Read the fine print: Travel insurance can bring expensive surprises

However much you agonize over your mortgage and investments, double that effort level when buying travel medical insurance

Paying an uncompetitive interest rate on a mortgage can cost you thousands, and bad investment decisions can be harmful, too. But lack of due diligence in purchasing travel medical insurance can cause extremely expensive surprises.

We’re reminded of this by the case of the Saskatchewan couple that were charged $950,000 (U.S.) for medical services rendered after the wife gave birth nine weeks early while vacationing in Hawaii. As reported, their travel insurance provider denied coverage.

We seem to have absorbed the message that travel medical coverage is mandatory in all situations where someone crosses the border into the United States. But there’s work to do in ensuring that people buy policies that will actually cover their bills.

It’s a cliché to say, but it’s the fine print in travel medical policies that causes grief to people making claims. The biggest pitfall with travel medical insurance is the requirement to notify your insurer of any pre-existing medical conditions you have.

When applying for travel insurance, you are usually asked a series of medical health questions to uncover pre-existing conditions. But it’s sometimes possible to purchase travel insurance without answering any questions – if you’re using travel medical provided on your credit card or a group plan at work, for example.

Insurers typically require that, any medical conditions be stable (no new developments) for periods of 90, 180 or 360 days prior to your trip, depending on the policy. If you make a claim and you’re found to have a condition that wasn’t disclosed or hasn’t been stable for the required period, your insurer will deny payment.

These stability requirements can and often trip people up. Even a medical test, will deem you medically unstable, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

Canadian insurance provider has made concerted efforts to help address this issue, through the use of health assessment technology that personalizes each policy to meet each applicants’ unique health circumstances.

Coverage can be provided for over 1,300 medical conditions including transplants, epilepsy, stroke, heart conditions, diabetes, and cancer. All without medical stability period limitations and/or exclusions. However, coverage is not a sure thing. Some severe medical conditions and treatments may not qualify for coverage.

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