Skipping travel insurance when travelling within Canada could cost you
Published Thursday, August 13, 2015 8:59AM EDT
The experience of an Alberta mother who is facing a hefty air ambulance bill after prematurely giving birth in Ontario should be a lesson to all Canadians about their need for travel insurance -- even while travelling within Canada, says one expert.
Amy Savill, from High Prairie, Alta., went into labour two months early while vacationing in Ontario last month. The hospital where she gave birth was not equipped to handle an infant as premature as Savill’s, so they were airlifted to a larger facility in Sudbury.
Savill received a bill for the flight Monday, and while she won’t disclose the exact amount, she says it’s “in the thousands of dollars." She says it never occurred to her that she might need travel insurance within her own country.
“Didn’t even dawn on me. My family is in Nova Scotia, so I travel the country quite often and I’ve never purchased insurance,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday.
But Robin Ingle, the CEO of Ingle International, Novus Health, and Intrepid 24/7, says most Canadians are unaware that not all their medical expenses are covered by the provincial health plans.
“I don’t think a lot of Canadians understand there are gaps in a lot of areas. Air evacuations are one, land ambulances are another -- anything outside of core services may not be covered,” he said.
Ingle, who has worked in the insurance industry for over 35 years, says when Canadians get sick outside their province, most of their medical costs are covered through reciprocal agreements between the provinces, although each province has different agreements.
But he says when it comes to air ambulances, which are generally run by private companies, Canadians almost always have to foot the bill.
Canadians may want to consider buying travel insurance when travelling outside their provinces, Ingle advises. That would avoid a $30,000 air ambulance bill if, for example, they have to be airlifted to Vancouver after getting injured skiing in Whistler.
Ingle says such inter-province insurance is usually easy to get, even for those with existing medical conditions, but he says it’s important to ask questions to ensure that air evacuations are covered.
Some Canadians might also have travel insurance from their employee benefit plans, but Ingle warns they might have restrictions requiring employees to seek permission before undergoing air evacuations.
“You have to ask your HR people within your company, your benefit administrator. You have to be a good consumer and ask some questions,” he says, while also advising getting everything in writing.
As for Savill, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins told CTV Toronto Wednesday that he has heard about her story and says his office is working with Alberta Ministry of Health, “to see how we might find a resolution.” He said he's "hopeful" that Savill will not have to personally foot the bill.
Savill says she’s glad her experience has helped the provinces recognize that there’s a problem in this area.
“This has at least enlightened them that there are some gaps and they’re making efforts to fix it, so that’s really positive,” she said.
As for her baby daughter, Savill says she is doing well, but is still not strong enough to travel back to Alberta without a medical flight.
A medical charity is now trying to raise money to pay for an air ambulance to take the family back to Alberta. If that doesn’t happen, Savilll says they could remain in Ontario until the baby’s scheduled due date. That won’t come until Sept. 22.