Our Views

Medical insurance options for winter travel

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into many Canadians’ winter travel plans. Border closings, travel restrictions, quarantine rules, ever-changing flight schedules, rising coronavirus cases, and “hot spots” around the world are all factors to navigate. Not to mention one’s own comfort with travel during a pandemic, which is highly individual and often differs even within couples.

In the next two blog posts, we’ll look at the ways COVID-19 has impacted your ability to live and play outside of Canada—and how to clear some of these logistical hurdles.

One question on the minds of many is: Are there any comprehensive travel medical insurance packages that provide adequate COVID-19 coverage?

It’s an especially important consideration if you’re a snowbird used to spending several months a year in Florida, Arizona, the Caribbean or some other sunny destination.

There are options

Good news: there is a wide range of insurance options available to both younger and senior-aged travelers that cover COVID-related emergencies. These policies have similar exclusions but differ in significant ways regarding coverage amounts, travel duration and the amount of coverage offered to travelers who are quarantined at a destination.

In other words, Canadians need to carefully select health insurance coverage that suits their travel plans and potential medical needs.

To simplify that process, our team has put together an overview of travel medical insurance packages offered by the country’s largest providers.** Air Canada and WestJet are also offering complimentary COVID-19 medical and quarantine insurance for trips of up to 21 days on return flights booked directly with either carrier.

What to know before buying travel health insurance

With that in mind, there are five key questions to ask before purchasing medical insurance (or relying on travel insurance coverage included with your credit card):

  • Does the plan cover both COVID-19-related medical expenses and emergency-related expenses such as trip cancellation and interruption?
  • Does the plan cover quarantine costs if you contract COVID-19 while travelling?
  • What are the plan’s limitations and exclusions?
  • Am I covered for the entirety of my trip?
  • What medical costs will my provincial health plan cover while I travel (if any)?

Here’s an overview of some of the travel medical insurance plans available to Canadians right now:

Medipac 2020-2021 Travel Emergency Medical Insurance

This package provides medical coverage of up to $2 million USD ($5 million USD with the plan upgrade option) for everything from hospital and emergency room expenses to air ambulance fees. Pre-existing conditions that are stable and controlled are covered, along with medical costs related to COVID-19. The plan is available to Canadian residents from all provinces (with a valid provincial health card while traveling), but there are exclusions, including work-related travel and some volunteer activity.

Visit Medipac website for more information.

Blue Cross

Under Blue Cross’ plans, emergency medical care expenses of up to $5 million are covered— including COVID-19-related quarantine and medical expenses for eligible travelers. However, to qualify, travelers aged 55 and older must have been free of COVID-19 symptoms, or must not have been diagnosed with COVID-19, for six months prior to their date of departure. The period is three months for travelers aged 54 and younger. Travel medical insurance rates are determined by age, trip duration, an applicant’s pre-existing health conditions and their responses to a health-related questionnaire. Blue Cross coverage does carry several exclusions, including many related to COVID-19.

See the Blue Cross website for full details.

Manulife Single Trip COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan Insurance for Canadians

The plan offers medical coverage of up to $200,000 for COVID-related expenses and up to $5 million in non-COVID-related emergency medical benefits. Costs of up to $150 per day for unexpected quarantine are covered to a maximum of $2,100 per traveler. The family coverage maximum is $300 per insured family per day to a maximum of $4,200. Various exclusions apply, including for pre-existing conditions. Applicants aged 60 and older are required to complete a medical questionnaire to determine their eligibility and rates.

See the Manulife website for more.

Right now, the best (and most cost-effective) insurance is awareness.

In the pandemic era, travel restrictions can be imposed or lifted at any time, and any destination could find its way onto a COVID-19 hotspot list virtually overnight.

Because the situation is evolving so quickly, it’s wise to pay close attention to breaking developments before you travel. Government of Canada travel advisories are a great place to start that research. Your travel planner should also be a good source for what’s happening on the ground. As with many things, doing research ahead of time will minimize the risk of disappointment.

**Please note, this overview is intended for information purposes only and is subject to change. The details provided were based on our research and do not constitute any endorsement of the travel insurance providers featured. Contact insurance providers directly for more information and review plan details and coverage policies before deciding to purchase travel health insurance.