Insuring A Good Time

17.January 2009

Pre-Trip

insurance-policyI have read of travelers heading out without travel insurance. They say that medical care is cheap in foreign lands. They say that should anything happen to them they would get themselves back home and rely on the requirement of their local hospitals to help them. I say they are being naive, short-sighted, and irresponsible.

Are they naive enough to think that they won’t get sick, or perhaps trip or, heaven-forbid, get in an accident during their yearlong jaunt around the world? Are they short-sighted enough to not think about how they might get back to Canada (or the States) should something happen? Are they irresponsible enough to rely on friends and family to nurse them back to health or take care of them in whatever state they find themselves?

Sure, I understand that medical/travel insurance is expensive and sure, I understand how much of a budget crunch that can be but this is your life for crying out loud!!

insurance-captureResearching medical/travel insurance reminds me of writing First Year English essays where you’re asked to ‘compare and contrast’ elements of various subjects. After a day of looking at all the various options, I was left a cowering, anxious, bleary eyed version of myself – definitely like First Year English!

Reading the fine print, though, can be an exersize in morbid humour. I mean, really, what happens if you lose one eye, one hand and a foot? Or if it’s left dangling?

It’s impossible to ‘compare and contrast’ details like this.

There are some items that are comparable though:

  • What is the maximum emergency medical/dental coverage?
  • Is ‘Interuption Insurance’ included? This is where the policy would fly you back home to deal with certain emergency issues, and then return you to your original destination.
  • Does the policy include Accident coverage?
  • What is the deductible?
  • Who underwrites the policy?
  • Who delivers the service (who do you have to call in the event of an emergency)?
  • Is baggage loss covered?
  • What does the policy say about pre-existing conditions (I have Crohn’s Disease)?

I have narrowed it down to four options: WorldNomads, TravelCuts, Pacific Blue Cross and BCAA . All are about the same price ($1300 for the year for the two of us). All require us to also have provincial medical coverage, which seems to be unavoidable as a Canadian. This means an additional $98/month for us. Do the math…ouch!

I was leaning toward WorldNomads and TravelCuts thinking that they deal with travelers as their core business and so might be best, but BCAA offers the best maximum coverage ($5M vs $1M) and may not penalize me for my pre-existing condition. Really, it all seems like a crap shoot – they are the experts in this and I just have to choose a reputable provider and hope that I will never need it.

In reality, if when we do get sick, we will probably visit a clinic and pay the fees out of our own pockets anyway (as the fee likely won’t be more than the deductible) but that’s not really what this insurance is for. It’s for peace of mind, it’s for responsibility and it’s to insure that we have a good, worry-free time.

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12 Responses to “Insuring A Good Time”

  1. Liz Says:

    Hi Gillian,

    About the BC provincial insurance, while searching on the thorntree for insurance options I remember coming across mention of an option. Supposedly you can freeze your coverage, so you don’t pay (or you pay a set fee) but you’re still covered for your travel insurance. I’m from Ontario so I didn’t pay much attention but look into it. And save the $98 for travelling!

    Liz

  2. Shawn Says:

    I never bought any insurance; although—if your only traveling for a year it might be worth it.

  3. Dirk Says:

    I would be too paranoid to go to all those places without some extra coverage. This is very much a better safe than sorry situation. I agree it is a good idea.

  4. michelle Says:

    Couple things on the provincial coverage. If you don’t have a job that pays for your coverage, you have to pay the monthly fee (whether you are travelling or not). Ontario pays this premium for you, but in BC each person pays their own. For our family it is $108/month.

    Also, for travel insurance you are right – you have to be part of your provincial health plan for most plans. (don’t quote me, but all the ones I looked at are like that). So you have to pay that $98 even if you aren’t here. The travel insurance only covers what the provincial doesn’t pay. Even more of a pain is that BC (and most provinces says that you have to live in your province and be in it for 6 months of a calendar year in order to qualify for BC MSP. (Which is highly coincidental with how long you can stay in the US) If you are getting insurance, make sure you check all this out, cuz I am only telling you what I found out for ours.

    And btw – a short trip to the doctor here for a sinus infection put $350USD on my credit card. And believe me, I did everything I could to try to get rid of it myself. I then have to put in a claim (with a bijillion forms) after. I can only imagine what something more serious might cost!!! So if the insurance costs you $1300 for the year – that’s fine – I would take it. Good luck!

    • Gillian Says:

      Ahhh, that explains why Anna from Ontario didn’t know anything about having to pay premiums!

      Thanks Michelle, you have confirmed everything I have found. We have to have provincial coverage whether we’re here or not and I haven’t found any travel insurance for Canadians that will insure us without it – or they will insure us but we would be liable for the portion that the provincial coverage would have covered.

      As for the 6 months out of country, we can get a one time release from that requirement for a leave of up to 24 months.

      Insurance is worth it – I would hate to be caught without it!

  5. Geoff Says:

    I really don’t understand people who don’t bother with insurance – in the great scheme of a year abroad, the cost of insurance is tiny (it’ll work out at about 1-2% of my total budget, of the top of my head) and is so worth it just in case anything goes wrong.

    Also, given I know you said you’re quite the adrenaline junkie in a comment over at my blog, the other key thing to check is the exclusions for sporting activities – these can vary quite widely by insurer, so if there are particular activities you’re keen on doing, check your covered (there are some that seem surprisingly difficult to get cover for – outdoor climbing, for example, which is a very popular traveller activity. Even certain types of cycling are often excluded, with UK-based insurers at least). The exclusions often seem odd to me, with some activities that I’d guess are risky often included more than seemingly safe ones. There’s no point getting expensive medical cover if it’s instantly invalidated by the activities that might cause injuries in the first place!

  6. Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com Says:

    Does your insurance cover you if there is a government travel warning against travel to this country? Hehehe, you may as well stay home…

    I guess people do worry about dying, I am not in this groups, but I can empathize. I do not have travel insurance and I have been traveling now for over 10 years and 79 countries, yes, I would like to have “Health” insurance. I have been reading for years about this stuff and only England has a company or two that maybe works. Truly if you want to travel the world, you need to know the countries that will give you medical treatment easy enough or cheap enough and hope you can survive a trip home on a plane. I did not vote for Obama, but I am going to hold him to the universal medical care ideas, I want socialized medicine, if I have a big problem, I would get on the plane.

    Travel Insurance

  7. Nath Says:

    When your health and well being is the issue, the decision about health cover should be clear cut. But that isn’t always the case. Some travelers decide against it not to avoid extra costs but simply because it can be pointless. Like Andy says, unless you check the FO Office warnings very carefully, you may think you are covered but actually are not. Its definitely worth reading the small print!

    If you sometimes prefer to push the boundaries a little on your travels then inevitably, at some point, you will wind up in one of these warning areas. So why pay for nothing during that period? I say get cover that you can start and stop as required – and on the road. Small print alert (again): some companies will state your insurance is only valid when arranged from your home country.

    As for those that avoid it purely to cut travel costs, they need their heads examined. I say cut down on the beer instead, or travel from A to B a little less often. That’ll save more.

  8. Anna Says:

    HA – that makes more sense now! I was getting all worried that I didn’t know about any of this “provincial coverage” people are speaking of. I guess bearing this 10 feet of snow is worth the 98$/month I save! Saweet! Thanks Gillian and Michelle!

  9. Nomadic Matt Says:

    i’ve travled with and without insurance before. it is a good idea though, especially if you are going to be doing a lot of adventure activities where the chance of injury or sickness or accident is above normal. check out world nomads- they are a really good company! i would recommend them. I used them before and pretty much stick to them from now on.

    let me know what u decide b/c i would love for u to use my affiliate link. :) (ok cheap plug but hosting fees cost a lot!!!!!)

    but seriously, i do use them and recommend them…affiliate link or not!

  10. Shawn Says:

    By the way, from all the blogs I read, not one person has ever mentioned about using health insurance they purchased before they departed.

    In my situation, since buying insurance would be a waste of money because of long term traveling, if I would break a bone, then I would get an x-ray and a cast, take time to heal. If I get sick with a virus, well, then virus must take its course. If I get sick with a bacterial infection, then I have antibiotics with me to consume.

    If something serious would occur with any internal organs there is no way would have it taken care of in a second or third world hospital, and I don’t think you would either. I would fly back the home country and get it taken care of.

    So what’s the point of paying for insurance that you mostly will not use and if something does happen, what is the chance that the insurance company will pay you back. The hospital or the clinic will want their money up front.

    Even so, most people that head out for a year purchase insurance and none of them (from the blogs I read) had to use the insurance.

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