Out for a drive south of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 6, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Purcari Winery, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist! Arrive December 8th.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Travel medical insurance - stuff you should know!!

I saw two posts on two separate forums yesterday that made me want to write about this, because there is so much misinformation out there. And it amazes me how many people travel and don't know the rules.

The first post made me shake my head...

I understood that if you got sick in Mexico (hospitalized) and had all your receipts BC Medical would reimburse you. This was not how it worked in my case - got $630.00 back from $3,000.00. Can anyone explain this to me...? 

Yep. I can.

The term "BC Medical" in the post refers to the British Columbia provincial health insurance plan.

For Canadians, each provincial health plan is different. But they all cover you to some extent for out of country medical emergencies.

And every province has their coverage terms available on their websites. There is no reason you shouldn't know this stuff if you're traveling.

Here is the one for British Colombia...

http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/medical-services-plan/ooc_funding_guidelines.pdf

In this person's case, they paid $3,000 for a private hospital stay. That was their big mistake, going to a private hospital. BC Medical will only pay $75 per day for inpatient care. And they will cover all physician expenses up to whatever it would have cost for the same service back home. In this case, most of that $3,000 was for the room in the private hospital. Had this person gone to a public facility the cost would have been far less.

The Canadian Snowbirds Association did  study on which provinces have the best services for travelers...

http://www.snowbirds.org/downloads/CSATravellersReportCard.pdf

I'll copy and paste the chart here...


A you can see under the "Health Care" headings, there is a wide varience on the services each province provides to it's travelers. So much for Canada's "universal" health care. 

In another forum, there was a post made about how many people travel without any supplementary insurance. As expected, most people do not travel without supplementary insurance. They fear that they will go bankrupt if something catastrophic happens. And, possiby they would. But, it's highly unlikely that something catastrophic will happen. 

I know that most people will be horrified, but we are "self insured". We aren't the type to run to the doctor for every little thing. And we feel that most people are over insured. Insurance is simply a form of gambling. You place a bet (your premium) that something bad will happen to you. If it does, you win. If it doesn't, you lose. Over the long run, the house (the insurance company) always wins, because they know the odds are well in their favor. Of course if you do not place a bet, there is always the possibility that something bad will happen to you anyhow...

In all of our travels over the last 32 years, we have been to a doctor three times. The first time, Ruth got a bladder infection and it was treated under insurance. This was when we were on our honeymoon and we went to a clinic in Ronoake, Virginia. Ruth says she remembers that we did have to pay a portion out of pocket and collect back. We don't remember the details.

Then there was the time Ruth cut her hand in South Africa. You can read about it here...


The bill was $91.35.

And the last doctor visit was to get a blocked ear cleaned out in Puerto Escondid, Mexico. Cost? $50.00.

For fun, I looked up the cost for travel medical insurance for the two weeks we will spend driving through the U.S. next month. For two weeks it would cost us $250.

Now, if we had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of assets, we'd probably pay the $250 and not think anything of it. Drop in the bucket, so to speak.

But for us, in our particular situation, to drop $250 for nothing just doesn't make sense to me. 

So far, we are winning the travel insurance gamble. In fact, over 32 years of travel, we are way ahead of the game. If you have bought travel insurance and have used it...then you're a winner too!

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Don't forget to order your new tablet...shipping begins September 30th. Under $50 for a tablet computer!


Any "I Dream of Jeannie" fans in Canada? I'm ordering this for our motorhome travels this winter!

20 DVD's for under a buck a piece...





27 comments:

  1. "Insurance is simply a form of gambling" <---THIS. The smartest decision in my life was retiring at age 37. The second smartest? "Gambling" that I could thrive (for over 15 years now) without spending tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary health insurance premiums.

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    1. Yeah, but you're a smart guy Dugg... :-)

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  2. When Norma broke her hip in Tucson, AZ we were sure happy we had insurance. Our travel insurance chartered a jet and flew us home because they calculated the flight would be cheaper than paying for repairs in a US hospital. The cost of the jet was $20,000 CAN and the ambulance and two nights in the Tucson hospital was another huge cost. They say to allow for $1,000 PER HOUR for US hospitals. After being treated in a Canadian hospital, the travel insurance flew me (they would only pay for one ticket) back to Tucson and paid all expenses to return the motorhome to Canada (gas, RV parks, ferry, etc).

    In Palm Springs last winter a Canadian neighbor suffered a heart attack and was taken by ambulance (where they used the paddles on her twice) to a local hospital where she stayed two days while they put in a single stint. Her total bill was just under $250,000 USA.

    We always buy insurance. Our average cost over the last 15 years has probably been $2,000 CA per year. That $30,000 total would not even come close to covering the broken hip incident. Insurance is cheap, no matter what it costs.

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    1. Yes, there will always be someone with a "I'm glad I had insurance" type of story. I was waiting to see who would be the first. Happy that you won on the gamble, Croft!

      Who we never hear from is the thousands of people who pay the premium and lose.

      Having said that...if I had your retirement income, I also would have insurance. Like I said...drop in the bucket...

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    2. Probably 95% of people never use their insurance in any given year, maybe more. The more you travel the more your risk adds up The question you have to ask yourself is, "am I prepared for that possible one time $250,000 US ($331,000 CAN) expense)? Most of us are not, regardless of our retirement income.

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    3. And in fact...if the bill was to be that high, I would not care if I was bankrupt. I would care that I was alive...

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  3. When Gordon got valley fever in AZ we were very happy we had insurance. It was an expensive illness. You're going to get caught one of these times!

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    1. Glad you won Sandra...we're both winners!

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  4. For me, I get that insurance through work automatically with my benefits so I don't need to worry. But it is a personal choice for sure, no one wants to make you purchase something you may never use,or have cause to use. But be careful and ask questions to the one providing the Insurance, lots of fine print there. I have seen claims where pre-existing conditions are the cause and then the claim is denied (like if you are taking pills for your heart and suffer a heart attack). It's important to make your Insurance broker advise you on what is covered and what is not. Not all Insurance companies have the same wordings (they aren't standard for Travel/Medical Insurance). Make a list of questions before you go in, play the "what if" came and take notes. Make sure you get a business card from the person you talk to. It's important to know what you are covered for, and more importantly what you aren't.

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    1. I also had travel insurance though a couple of the companies that I worked for, which was a nice benefit.

      You are right, you have to go through those policies with a fine tooth comb because if you don't answer a question correctly or don't mention a pre-existing condition, they will get you and leave you holding the bag. The insurance companies job is to make as much money as they can off their customers.

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  5. My wife will not travel without travel insurance and she cannot be convinced otherwise, , expensive yes, but at least we can travel.

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    1. Yep, and that's all there is to it. If the two of us didn't agree, then we would likely pay.

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  6. Steve and I were just discussing this last night. Traveling uninsured in Mexico is one thing. Traveling uninsured in the US is a whole 'nother gamble. Glad you won!

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    1. It's all about the odds. Fortunately, they are on our side.

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  7. We have the great Obama insurance out of South Dakota witch pays nothing out of state. Went to the ER in Colorado was there one hour the bill $3500 insurance paid $0..

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  8. I wonder if Canadians are paying "full boat retail" prices for US hospitals. When I had a heart procedure, the bill was $100,000 for a three hours on the table, and an over night stay. My insurance paid exactly half of that, due to their ability to negotiate better prices. The uninsured in the US would have to pay all of that bill. Prices here are just crazy.

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  9. Thankfully we've been covered for any of our out of country experiences as a result of a company plan. Even now that T.C. is retired, it's still there. All it meant in Europe was, we paid, they reimbursed, since they couldn't quite figure out how to "make it work" for Ex-Pats in Europe.
    Even without the coverage (or simple Euros in/Euros out arrangement) we could have handled the expense. Not sure I would have wanted to pony up for a premium for the entire four and a half years we were away however..
    Now, when we were in Puerto Rico, we had the same type of coverage (everything) , but our "Health Plan" was to get on a plane and get outta Dodge if either of us got seriously sick.
    There were horror stories or those going into hospital in P.R. and getting worse instead of better. Sooner come home.

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    1. You would think "The Company" could have figured out a better plan for you when you were in Europe but at least they had you covered if though it meant you paying first and then they reimbursed you for it.

      That would be our "heath plan" too, if we are able and it is that serious, just get on the plane and fly home but again it would depend on what was the matter and what the country's medical situation is.

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  10. It's not just "pre-existing conditions", Ruth, that will negate a travel insurance claim. It includes "undeclared tests" - even if the results were negative for whatever disease or ailment. As Kevin said, the odds are always in favour of the house. That said, we do buy medical insurance whenever we travel to the USA because of the exorbitant hospital fees as mentioned by readers above. However, last year while in the UK we needed a doctor appointment and medication. Both cost ZERO as we were told it is against the law to charge an individual over the age of 60 for medical services or prescriptions in Britain. Brits may believe they NHS (National Health Service) is in shambles, but based on personal experience we found no evidence of that.

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    1. Yes, you are right about that too and by declaring both pre-existing conditions and declared tests, then they up the price of the premium. You are totally at their mercy!

      We have done quite a bit of research into the US medical situation when you don't have insurance and in many cases you can get reductions in the costs when you say you aren't insured. Also going to clinics opposed to emergency is also much, much cheaper. On top of all that once you are back in your own province you can then submit the claim to the Ministry of Health for all/partial reimbursement.

      We had looked into the NHS system as well when we were over there and it sounds like a good system as well.

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  11. I gave up my private medical last month. It's a gamble no doubt. I have Mexican social medicine and everyone we know has had good service. It's not a private room, hotel style stay by any means but I'm not there to entertain guests. If I have a terminal illness I'd rather spend the little time I have left on the beach somewhere than sitting in a hospital hoping some treatment may save my life at a cost of 250,000. All private insurance has a cap and once you use that up you're screwed anyway. So if you have an second event, at least in the U.S., you're on your own. Exercise, eat right, and the rest is left to fate. I won't bankrupt my spouse to make an attempt to live a few months more or some other b.s.

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    1. We wouldn't hesitate to use the Mexico health system, I think they do a good job. We also don't require a 4 star hotel like atmosphere. And yes, you are correct about possibly being denied further claims if you have already had a big claim, doesn't seem right to us!

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  12. What is really sad about travel insurance for seniors is when the Premiums become too high with age, that the senior is then forced into not being able to continue to go south during the winter.

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    1. I agree or when you have health issues that can also raise your premiums so much that it forces you to not go. The insurance companies don't care about you they only care about making their money off of you.

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