COVID-19 health insurance now available, although Canadians are advised to avoid international travel

Canadians planning to travel abroad despite the COVID-19 pandemic can now purchase health insurance to cover costs if they contract the coronavirus while traveling.

In March, as the virus began to spread around the world and discouraged Canada from non-essential travel abroad, travel insurers stopped selling COVID-19 health insurance.

In the meantime, several insurance providers are again offering insurance cover together with their regular travel insurance policies.

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and the travel agency Flight Center have also joined, offering free COVID-19 health insurance to passengers booking certain international flights and vacation packages.

Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said he was surprised by the deluge of offers – considering Canada’s advice against international travel remains intact due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Your country is currently under a Level 3 Travel Warning and there are airlines that are attracting people with free medical care,” said Firestone of Travel Secure in Toronto.

“Whether you are covered or not, you can find yourself in a very precarious position with yourself [available] Hospital beds and treatment and the opportunity to be flown back to Canada. “

Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said he was surprised by all of the COVID-19 coverage offers for travelers as Canada advises Canadians not to travel overseas. (CBC)

Many companies that offer COVID-19 coverage told CBC News that they are responding to consumer demand.

“People want to travel,” said Richard Job, Vice President of Commercial Partnership at Flight Center. “You can travel if you want, and we just want it to be as safe as possible.”

International travelers returning to Canada must self-isolate for 14 days.

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Who offers coverage?

At least three insurers Medipac, Tour + Medium and Blue Cross (in Ontario and Quebec) are now offering COVID-19 health coverage as part of their regular travel insurance – or as a top-up.

Manulife announced this week it will start offering coverage in October.

The plans vary. Not all providers take on the daily expenses if an infected traveler abroad has to be quarantined.

Each company said it offers medical care for all diseases, including COVID-19, for up to $ 5 million – with the exception of Manulife, which has capped COVID-19 coverage at $ 200,000.

Manulife declined to comment on the cap.

Air Canada offers free COVID-19 health insurance on select vacation packages and international flights. (Sophia Harris / CBC)

Airlines offer free insurance coverage

Flight Center and the airlines offer free insurance coverage only for COVID-19 diseases and related expenses such as quarantine costs. The offers are available for a limited time – from the next seven months to a year.

Customers who have package tours with. Reserve Flight center, Air Canada Vacation and WestJet Cover up to $ 100,000 in medical bills. WestJet offers the same coverage for international flights with the exception of the US

Sun wings will cover up to $ 200,000 in COVID-19 medical expenses for passengers booking any of its vacation packages and flights departing on or after October 16. Air Canada (which is separate from Air Canada Vacations) currently offers the same $ 200,000 coverage for customers purchasing international skirmishes, including those to the United States

Although the land border between Canada and the United States is closed to non-essential traffic, Canadians can still fly into the United States

Firestone wonders if $ 200,000 would be enough to cover a severe case of COVID-19 in the United States, where medical costs can be high.

“What if the bill is $ 500,000?” he said. “Then it will be your problem.”

Manulife, who works with Air Canada to provide the coverage, declined to comment.

Air Canada said passengers who want additional protection can consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance.

What about snow birds?

Medipac’s main customers are Snowbirds traveling to the southern United States, where the COVID-19 infection rate remains high. However, the insurance provider said it was confident it would not be bombarded with COVID-19 claims as Medipac’s clientele would likely play it safe.

“The people we tailor our product to will do what they always have, travel in pairs, go to their winter residence,” said Medipac spokesman Christopher Davidge.

“We’re not talking about stuffing ourselves on a budget airline … and staying in a resort hotel and going to a theme park.”

Snowbird Perry Cohen said he and his wife Rose plan to take all necessary precautions if they are likely to head to their home in Deerfield Beach, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale this winter.

“Our community is pretty safe,” said Cohen, who lives in Toronto. “We’re not going to look for large crowds. We’re not running to the bars and restaurants.”

Even so, Cohen said the COVID-19 coverage was a game changer as he and his wife would never consider going south if they couldn’t buy them.

“Why take the risk?” he said. “I like a complete package to know that I am in good hands.”

Perry Cohen said he and his wife Rose plan to take all necessary precautions if they are likely to head to their Deerfield Beach, Florida apartment this winter. (Submitted by Perry Cohen)

Cases ‘rise again’

But not all avid travelers are affected by COVID-19 reporting.

Avid international traveler Suzanne Chojnacki said she and her husband would stay for the time being because they still have many concerns – such as being stuck abroad if the country they are visiting suddenly closes its borders.

“The [COVID-19 case] The numbers are rising again, “said Chojnacki, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario.” So this is really not a good time to think about leaving – for us. “

Current plans to provide travelers with COVID-19 coverage do not include compensation if a customer cancels a trip due to the pandemic. Firestone said this is because cancellation insurance usually covers unexpected breakdowns and not a “known” problem like the coronavirus.

“It’s just so well known, it’s not even funny.”

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