Travel Insurance Don’t Leave Home Without It

Inter-provincial or out-of-country travel can put a big dent in your wallet.

Ambulance NB is not free if you are from out-of-province

Before Christmas I was visiting in New Brunswick and needed an ambulance for a midnight trip to the hospital.

My heart almost did a flip when a $650 bill for ambulance services came a month later.

If I had been traveling in a province that didn’t have reciprocal medicare coverage, the bill could have been more than $10,000. 

We assume our local medical coverage is good wherever we go in Canada but it may not be true.

Canadians traveling outside their province of residence can get a nasty surprise if they need medical services.

A simple shopping trip to an adjoining jurisdiction can result in a large bill for services not covered by medicare.

On my Christmas Eve trip, the doctors and hospital fees were paid, the cost of additional medical services like the ambulance was not. In New Brunswick, residents recently had their ambulance fees reduced to zero. For non-residents the cost if a flat $650.

The actual cost to provide ambulance services is estimated to be more than $700 per trip. If the government sponsored service charges patients $100 or $150, that service is highly subsidized.

Going to Moncton, NB for shopping or a visit to the casino can turn out to be an expensive trip if you don’t have travel insurance, which covers fees the government or your regular insurer does not.

No one can predict when a medical emergency will arise and paying out-of-pocket for medical care can get expensive very quickly. Simple ER visits cost $3,000 and up. A major medical event like a heart attack can cost between $50,000 in ER fees and much more with only a few days care.

Before you purchase travel insurance, check the fine print. The cheapest insurance will likely have significant exclusions that could cost you more than the savings.

A friend recently return from Florida where they winter every year. She had two medical events – back pain and shingles. Her low-cost travel insurance provided sub-standard medical care at a facility picked by the insurance company. Time was probably the healer, she reported, because the doctors in the cheap clinic didn’t give her any relief. She spent a miserable stay in Florida while the doctors shuffled her file around without any success.

Prince Edward Island does not cover out-of-province ambulance services unless a medical professional from PEI transfers the patient to another province.

In my case, Ambulance New Brunswick wrote off the bill but they warned me to get travel insurance if I leave PEI again.

They rarely if ever forgive out-of-province charges so don’t leave home without it – travel insurance. I thank them for their kindness and thank my lucky stars this time.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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