A recent national survey of Canadians and their travel habits and their understanding of provincial health coverage revealed that 35% of Canadian travellers do not buy travel health insurance. “Only 6% of Canadians realize that provincial health plans cover approximately 9% of medical expenses when travelling outside of Canada,” said John Thain, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA) who conducted the survey. “Travel health insurance is designed to protect against unforeseen medical expenses.”

Of respondents:

!!! Twenty-one per cent indicated that they have received medical treatment while travelling.

!!! The most common reasons for seeking medical care include gastrointestinal issues (21.8%), infection (16.2%) and fractures (10.7%).

!!! Sixty per cent of those who received medical attention while away had extended medical insurance to pay for the associated expenses.

!!! Most (59.3%) would pay whatever necessary for medical treatment.

!!! Associated medical expenses of more than $1,000 would represent a financial crisis for 33.6% of respondents and 32% indicated that unforeseen medical expenses of $5,000 or more would represent a financial crisis.

!!! Only 28.5% correctly identified the average cost of treating a fracture in the US ($10,000).

Other interesting survey findings include: Thirty per cent of Canadians plan to travel this winter; Thirty-one per cent consider themselves risk takers; Thirty per cent report binge drinking on vacation; Ninety-four per cent of travellers pack underwear.

“Travel health insurance should be as essential to a vacation as underwear,” said Thain. “Many people will already have some coverage through employers or credit cards and it’s important to understand existing coverage and ensure you have the necessary supplemental coverage.”

THiA recommends that Canadians do the following to have carefree vacations: Know your health and consult a health care provider if you have any questions; Know your trip – How long will you be gone? Are you a snowbird? Will you be travelling many times during the year? Do you plan to scuba dive?; Understand your travel insurance policy – Insurance companies have staff available to answer any questions related to policies. The THiA web site (http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/16465334/THIA%20Consumer%20Brochure/THIA%20Consumer%20Brochure.pdf) has a guide available to help Canadians understand their travel insurance needs before they investigate policies.

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