The news that some insurers are beginning to offer Canadian travellers specialized coverage for COVID-19 may cause you to raise your eyebrows. After all, there is currently a Level 3 travel advisory telling Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country.
But could it be a good idea to purchase that kind of coverage even if you’re travelling out of province within Canada?
Provincial health insurance, after all, may not cover all of the medical costs associated with a health emergency. Interprovincial transfer payments will take care of hospital bills.
But ancillary services like a wheelchair, splints and some medications are excluded, notes Chris Davidge of Medipac Travel Insurance, which focuses on providing travel coverage for Canadian snowbirds and has added COVID-19-related emergencies to its policy.
One of the biggest risks in terms of out-of-pocket costs is needing an ambulance while travelling outside your province, he says.
“That can be affordable and in the hundreds of dollars,” Davidge says. “But if an air ambulance is involved in your rescue and delivery, that can be tens of thousands of dollars.”
With COVID-19, one of the biggest costs might come from having to get your close family to your destination if you ended up in the hospital because of the virus while out-of-province, according to Davidge.
Medipac’s COVID-19 coverage extends to both international and out-of-province travel.
Trois-Rivières, Que.-based Tour+Med offers the option to buy additional coverage for COVID-19-related emergencies for both out-of-province and out-of-country travel.
Manulife says on its website its COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan will be available to Canadians travelling abroad in October. The company does not specifically mention out-of-province travel and declined a request for comment from Global News.
But Justin Thouin, CEO and co-founder of LowestRates.ca, a financial product comparison site, says there should be no need to buy special COVID-19 coverage for travel within Canada.
In general, travel insurance will cover you unless the Canadian government has issued a Level 3 or Level 4 (avoid all travel) warning for your destination.
Whether its the ebola virus or civil unrest associated with the travel advisory, “no travel insurance policy will cover you for that,” he says.
COVID-19 special coverage for international travel means the insurance company will extend coverage even if there is a Level 3 alert in force, he explains.
But there are no travel advisories for domestic travel within Canada, Thouin notes.
However, he adds, consumers should check the wording of your policy and ask questions of your insurance company before assuming you’re covered for COVID-19.
At Tour+Med, managing partner Luc Bergeron says an added benefit of purchasing coverage specifically for COVID-19 is the ability to claim compensation for the costs you may incur if you have to quarantine.
The company’s COVID-19 rider, for example, provides $100 per day of mandatory quarantine at destination after a positive test result, up to $500 for groceries or restaurant delivery orders during the period of self-isolation and up to $100 in total for cab rides to and from the testing centre.
If you are buying insurance specifically for COVID-19, make sure you understand the terms of that coverage, says Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com, which allows Canadians to compare insurance quotes online.
Manulife, for example, caps medical coverage for emergencies related to COVID-19 at $200,000 per person. Medical emergencies unrelated to the virus, by contrast, have a coverage maximum of $5 million per person.
Thomas recommends always having travel insurance coverage when venturing outside your province of residence. But, she says, that’s especially the case amid the pandemic.
Even if you don’t experience any health emergencies connected to COVID-19, the chances that your flights might be delayed or cancelled may be higher due to the current upheaval of air travel, she says.
Another question to put to your insurance provider is whether you’d be entitled to an allowance for costs incurred if you were to remain stuck at your destination for a period of time in case of another lockdown, Thomas says.
In the spring, she notes, “our state of emergency really came quite quickly.”