Insurance Intelligence: What To Know Before You Go

Before your next big trip, make sure you do your due diligence and get to know what your travel insurance policy covers.
by Mary Wimmer

When it comes to your next vacation, you might be great at picking the place and planning the activities, but there may be room for improvement in how you purchase your travel insurance. According to a recent survey released by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), 47 per cent of Canadians polled said they never reviewed their policies – even though 23 per cent had actually experienced needing medical care while travelling. 

Understanding your travel insurance policy is an essential part of the vacation planning process; it could potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars (if not more) in unexpected medical expenses. While some 95% of claims made to Canadian travel insurance providers are successfully paid out each year, there are a few instances when claims can be denied. Here are a few:

Being intoxicated

Vacations are synonymous with relaxation, and for some that means having a few drinks. But when it comes to alcohol consumption, make sure you know both your limits and what your travel insurance policy will cover. That means knowing what level of blood alcohol could invalidate a claim, and being aware of what effects both prescription and non-prescription medications may have on your reaction time and overall judgement.

Diagnostic tests of prescription changes

Claims could be denied if a physician orders a diagnostic test or prescribes a change in medication prior to travelling. If you have a pre-existing condition for which you need coverage, it needs to be stable for the period of time specified in your policy – meaning that there are no changes to either your state of health or to the medications (and dosages thereof) prescribed. 

Extreme sports and hazardous activities

High risk holiday activities can end up being far from a cheap thrill if an insurance provider dismisses a claim made for an injury resulting from it. That’s why it’s important to understand what a policy does – and doesn’t – cover, and to purchase your travel insurance plan accordingly. Remember that policies vary from one provider to the next, and some may have specific exclusions for sports that could be popular with vacation-goers, like sky-diving or parasailing. If you’re not sure what may constitute a dangerous activity in the eyes of an insurance provider, the simplest thing to do is to pick up the phone and call their toll-free number to ask.

Travelling when pregnant

Most travel health insurance policies do not cover women who are more than 31 weeks pregnant. This means that any kind of health condition experienced after the specified period in the policy may not be covered. Also, there are virtually no policies in existence for pre-term infants who are born while travelling – so even if you may be covered, your baby born abroad might not be.

Travelling for business

While most companies may have some form of travel health insurance for their employees who need to travel for business, it’s worth mentioning that it’s up to the individual traveller to understand the extent of their coverage. Employee benefit plans are also subject to exclusions and limitations. Small business owners should always double-check and ensure that they have adequate coverage when going abroad for work – the good news for them is that its tax deductible.

As alarming as the idea of a travel insurance claim being denied might be, it’s good to keep in mind that only less than five per cent are ever actually denied. Understanding your travel insurance options, knowing what types of activities you will engage in while abroad, limiting your alcohol consumption, and avoiding travel in the latter stages of pregnancy will go a long way toward ensuring that your travel health insurance claim, if made, will be part of the vast majority that are successfully paid out.

Remember that no matter where you choose to go or what you plan to do on your vacation, CAA has travel insurance options for you. We offer an assortment of policies designed to protect you against the financial impacts of illness, emergencies and unexpected mishaps both before and during your trip. Even better, CAA Members can enjoy a savings of 5% on their policy, as well as up to $5,000,000 in coverage – with no medical questionnaire if you’re under 60 years of age. What’s more, children are covered for free on travel medical family plans.

Click here to get a quote or call our Travel Services Call Centre at 1-800-267-8713. Visit your nearest CAA Travel Store for more details.