The Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance (CAFII) has warned that the Ontario government's decision to end OHIP coverage for emergency services for Ontarians travelling outside Canada could result in many people travelling abroad without adequate insurance coverage if the change is implemented too quickly and without sufficient communication.
The Government has set October 1, 2019 as the implementation date to end OHIP's out-of-country coverage. But in order for consumers to continue to receive a high level of protection when traveling outside Canada, CAFII says more time is needed – at least a one-year transition period. This longer time frame would allow the Government to undertake a robust, multi-year communications campaign to inform Ontarians about the change and resulting implications. It would also give the industry more time to determine what the new premium rates will be, and to ensure its employees are ready to communicate about the changes and properly serve their customers.
According to CAFII, even under the current situation before the pending change, many Ontarians travel outside of Canada without adequate travel health insurance and without realizing they are at risk of incurring catastrophic financial costs. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medical Services, the average cost of a three-day hospital stay in the United States is approximately US$30,000, and comprehensive care can run up costs of several hundred thousand dollars or more.
However, by allowing more lead time for the elimination of OHIP coverage for Ontarians travelling outside of Canada, it will provide an opportunity for the Government to inform consumers that OHIP will no longer cover them at all when they travel outside of Canada. It will also allow more time for both the Government and the insurance industry to address the dangerous misconception that private insurance is not necessary when consumers travel outside the country.
"We believe a robust communications campaign by the Government that supplements what the insurance industry is already doing will be critical in mitigating the risk to the travelling public of this change in insurance coverage," says Keith Martin, Co-Executive Director of CAFII. "That communications campaign should emphasize to Ontarians the importance of having travel health insurance in place before travelling outside Canada, so that they and their loved ones will have immediate access to emergency medical care and related assistance, and can avoid exposure to potentially catastrophic and life-altering financial costs."
At present, OHIP covers out-of-country inpatient services to a maximum of $400 per day, and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient care. But when these amounts are no longer covered by OHIP, travel medical insurance will become even more important to have, and the cost will undoubtedly rise, says Martin.
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