If you are a snowbird, planning for a medical emergency should be up there with packing. Below are 10 things you need to know to help you protect your health and wealth while out of the country.
1. Don’t Count on Canadian Health Care
Your Canadian government health insurance plan, when you are outside of the country, may cover less than you think; and when it comes to emergency medical treatment, provincial healthcare may pay only minimal amounts -- and at the same rates as they would pay for services in your home province.Just to put that into perspective—treating a broken leg in the U.S. can cost about $3500 USD1, whereas a provincial plan may pay $502 for an outpatient hospital visit.
2. Get Insured
The costs of medical care while outside of Canada can add up, even for small incidents. Depending on the policy, insurance can cover everything from prescription medication to hospital care. Travel insurance for long trips can get pricey, so shop around. Ensure you bring all applicable policy documents with you when you cross the border, as well as proof of when you left Canada—like a boarding pass, or even a receipt from the border duty-free store.
3. Cover It All
A policy that covers you for $1,000,000 may seem high, but if it’s not cost prohibitive, consider buying as much coverage as you can. An annual policy, which would be effective for a year, may be less expensive than a policy that covers you for a single trip. Some annual plans limit the number of days you are covered while out of the country, so if you need to top up the number of days on your annual plan for an extended trip, be sure to contact your insurance company before you leave.
4. Disclose Everything
When it comes to insurance, honesty is the only policy. Even though it might cost more to purchase insurance if you disclose previous or existing health issues, it will minimize the risk of your insurer denying your claims. Also, if you will be doing anything adventurous on your trip, like bungee jumping or mountain climbing, be aware as some insurers will not cover what they consider hazardous.
5. Not Going to the US?
Many snowbirds are heading to Mexico or other sunny spots outside North America. Even though the cost of getting medical treatments may be relatively inexpensive in some countries, a travel medical insurance policy may still be a good idea. A visit to the doctor might only cost $35 in some countries, but it could cost $50,000 or more if you need to be airlifted back home.
6. Know Before You Go
Wherever you go, do a little research ahead of time to identify services that you might need in an emergency. Locate a nearby clinic, hospital and know what to dial. 911 will access help in the U.S. But in Mexico or elsewhere the emergency number may be different.
7. B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Prescriptions)
If you have prescription medications, some provinces will allow you to obtain a 200-day supply of medication for travel purposes.Always bring a copy of your prescriptions with you. If you do need to fill a prescription at a U.S. pharmacy, you’ll need a local doctor to write the prescription, but you’ll know what you need. For ease of customs clearance, have your medication close at hand, and in clearly labelled containers.
8. The Power of Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is essential to allow someone else to make decisions on the medical care you need. While out of country, it is important to have your powers of attorney up-to-date. Additionally, you may consider executing the powers of attorney in the state where you will be staying to ensure that they will be recognized.
9. Good Things Shouldn’t Come To An End—Especially Health Care
Different provinces have different rules for how long you can be out of the province before you lose your government health insurance benefits. If you are out of province for a prolonged period, you may have to reinstate your benefits by living in your province for a pre-determined period of time. Make sure you know the rules and are able to prove you have fulfilled your residency requirements.
10. Writing It Off
Come tax time, health insurance, including out-of-province travel medical insurance premiums, may be eligible as part of the medical tax credit —a nice perk. You can include the premiums for extended health and dental programs up to a limit based on a ceiling or a percentage of income—whichever is less. Ask your insurer for a receipt stating the cost of your medical coverage (excluding any trip cancellation or lost baggage coverage). Medical expenses you incurred outside of the country may also be eligible.
Since even a small accident can mean a significant medical bill in the U.S., always make sure you are insured, even if just going cross-border shopping for a day. You can leave your insurance information with family members, keep copies with you, and carry family phone numbers with you wherever you go. Better safe than sorry!
About Meghan MacDonald, CIM®
Meghan is Investment Advisor with the MacDonald Wealth Group, who serves, retirees, business owners, professionals and their families throughout the Okanagan.
She specializes in building relationships with, and meeting the unique wealth management needs of women investors.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ASPE ISSUE BRIEF. Common Sports Injuries: Incidence and Average Charges. Arpit Misra.
2. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/ohip/travel.aspx
Information sourced from MoneyTalkGo.com For full article, go to: www.moneytalkgo.com/snowbird-migration-10-things-know-protecting-wealth/
This document was prepared by Meghan MacDonald, Investment Advisor for informational purposes only and is subject to change. The contents of this document are not endorsed by TD Wealth Private Investment Advice, a division of TD Waterhouse Canada Inc.