Insights & advice
Travel insurance for snowbirds
August 2022 – 15 min read
Travel medical coverage can be essential if you’re spending time outside Canada
Your provincial coverage and/or personal insurance likely may not cover many emergency medical costs while you’re travelling outside the country
Travel medical insurance can be added as an affordable extra to a personal insurance plan
You can get health and dental coverage, including emergency travel medical insurance, in 15 minutes or less
What’s in this article?
Are you spending part of your retirement outside of Canada? Don’t get caught without coverage for medical emergencies that might arise while you’re enjoying your well-deserved time in the sun.
Do snowbirds need travel medical insurance?
It’s a good idea.
When you’re outside the country, any coverage you have – whether through the government or a personal insurance plan – will no longer cover for you for any routine or most emergency medical expenses. (That said, many personal insurance plans, including Canada Life’s Freedom to Choose™, offer emergency travel medical coverage as an add-on.)
Take your health card with you
Before you jet off, make sure you haven’t left your provincial health information (like your card if you have one, for example) behind – and ensure that it’s valid and has your most up-to-date personal information on it, including your current address.
How long can you be out of Canada and keep your health insurance?
This will depend on the province you live in. In Ontario, for example, you can be away for 7 months out of 12 and keep your provincial coverage for up to 2 years if:
- You have a valid health card
- Make Ontario your primary residence
- Will be in Ontario for 153 days (5 months) in each of the 2 years before you leave
Since many personal insurance plans require that you have provincial coverage as well, this is particularly important to keep an eye on. You should always check with your provincial health agency to make sure you’re aware of the specific residency requirements or special extensions that may be available.
What does emergency travel medical insurance for snowbirds cover?
This varies from plan to plan, but if you take Canada Life’s Freedom to Choose as an example, it can cover needs like:
Emergency care, like an injury or sudden illness
Medical evacuation, either home to Canada or the nearest place with an appropriate level of care
Emergencies due to a pre-existing condition, although a level of pre-travel stability may be required
Is single trip or annual travel insurance better for snowbirds?
Travel insurance is usually offered in 2 ways: Annual (which allows unlimited trips in a 12 month period, although the number of days may be limited) or single-trip, which covers a single trip for a specific amount of days.
If you’re a snowbird who plans to be away for 1 extended trip, annual travel medical insurance may be a better fit.
If you’re a senior who plans on taking a few, shorter trips, however, single-trip insurance may be more useful. If that’s you, consider an insurance plan like Freedom to Choose health and dental insurance, which allows you to add on emergency travel medical coverage in multi-trip bundles of 30, 60 or 90 days per trip, with no limitation on the number of trips per year.
This means, for example, you could take a 30 day trip in the spring and another 30 day trip in the fall, all with the purchase of the same 30 day add-on coverage to your policy.
Can you get travel medical insurance if you’re over 70?
Yes, although you may pay a higher premium than a younger person would. In fact, Canada Life’s Freedom to Choose offers emergency travel medical coverage up to age 80.
How much does travel medical insurance cost if you’re a snowbird?
This will be determined by the amount of coverage (for how many days, what the plan actually covers, etc.) and by your age. For example: If you’re 60 and adding it as extra coverage to Freedom to Choose's Select plan, here’s what this add-on could cost each month, depending on the trip length you want covered each year.
|30 days||60 days||90 days|
|Travel insurance add-on cost each month||$15||$31.50||$50.30|
Evaluate how much time you’ll be spending outside Canada this year, and find an insurance plan that works for your travel needs
Make sure your provincial health card is valid before you travel, and ensure you’re spending the correct number of days in Canada to maintain coverage
Get health and dental coverage (which can include emergency travel medical insurance as optional coverage) in 15 minutes or less