Travel insurance in Canada: What BC residents need to know

4 Min Read

You could be in for a rude awakening in other provinces if you don’t do your homework.

While most Canadian travelers 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 traveling outside of their province.

Most doctors in other provinces and territories (except Quebec) will bill their own health plan for services provided to travelers who present their valid BC Services Card. The provinces/territories recover the funding monthly from each other, according to the BC government.

But Will McAleer, Executive Director at the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), told VIA that locals might be in for a rude awakening traveling to other provinces if they haven’t purchased travel insurance that covers them outside of BC

“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.”

Travelers 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 BC resident visits a hospital in another province and has to obtain a prescription for a medication filled afterwards, this cost will not be 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 BC?

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 BC 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 travelers during medical emergencies, while the other protects the “travel investments” with a trip cancellation policy. The latter protects the cost travelers 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 travelers 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 it so correctly,” he said.

Travelers 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.

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