Group/Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA))". Image available at:

For further information: For more information, to speak to a THiA spokesperson, or for more statistics, please contact: Pascale Gordon, 416-342-1814,

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