If you're planning a trip to the United States, you probably aren't thinking about insurance coverage. However, if you fall ill or are injured in the United States, or if you're driving and involved in a car accident -- are you sure you'll be covered? Do you need to notify your insurance company before traveling south of the border? Read on to learn more about how and when the most common types of insurance (health, auto, and life) are affected by out-of-country travels.
Although your health insurance should cover nearly all injuries and illnesses which take place at home -- or in other provinces -- most provincial health insurance plans have very limited coverage beyond Canadian borders. If you are injured or fall ill in another country, you may be responsible for all medical expenses incurred while in that country, and can even face the additional costs of being medically transported or evacuated. Even if you're just going on a short day trip, and think that you'll be able to easily cross back into Canada if you have a medical emergency, you shouldn't take this assumption for granted. If severely injured, you may not be in a condition to be transported back to Canada until you are stabilized.
The good news is that you can purchase temporary health insurance coverage at a fairly low cost. Before purchasing this insurance, be sure to ask:
- Will your pre-existing conditions be covered?
- Are there any activities that will be exempted from coverage? For example, some health insurance policies will not cover activities deemed dangerous, such as sky-diving, bungee jumping, or others.
- Will the insurance cover all necessary emergency treatment?
- Will the insurance cover transportation back to Canada if necessary?
- Will the coverage be valid if you travel to a location for which a travel advisory has been issued?
- The Canadian government will occasionally issue travel advisories for certain areas deemed dangerous for travel (often due to war or terrorism). If you travel to one of these areas while a travel advisory is in effect, your insurance coverage may be void.
You can drive across the Canadian border in a number of different places -- but once you pass over into the United States, is your auto insurance coverage still effective? Is your driver's license even valid? The good news is that there is very little action you'll need to take in order to safely drive in the US.
- Driver's license
- If you plan to do some driving in the United States, you can apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) through the Canadian Automobile Association. This permit is good for one year from the date it is issued, and will allow you to drive in the US without receiving any additional certifications.
- Auto insurance coverage
- Unlike health insurance coverage, most Canadian auto insurance policies will cover you and your vehicle during short trips to the US. However, you may wish to contact your insurer before embarking, just to ensure that you'll be covered.
It's never a pleasant subject to ponder, especially before a vacation, but you should also ensure that any life insurance coverage you have will still be valid while you travel outside the country. Although most Canadian life insurance policies will remain in effect regardless of where you are at the time you pass away, you'll want to ensure this insurance (or your travel health insurance) will cover the transportation of your remains if you pass away while abroad. You'll also want to contact your insurer if you are planning to travel anywhere under a current travel advisory -- it's possible that this type of trip will temporarily void your coverage.
Contact an insurance company in your area for more information on what protections you have when you cross the border into the United States.