Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/8/2018 (1182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
We are approaching the time of year that I always dread — having to remind people that it is back-to-school time.
The good news? Not yet. But soon.
Let’s instead address a more pleasant topic — people who head out of the country every winter to escape the cold.
My part of that topic is protecting your money, so let’s talk about travel insurance and some other tips.
The deadline is near to acquire next winter’s travel health insurance at early-bird rates. The Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) has just sent out its annual mailing for Medipac, the health insurance provider it endorses.
It offers a good range of plans for most people, including some with pre-existing conditions.
A quick reminder, though, that there are a lot of health insurance providers out there, some with options and features that fit some people better than others, depending on age and health status.
A Winnipeg company that offers independent broker services and works to fit Snowbirds with the best insurance coverage is Medi-Quote Insurance Brokers, formerly Snowbird Medi-Quote.
Its website is Mediquote.ca, and it provides an easy, do-it-yourself quote generator to get you started.
Since getting the proper insurance coverage can be a complicated process, many people find that having an independent expert on their side is a good idea.
Here are some reminders, tips and warnings we have gathered over the years.
1. Don’t travel to the United States of America, home of private health insurance, health-care conglomerates and million-dollar doctors, without high quality, high-limit coverage. Treatment for a broken finger runs into many thousands of dollars, while emergency heart surgery will cost several hundreds of thousands.
Do not bet your financial security on staying healthy.
2. Before buying, read the actual policy document carefully, noting any exceptions, conditions and other details.
3. Understand the claims procedure, and write down the steps, contact information and any other conditions, so that you or a companion can follow these. In some cases, failing to contact the insurance company prior to treatment can limit the coverage.
4. Fully disclose all current or pre-existing medical conditions. As a result, some conditions might be excluded from coverage, but failure to disclose can void the entire contract.
5. Always keep a record of your departure and return dates.
Terry Ritchie, co-author of The Canadian Snowbird in America (ECW Press), has a suggestion to avoid any concerns at the border with regard to residency status.
The kit includes required basics like your passport and any other travel documents, but also copies of most recent Canadian tax return or notice of assessment, a utility bill showing your home address in Canada and even proof of ownership of property in Canada, if available.
These would provide very good proof to an overzealous foreign border official that you really do reside in Canada, notwithstanding the fact that you are heading south to spend three or four months in a warmer country. This can also be important on the way home.
Don’t talk politics in the United States. I heard the other day that opinions may be a bit polarized there at the moment.
Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.
Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.
David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is a recipient of the FELLOW OF FPSCTM Distinction, and recently named in the Top 50 financial advisors in Canada. He is a portfolio manager and senior vice-president with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.
Personal finance columnist
David has been a practising financial planner and life advisor since 1982, specializing in helping clients identify and reach their most important goals, and then helping them manage all of their financial affairs, including investments.