Buying Travel Health Insurance

Travel Medical Insurance is not really something I had planned to write about because it is such an individual purchase and really depends on where you come from, how old you are etc.  But it turns out it has been one of the biggest hurdles I have had to clear in planning my RTW trip. 

Being Canadian you would think it would be easier for me than for someone from another country, like the USA because of our socialized medical coverage.  Unfortunately it doesn’t provide much coverage outside of Canada so we are always encouraged to buy supplementary insurance.  Again I thought it would be relatively simple to buy travel insurance for my two year trip, and since I have Ontario Health Insurance (OHIP) it should be relatively inexpensive, right?  Wrong!

First it turns out you have to apply for a special travel extension for OHIP, which is only available for a maximum of two years.  “To be eligible for continuous OHIP coverage during one of these absences, you must first have been physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days in each of the 12-month periods for 5 consecutive years immediately before the absence.”  That means I had to live in Canada for 10 years in order to get a 2 year extension.  And again OHIP only provides minimal coverage, ‘very limited funding for a limited range of medical services’.

When I booked my air travel , AirTreks gave me free medical coverage for the portion of my trip that I had confirmed, which would take me to May 11, 2011 in Cairo.  Good to get me going, but not good enough to make me feel confident during my travels.  So I went in search of more medical insurance. What a nightmare.  Every company I called would tell me I couldn’t get coverage for longer than a year, and had to book the full insurance plan BEFORE I leave the country.  One person suggested I interrupt my travels at the one year mark, return to Canada for one day in order to buy more insurance for the second half of my journey.  Then I discovered ex-pat health insurance.  I guess I’ll be an ‘ex-pat’  for the next couple of years.  But premium rates varied greatly… and I could only find high end policies.  I was looking at about $2500CDN per year… IF I don’t visit the US.  If I include US and Canadian coverage the premium hits $4500CDN. That is more than I have spent on airfare so far.  And then I stumbled onto Ingle Ex-Pat Medical Insurance… I have $5million coverage, that I purchase for one year and can renew while on the road… $750 per year!!! 

Basically the lesson I learned from all this is the importance of medical insurance, and giving yourself enough time to confirm the coverage you have, and where you can get the best possible rate!  Make sure you read the fine details too, you may not be covered for that scuba lesson you are planning to take.

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