All it takes is a slip on a diving board, the sting of a jellyfish, overindulgence of unfamiliar food or a sudden fever, and the need for emergency medical treatment becomes an instant reality-tough enough to deal with at home, but much more complicated in a foreign country.
"Whether accidents or medical emergencies happen in the southern United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, or elsewhere, they can generate thousands of dollars in hospital or emergency room costs that are not covered by provincial health insurance," says David Hartman, president of THIA.
Mr. Hartman notes that though more than 80 percent of Canadians aged 55 and over buy private insurance when travelling out of the country*, a survey done in 2011 by Ipsos-Reid for RBC, showed that almost half (44 percent) of 18 to 34-year olds said they "rarely" or "never" purchase travel insurance when travelling to the U.S., and more than 34 percent believe they don't need it for the U.S. because their provincial health plan covers all their medical costs.
"That's a big mistake," says Mr. Hartman. "One day in a hospital can easily cost over $10,000, but most provinces will pay less than 10 percent of that, leaving young people, who tend to be more active and prone to accidents and unexpected medical emergencies when in unfamiliar surroundings, at extremely high risk."
Consequently, THIA urges parents to make sure they cover not only children who are travelling with them on vacation, but ensure that their children who are students, travelling on their own, are also covered, even if they have to pay for it themselves. Insurance for a normally healthy teenager or college student is relatively inexpensive, and it can protect the student and the entire family from incurring potentially unmanageable medical, transportation or repatriation expenses.
The cost of an air ambulance to repatriate a patient from Florida or South Texas to a hospital at home can exceed $25,000--even more from Mexico or the Caribbean. Private travel insurance normally covers such repatriations when medically necessary: provincial health insurance does not. In addition, many policies will also cover the costs of flying a family member to the patient's bedside if warranted, although most policies will have restrictions on high risk activities such as deep water scuba diving, bungee jumping or mountain climbing.
"Vacations should allow families to be relatively carefree, but that doesn't mean they can overlook the possibility that without adequate protection, medical emergencies abroad can not only ruin their vacations, but threaten their life savings," says Mr. Hartman.
*Footnote. Conference Board of Canada.
About THIA. 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. Its website is http://www.thiaonline.com/.