While most Canadian travellers booking trips abroad know they should purchase travel insurance, particularly an emergency medical plan, they might not realize that they won't have coverage when travelling outside of their province.
Most doctors in other provinces and territories (except Quebec) will bill their own health plan for services provided for travellers who present their valid B.C. Services Card. The provinces/territories recover the funding monthly from each other, according to the B.C. government.
But Will McAleer, Executive Director at the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), told V.I.A. that locals might be in for a rude awakening travelling to other provinces if they haven't purchased travel insurance that covers them outside of B.C.
"Universal health care doesn't always fit," he underscores, noting that there may not be an agreement between provinces on certain medical conditions. "If there's no agreement between the two, then you might be out for the additional charge."
Travellers should also consider that there are several services that aren't covered under a provincial medical plan, to begin with. Some of these include ground and air ambulances, with the latter often required for people who are injured on ski trips and require a helicopter to get off a mountain, McAleer explained.
If a B.C. resident visits a hospital in another province and has to get a prescription for a medication filled afterwards, this cost will not get covered.
In the case of a nonemergency medical issue, many types of specialists will not be covered, such as a visit to a physiotherapist, McAleer added.
Is there a travel insurance policy specifically for Canadians headed outside of B.C.?
Some insurance providers offer a travel insurance policy for travel within Canada that is generally much less than the cost of one for international travel "because the risk is significantly less," McAleer said.
Savvy savers can stretch their travel dollars the furthest by booking annual multi-trip plans if they plan on leaving B.C. several times a year.
"Some of those annual plans will cover you for all the travel you might want to take throughout the year in Canada," he noted.
There are two types of trip protection to consider when purchasing travel insurance, however. One is the aforementioned medical coverage that covers travellers during medical emergencies, while the other protects the "travel investments" with a trip cancellation policy. The latter protects the cost travellers paid to travel to and from their destinations, as well as their accommodation and any other activities on their trip.
A comprehensive travel insurance plan will cover travellers for the cost of their trip, trip interruptions, baggage loss, baggage delay, as well as emergency medical expenses.
When it comes to selecting a provider, it is paramount that you know your health and that you ensure you will be covered for any preexisting conditions, McAleer emphasizes.
"So when you're answering a medical questionnaire, you do so correctly," he said.
Travellers should also consider that many "high-risk" activities are not covered under a medical emergency policy, so they should map out what they plan to do on their trip before they purchase a policy. Many providers have a toll-free number that you can call to gain clarity on these crucial points.