Ex­tra health insurance well worth price

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TRAVEL -

AT this time of year, the pur­chase of longterm insurance for those plan­ning to be away for much of the re­main­der of the win­ter sea­son is com­mon.

There are fre­quent but sim­i­lar ques­tions asked about the ad­vis­abil­ity of dif­fer­ent kinds of cov­er­age, in­clud­ing whether to carry insurance at all, count­ing on Manitoba Health to cover any num­ber of out-of-coun­try oc­cur­rences.

I hope the fol­low­ing an­swer to a reader will sat­isfy a num­ber of con­cerns read­ers have ex­pressed. QUES­TION: I hope you can help clear up the con­fus­ing ad­vice we have been re­ceiv­ing about travel med­i­cal insurance. For the first time, we will be stay­ing for sev­eral months in Mex­ico.

We are stay­ing for four months, so wanted to pur­chase cov­er­age for the whole pe­riod.

How­ever, we were told that cov­er­age for med­i­cal insurance was only avail­able on one-month, four­month or six-month plans.

We have also been told, in­clud­ing by some­one from Manitoba Health, that we don’t even need to pur­chase ex­tra cov­er­age as long as we go to a Mex­i­can hos­pi­tal and not an Amer­i­can one.

Sev­eral peo­ple who travel yearly to Mex­ico con­firmed that ex­tended cov­er­age is not needed and they have the ex­pe­ri­ence to prove it.

They have sub­mit­ted bills to Manitoba Health and been re­im­bursed when they sub­mit­ted re­ceipts, even though they had not bought ex­tended cov­er­age.

With all the horror sto­ries we hear about peo­ple go­ing bank­rupt af­ter be­ing sick in other coun­tries, we are very con­fused.

Can you give any ad­vice?

AN­SWER: Firstly, you should have no prob­lem in get­ting med­i­cal insurance for the en­tire time you are away. A num­ber of travel-insurance providers such as Travel Guard, which has a large pres­ence in Manitoba, sell med­i­cal insurance that Snow­birds fre­quently pur­chase for var­i­ous lengths of time.

Those aged up 60 can get med­i­cal insurance for an en­tire year. If the per­son is 60-83 years old, he or she will have to fill out a med­i­cal ques­tion­naire, and the max­i­mum num­ber of days they can be cov­ered is 183 days. Six-month pur­chases are com­mon.

In­so­far as Manitoba Health is con­cerned, I don’t know the na­ture of your dis­cus­sion, but the depart­ment’s web­site at http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/ guide/3.html is clear.

Di­rectly quoted from the site, they state: “If you are vis­it­ing another coun­try, you may be re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the costs of emer­gency med­i­cal care. We highly rec­om­mend that you buy travel health insurance from an insurance com­pany be­fore you leave.”

While you can be re­im­bursed up to the max­i­mum of what Manitoba Health cov­ers, they also have cri­te­ria that must be fol­lowed for that re­im­burse­ment to be ac­cept­able.

They warn: “Not all ser­vices or fa­cil­i­ties out­side Manitoba are el­i­gi­ble for pay­ment from Manitoba Health.”

How­ever, if those ser­vices or fa­cil­i­ties are el­i­gi­ble, you will have to pay all costs to your outof-coun­try providers di­rectly, then ap­ply for re­im­burse­ment upon your re­turn. Pay­ment can of­ten take some time as they go through their check­ing pro­cesses.

Once you re­turn, you need to send orig­i­nal re­ceipts for any monies for which you are ap­ply­ing. If your claim is ap­proved, you will be re­im­bursed.

How­ever, Manitoba Health warns that what you re­ceive may not be as much as you paid for the fol­low­ing rea­sons:

“When Man­i­to­bans are tem­po­rar­ily away from Canada for rea­sons such as trav­el­ling, work­ing or at­tend­ing univer­sity, Manitoba Health cov­ers emer­gency med­i­cal care at the same rates that are paid in Manitoba:

Doc­tor’s bills — cov­ered at the same rates paid to Manitoba doc­tors;

Hos­pi­tal bills — If you are ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal be­cause of an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, Manitoba will pay be­tween $280 and $570 Cdn a day, de­pend­ing on the size of the hos­pi­tal;

Emer­gency-room or out­pa­tient visit — cov­ered up to $100 Cana­dian a visit;

Nurse-prac­ti­tioner, mid­wife or physi­cian-as­sis­tant bills are not cov­ered by in­sured ben­e­fits if you are out­side Manitoba.

The costs in other coun­tries can be sig­nif­i­cantly higher than what Manitoba Health pays. You pay the dif­fer­ence. If you’re plan­ning to go out of the coun­try, con­sider get­ting ex­tra pri­vate health insurance. The cost of re­turn­ing home to Canada af­ter re­ceiv­ing emer­gency med­i­cal care is not cov­ered.”

I, too, strongly urge you to find cov­er­age over and above tak­ing a chance on what you might get back from Manitoba Health.

We have seen too many of those horror sto­ries you speak about from peo­ple who did not act re­spon­si­bly be­fore leav­ing and found they cre­ated sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial prob­lems for them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

One the other end of the scale, I know of at least one sit­u­a­tion of an insurance pol­icy we were in­volved in that ended up pay­ing close to $400,000 in pay­ments to U.S. hos­pi­tals and doc­tors.

Al­though this may be an ex­treme case, it can hap­pen to any­one, and the risk is just not worth tak­ing.

I have sig­nif­i­cant em­pa­thy for those se­nior cit­i­zens who still love to travel but find the cost of insurance cov­er­age dis­cour­ag­ing. It is still such a small per­cent­age of the trips they take and the en­joy­ment they gain to jus­tify not mak­ing the insurance in­vest­ment. For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com. Ron Prad­inuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure Su­per­Centre and can be heard Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found on www.jour­neystrav­el­gear.com or read

Ron’s travel blog at www.that­trav­el­guy.ca


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