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Find out the terms of your travel health insurance

(NC) As much as Canadians love to travel, more than one third (35 percent) don't buy supplemental health insurance for medical emergencies outside the country, says a survey* conducted recently by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA).

“This kind of coverage is specifically designed to protect against unforeseen medical costs that can quickly soar to thousands of dollars in just a few hours,” says THIA president, John Thain.

Yet one third of survey respondents admitted that a thousand dollars or more in unforeseen medical expenses would represent a financial crisis for them, and only 6 percent were aware that their provincial health insurance covered as little as 9 percent of out-of-country emergency medical services.

The survey also revealed that respondents were generally unaware of the extraordinarily high cost of medical care abroad. When asked to estimate the average cost of treating a fracture in the United States, only 28.5 percent identified $10,000 as the correct figure, although the cost of mending a fracture in Manhattan or Miami (among the most expensive regions for health care) might easily be many times higher.

“The costs of modern medicine are extraordinarily high, no matter where you travel,” says Thain. “And since we can't rely on government insurance to cover us sufficiently outside of the country, private travel insurance is as important as their passport.

“Many people may already have some coverage through pension plans, employer benefits, or credit cards. But these often have exclusions and limitations and you have to know what your travel insurance plan covers, and what is not covered,” says Thain. “Travel insurance is not a substitute for your comprehensive provincial insurance. It is designed to cover medical emergencies only, or unexpected illnesses or conditions that can't wait to be treated until you get home.”

THIA gives the following tips for the protection of travellers:

• Be aware of your medical history, why you take certain medications and tests. And if you are unsure, ask your doctor.

• Understand the different types of plans available: annual multi-trip plans for frequent travellers; single trip policies for snowbirds; special risk plans for adventure seekers; plans for those in less-than-perfect health.

• Call your insurance company if you have any questions. They have dedicated phone numbers and staff available to answer any questions. And if at all possible, don't wait until the last minute to buy insurance. This is an important purchase, and you want to have plenty of time understand what you will be covered for.

Word count: 413

Sources: *National online survey of 1025 Canadians, conducted October 1-2, 2013.

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