Travel Insurance for Seniors
Canadians often have the idea that they’ll travel once in retirement or semi-retirement.
If you’re travelling outside of Canada, even a relatively minor healthcare visit can destroy your budget. In case of a medical emergency, travel insurance can literally be a lifesaver.
The thing is, many insurance companies drastically increase premiums, or even refuse coverage to older applicants.
There are several ways to keep costs down without sacrificing the quality of your coverage. Here are some tips for protecting yourself while you’re travelling.
1. Some credit cards include medical insurance, but often only up to age 65. Check your policy to see what’s covered. Often there’s a limit to how much they’ll pay for claims.
Here are a couple of credit cards to check out:
- The National Bank World Elite MasterCard gives even those over 65 years old 15 days of emergency travel insurance plus it covers you for travel-related costs like airport parking, seat selection and checked baggage fees. Buy top-up coverage for any extra days.
- If you’re more of a road-trip traveller check BMO Cashback World Elite MasterCard for free road-side assistance in Canada and the US as well as short-term emergency medical benefits.
2. If you travel twice a year or more, it’s less expensive to buy an annual plan. A good deal if you just want to go across the border for the weekend. The Canadian Snowbirds Association and CAA have plans tailored to their members.
3. Travel agents often sell travel insurance and may offer it when you’re booking your trip. However, these policies can be more expensive. Compare costs from several providers with a service such as Kanetix.ca or tninsurance.ca.
This travel insurance review can give you a good starting point.
4. Keep an eye on the trip duration cut-offs. If you’re taking a longer trip, shaving off a couple of days can put you in a lower price band.
5. If you have a pre-existing medical condition definitely shop around. Premiums can vary considerably based on how they determine the risk category (e.g. the number of medications you take, date of diagnosis, stability and treatment). If necessary, consult your doctor for assistance with the application. It’s important to match your personal medical history to the policy type.
6. Premiums fluctuate from age 59 to 89 and are usually in banded 5-year increments. Be aware of whether the insurer bases the rate on age at purchase or age at travel. You can lock in a lower rate even one day before your birthday if you’re heading into the next “band.”
7. Don’t get sucked in to buying all the “bells and whistles” – lost luggage, trip cancellation, car rental. The primary focus should be the safest medical plan covering the biggest claim risk.
If travel insurance availability or cost is an issue, one option is to travel within Canada. Each provincial health plan has reciprocal agreements with other provinces. Keep in mind that air ambulance and a few other incidentals are not covered between provinces, so you might want to purchase travel insurance to cover those.
The bottom line
Retirees have more time to travel. However, health and age become the main drivers for where we go and how long we stay because they determine what we pay for travel insurance.
Purchase travel medical at the lowest cost for the appropriate coverage that matches your individual health needs. It’s up to the customer to determine if they are eligible for coverage and at what price, based on the information provided by the insurer.
Senior travellers must complete a medical questionnaire. Be as accurate as possible. The penalty for even a minor misrepresentation or error with many insurers can be the same as if no coverage was purchased at all – you’re on the hook for all medical bills.
Only buy what you need, and you’ll save a lot of money.