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What You Need To Know About Out-Of-Country Health Insurance

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Out-of-country, or Out-of-Province, Health Insurance is something I have ALWAYS thought of, and purchased, before taking any trip outside of my home province.

I’ve started to realize, however, not everyone thinks about purchasing Out-of-Country Health Insurance – or even Out-of-Province Health Insurance – before leaving home for a Caribbean vacation, or a trip to another province to visit family and friends.

Not making sure you are properly covered in the event of a medical emergency far from home could be disastrous to your financial health.

Just ask this Canadian from British Columbia who became ill on a trip to Israel. She HAD purchased Out-of-Country Health Insurance but still became embroiled in a travel insurance nightmare and, in the end, had to pay over $1,000 of her own money to cover some remaining costs. Without coverage, her battle could have left her bankrupt!

My parents instilled in me a deep respect for Out-Of-Country Health Insurance. They never left home without it. So making sure I’m covered with extra insurance every time I leave the borders of Ontario comes naturally to me.

It wasn’t until I talking on the phone with my sister, who was on a skiing trip to Utah at the time, that I discovered something scary.


My sister did not realize that OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) would NOT cover her in the event of a serious illness or accident while in the United States. It was her understanding that OHIP would cover any medical expenses incurred in the United States the same way we are automatically covered here at home.

She was in the United States on vacation, had no Out-of-Country Health Insurance, AND she was on a skiing vacation.

Skiing. One of the more dangerous activities one can do while on vacation.

I guess my sister missed those conversations with my parents about the importance of Out-Of-Country Health Insurance.

Luckily, the remainder of my sister’s vacation went well, and she had no need to seek medical attention while she was outside of Canada.


Last January I attended the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan as a guest of Ford Canada. I was part of a large group of writers from various parts of Canada spending 2 days in this U.S. city. The topic of travel insurance came up during one of our conversations. A few of the writers admitted that they had traveled on this trip WITHOUT purchasing any Out-of-Country Health Insurance. In fact, one writer, who lives just across the border in Windsor, said “If I get sick, I’ll just drive back over the bridge and go to the hospital at home”.

Yikes. What would happen in an accident, or a medical emergency, if they needed to be hospitalized immediately? What if they couldn’t just “drive back over the bridge”? This Canadian could have been facing thousands of dollars in medical expenses.


A recent visit from my niece and her husband from Tennessee, who traveled to Canada this summer WITHOUT Out-of-Country Health Insurance, had me investigating the need for additional health insurance for them. They had NO idea they needed to verify if their existing insurance carrier would cover medical emergencies in Canada, and if not, purchase additional health insurance. They thought (incorrectly) that our provincial health care system would cover them for any required hospital care.

I would not be surprised if, with the reputation Canadians have for “free healthcare”, many other Americans think this same way.

We have great health care here in Canada, and we often take for granted that we can just walk into our doctor’s office, or the hospital, and seek medical treatment for whatever ails us, “free of charge”.

Americans take note. Free for us, does not mean free for you. When you come to visit your friendly neighbours to the north, you may find out we aren’t so friendly when it comes to seeking payment for medical expenses. Just like Canadians who travel to the U.S., Americans who travel to Canada need to make sure they have Out-of-Country Health Insurance to cover medical emergencies.


  • Some medical, and paramedical, expenses may only be partially covered while visiting another province – or not covered at all. For example, services NOT covered by OHIP outside of Ontario include:

         ***Treatment that is generally accepted, in Ontario, as experimental, for research

              or a study

         ***Cosmetic surgery

         ***Home care

         ***Prescription drugs

         ***Ambulance services (fees can easily cost between $200-300 per transfer)

  • Typically, provincial health insurance coverage (while out-of-province but within Canada) is for physician and hospital services only.
  • IF your medical emergency IS covered by your provincial health insurance, you still may be forced to pay your expenses upfront, and request reimbursement from your provincial health plan when you return home.
  • Out-Of-County Health Insurance is meant for “unforeseen” or “unexpected” accidents or illnesses.
  • Even if you have purchased Out-Of-Country Health Insurance, you may find yourself NOT covered for expenses relating to “pre-existing conditions” – health conditions that are unstable and have recently required you to seek medical attention for a change in prescription, or to seek an update on your condition, prior to your trip. Be sure to ask your doctor if a recent medical visit or procedure could affect your Out-of-Country Health Insurance. 
  • Remember, Out-of-Country Health Insurance does NOT cover other things related to an accident if you are at fault, such as damage to property (etc).
  • For those of you covered under Employee Out-of-Country Health Insurance plans, be sure to read through your policy to understand exactly what is covered, and what is not, in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Even with coverage, you may be forced to pay upfront for some procedures while at medical facilities outside of Canada. Always be sure to leave some room on your Visa or Mastercard in case you are required to pay for medical expenses.
  • Canada’s provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, participate in reciprocal agreements. This means that, in the event of a medical illness or accident while traveling in Quebec, you may be forced to pay medical expenses upfront, and claim them back from your provincial health insurance plan (IF you are NOT traveling with Out-of-Province Health Insurance).  Don’t believe me? Just ask residents in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Please note: I am by no means an expert when it comes to Out-of-Country (Out-of-Province) Health Insurance. Please be sure to contact your own provincial health insurance office, refer to your existing Out-of-Country Health Insurance policy, or your employee travel insurance policy, to make sure you are adequately covered for medical emergencies when travelling outside of your province, or Canada. 






  1. July 22, 2015


    I’ll never forget my best friend travelling with us to Florida one year as kids. She ended up reacting to something there, and blew up like a balloon…her parents forgot insurance stuff, and 5 years later they were STILL getting bills from that hospital 🙁

    • July 22, 2015


      Wow…their experience is a good example of how easily something can happen to someone while on vacation, even when they are otherwise healthy. No one needs to have medical bills chasing you for years after 🙁 That’s awful! Thanks for sharing your story, Misty.

  2. July 17, 2015

    Debbie S.

    If anyone finds an insurance company that will cover pre-existing conditions for out of country travel please let me know! I would love to take my son to Disney World and go as a family.

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