Don’t get sick or hurt traveling outside of Canada

Boomers are taking out-of-country vacations in unprecedented numbers.

Now that baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement, many are choosing to escape Canada’s crappy winters and migrate to Florida, Arizona and other sunny climates for a few weeks or months each year. We’re taking boat cruises, visiting Europe and doing all the things we didn’t have the time or money for during our working years. Notwithstanding “pre-existing conditions”, we buy our out-of-country health insurance and off we go. Buyer beware. What happens when we’re in a car accident, develop intestinal problems or suffer a stroke or heart attack? That’s when we learn that insurance companies are in the business of making money for themselves, not serving the needs of policy holders. This realization should come as no surprise but it can make for some frustrating and inconvenient experiences. Not to mention the obstacles presented by health care provided in foreign countries.

Illness is one thing, but car accidents are another matter altogether when you’re travelling, In Florida and many other places, it’s still legal to use hand-held cell phones while driving, and dangerous texting drivers are commonplace. Compounding the bad driver issue is the age of so many of the drivers in the sunshine states as well as the preponderance of impaired drivers. I know more than one person who was run over when someone backed out of a parking spot without looking behind. That reinforces the argument that it’s always safer to back into a parking spot rather than backing out where it’s difficult to see obstacles.

Even minor issues can quickly rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs.

The bottom line is out-of-country insurance is a must but be aware of the hazards inherent in insurance coverage. I once went to “Emergency” on Christmas day in Florida to remove the rubber tip from my hearing device that had become lodged deep inside my ear canal. I couldn’t fish it out. A trip to the hospital involved several hours of waiting before being seen by a doctor (after being triaged by a series of admin staffers). The procedure took five seconds using special forceps and because I had failed to notify my insurance company in advance and get their recommendation for a facility to do the procedure, I was out of pocket $1,750.00. Ouch. After that experience, I found the perfect forceps on Amazon for $25.00 and now take of the problem myself when it happens.

Be well, but more importantly, beware.

Friends were rear-ended in a car accident when they went for a coffee one evening in Florida. A trip to the hospital involving six hours of tests and treatment resulted in a total bill of $37,000.00 as well as a truckload of paperwork and legal followup after they returned to Canada. Fortunately their insurance covered it. Another friend had intestinal issues and a couple of quick trips to Emergency for tests and prescriptions cost $18,000.00. He’s worried this will affect his future insurability and premiums. Someone else had heart issues in Greece and was treated in a hospital that provided no towels or hot water no drinking water to take pills, no toilet paper and minimal care. After moving to a private clinic, he was presented with a bill for thousands of dollars when he checked out two days later. The clinic demanded immediate cash or bank transfer in payment. The clinic would absolutely not deal with the Canadian insurance provider and finally agreed to accept a Visa card payment. Then, he faced a fight with his insurance company for reimbursement when he returned home.

The bottom line is beware, be healthy and bee-line it home to Canada if you can. Even paying for an air ambulance trip at thirty or forty thousand dollars could be cheaper and safer than out-of-country medical care. Call your insurance company before seeking treatment. If possible, get your ass home immediately. The Canadian health care system may not be perfect, but it is relatively hassle-free and we don’t have to mortgage the mobile home to receive care like our American neighbours do. In the meantime, drive very defensively in the United States, assuming, under Trump you qualify for entry. But that’s another subject for another time.

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