Canadians brace for increased travel costs

Travel Insurance Options

RBC Insurance survey
Canada News-Wire
26 Jun 2008

As soaring gas prices and higher travel costs hit Canadian travelers, a new survey by RBC Insurance and Ipsos Reid suggests many travelers don’t feel the need to protect their travel investment.

The survey reports that 37 per cent of Canadians never purchase travel insurance when travelling on vacation to the United States, a country where medical costs are among the highest in the world. These Canadians are left potentially exposed to the high costs of the U.S. healthcare system. In fact, a four-day stay in a U.S. hospital for an appendectomy could cost US$39,400, with only CDN$1,600 covered by a government health insurance plan (GHIP). A one-day stay in a U.S. hospital for a broken arm and wrist could cost US$32,600, with only CDN$400 covered by a GHIP.

“As fuel costs rise and the economy slows, travelers may be exposed to increased travel costs and capacity cuts; so the need to protect their investment is even greater now,” said Stan Seggie, president and CEO of the travel insurance division of RBC Insurance. “Comprehensive travel insurance including trip interruption, trip cancellation and travel emergency medical insurance will help protect them.”

Many Canadians also assume they are covered through existing travel plans. For example, the survey shows 43 per cent of travelers feel they don’t need to buy travel insurance because they have sufficient coverage through work or their credit card.

Often these plans don’t offer features such as up-front payments of medical expenses (when possible), 24-hour multilingual support, assistance in finding a local doctor or hospital, emergency transportation by air ambulance and coverage extending to children. In addition, there may be limits or restrictions on claim amounts, number of travel days, age and certain types of medical emergencies.

“Travel insurance is a minor cost for most vacationers. At a time when travelers are paying more for fuel and other goods and services, the last thing they want to see is a large travel medical bill,” said David Redekop, principal research associate, Conference Board of Canada. “Purchasing travel insurance when travelling to another province or country is one of the most prudent purchases a traveler can make.”

The survey also reports that 55 per cent of Canadian travelers never purchase travel insurance when they travel outside their home province but within Canada. Sixty-two per cent of Canadians believe they don’t need to purchase travel insurance when travelling to another province within Canada because they believe their provincial health plans will cover their medical costs.

In fact, government health insurance plans may limit reimbursement for expenses such as land and air ambulance services and X-rays. An air ambulance with a full medical team travelling from Calgary to Toronto, for example, can cost $28,000 and is not covered by a GHIP.

“When Canadians plan for a summer trip, their main focus is on having fun, not whether they may need to cancel the trip at the last minute or get sick while away,” added Seggie. “However, before they leave, Canadians need to ask themselves if they could afford to pay out thousands in hospital bills or lose the cost of their vacation. If they can’t, they need to consider purchasing travel insurance.”