September 30, 2015 2:44 pm

Common factors that can get your travel health insurance claim denied

Did you know that hiking isn't covered on some travel health insurance policies?

Did you know that hiking isn't covered on some travel health insurance policies?

Olivier Mercure

How much do you really know about your travel health insurance? According to a recent survey of Canadians: not enough.

A good first step is to find out if your work or credit card offers you any coverage. Once you confirm (or buy) travel health insurance, the next crucial step is to actually read the policy — especially the exclusions and limitations. That step is missed by about 47 per cent of people, the Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) revealed in its new survey.

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The survey was “designed to identify the public’s understanding of common factors that can lead to a claim being denied.” Here are a few common factors you should know about:

Medical tests or prescription changes

A claim can be denied if a physician orders you a diagnostic test or prescribes a change in medication prior to travelling, the THiA explained. If you have a pre-existing condition, it needs to be stable for a period of time (meaning no change in health or meds).

More than 55 per cent of respondents didn’t realize they coverage could be compromised by a blood test that shows a change in health status. Sixty-four per cent didn’t know a change in prescription could qualify as a change in health status.

“I’ve coined it ‘Doctor Disconnect,'” said THiA President, Alex Bittner. “To have a physician unwittingly compromise travel insurance coverage is unfortunate.  None of us want that.”


Thirty-four per cent of those surveyed have hiked on vacation, which might constitute an extreme sport for certain companies.

“Some policies consider hiking a form of mountaineering,” the THiA warned. “Buying the wrong policy can be costly as a broken leg can cost up to $10,000 per day (and much more if there are complications) for medical treatment in the United States.”


Fifty-two per cent of respondents admit to being unaware that an injury or illness that happens when they have high blood alcohol levels can lead to a claim being denied.


Most travel health insurance policies do not cover women who are more than 31 weeks pregnant, according to the THiA. That means any kind of health condition experienced after the specified period in the policy will not be covered.

Last year, while 26-weeks along in her pregnancy, Saskatchewan’s Jennifer Huculak left on a vacation to Hawaii (that her doctor cleared her for). Two days into her trip, she went into labour. She and her baby had to spend weeks in hospital before they were flown back to Canada, with a nearly million-dollar hospital bill.

WATCH: The Saskatchewan couple had bought travel insurance for the trip. The company, however, denied her claim.

READ MORE: Travel insurance tips to avoid a million-dollar baby

Forty-three per cent of respondents believe that pre-term infants are covered by travel health insurance. The reality, though, is that virtually no policies cover pre-term infants born while travelling.

“Neo-natal intensive care can bankrupt a family,” the THiA cautioned.

“Does this mean that the ever popular ‘baby-moon’ should be banned? Not necessarily but perhaps consider taking that last trip in the first half of the pregnancy, and realize that even if you are covered, the baby may not be.”

READ MORE: What else Canadians need to know about travel health insurance

The THiA website has more information to help Canadians understand their travel insurance policies.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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