U.S. health-care system increases charges and adopts aggressive pursuit of prompt payment
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U.S. health-care system increases charges and adopts aggressive pursuit of prompt payment

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U.S. health-care system increases charges and adopts aggressive pursuit of prompt payment

- Emergency Medical Coverage a Must More Than Ever for Canadian Snowbirds-

The cool crisp weather of autumn heralds the inevitable coming of the Canadian winter and, for many of us, it is also a reminder that it is time to begin planning that extended winter getaway.

Canadian snowbirdsThis year, more than ever, a key component of that winter escape is insurance coverage for medical emergencies to help ensure that an extended break in the sun doesn’t turn into a financial catastrophe. Provincial government and employee health insurance plans don’t always cover all medical emergency costs incurred abroad.

In 2009, Canadians made 18 million overnight trips to the U.S., staying an average of eight nights.  This accounted for nearly 70% of all overnight trips by Canadians outside the country. In particular, snowbirds (defined by insurers as people aged over 55 and travelling for more than 31 days) tended to visit such U.S. sunbelt destinations as Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona.

“Many people have a horror story about the price tag for health care in the U.S.,” says, Adrian Hall, Managing Director of RSA Travel Insurance. “It can cost $5,000 or more for each day of an in-patient hospital stay south of the border. This is an expense many snowbirds just can’t afford.”

In addition, recent changes to the U.S. health-care system have led to increased charges, lower discounts, and aggressive pursuit of prompt payment. Added to that, U.S. hospitals are clamping down on those who get discounts for which they are ineligible, and they are using collection agencies more frequently.

An uncertain economy is also adding to the mix. 

Factors including:

•  Fluctuations in the exchange rates because travellers pay insurance premiums in Canadian dollars but receive services  purchased by insurers with U.S. dollars;

•  The annual rate of inflation in the U.S. medical sector, which ranges between 7% and 10%;

•  The economic downturn in the U.S., which has led to a decline in employment and an ensuing rise in the number of uninsured patients. As a result, health-care providers are charging more, offering fewer discounts, and tightening up eligibility rules for those discounts.

Overall coverage limits for emergency medical insurance range from $1 million to unlimited. It is recommended that snowbirds buy a minimum of $2 million in coverage—emergency medical insurance policies typically provide maximum coverage of $5 million for unexpected emergencies. Such coverage will include hospital care, physicians, drugs, air ambulance, repatriation, meals and accommodation, vehicle return, and even a “medical concierge” to help pull it all together. Canadians should contact their broker or agent prior to departing on a trip to ensure they have appropriate coverage while outside their province or territory of residence.  A key component of emergency medical insurance is the 24/7 assistance provided in the case of an emergency.

Most Canadians are living longer and healthier, and a winter escape to a warmer climate is a big part of that enhanced quality of life.  “Emergency medical coverage provides protection for Canadian snowbirds against the unexpected and assistance to continue enjoying these getaways for a long time to come,” adds Hall.

RSA Canada 

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