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Have pre-existing conditions? What you need to know before purchasing travel insurance

Winter travel is popular with Canadians who want to escape the below-zero chill, especially for snowbirds who flock to warmer climates yearly. The thought of jetting off to somewhere tropical is dreamy, but for many, sorting out travel insurance can seem daunting. A primary concern, especially for seniors or those with a chronic condition, is whether underlying health concerns or illnesses will impact their ability to travel and secure travel insurance.   

The Government of Canada recommends that if you plan to travel outside of Canada, even for a day, you should buy travel health insurance before your departure. Your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) may not cover medical care overseas or only pay a small portion. Foreign hospitals can be costly, so buying emergency health coverage for your next trip is vital.   

“So many people have the mindset that they don’t think anything will happen to them while away, spending time in another country, and I would like to emphasize that Emergency Travel Medical Insurance is not for what you expect to happen. Emergencies are never expected. An Orion Insurance Emergency Medical policy will provide peace of mind and assistance to keep you safe and healthy during your time away from home,” says Sharon Lewco, CAA Travel Consultant. 

To help you make an informed decision, CAA insurance experts share what you need to know about travel insurance when you have a pre-existing medical condition. 

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing condition refers to any illness, injury, or health issue for which an individual has received medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment, been prescribed or consumed medication, or undergone further consultation or treatment before their trip’s departure date. 

A pre-existing condition can influence travel insurance claims. If your condition is considered “unstable,” you won’t be able to submit travel insurance claims associated with it. However, you may be covered for unrelated health problems and unforeseen emergencies.  

When assessing pre-existing conditions for travel coverage, the term “stable” means that, during the required stability period, you haven’t endured any of the following in connection with an ongoing health issue, injury, or sickness:  

  • Hospitalization  
  • Medical procedures or interventions  
  • Changes in prescribed medication  
  • Adjustments to medical treatments  
  • New or more frequent symptoms  
  • Investigations into complications or new symptoms (excluding routine check-ups) 

The stability period varies based on age. For those aged 69 and younger, pre-existing conditions must be stable for at least three months before departure. The stability period for individuals aged 70 and above increases to six months. Double-checking these details with your insurance provider is always a good idea. You’ll want to ask them to explain the limitations and restrictions on any pre-existing conditions, including recent tests and treatments you may have had. 

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Are there travel insurance options if I have a pre-existing condition?

Yes! You can prepare for the unexpected while travelling with emergency medical coverage from CAA Travel Insurance. This travel health insurance can cover unforeseen injuries or sickness even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, as long as your condition is stable for three or six months before your departure date, depending on your medical condition and age. 

You can decrease this stability period to only seven days before your trip begins by topping up your emergency travel policy with CAA’s Pre-Existing Medical Condition Rider1. If your chronic condition is unstable or you’ve recently changed your medical treatment, it doesn’t mean you need to worry about trip cancellations. Enjoy additional coverage to a maximum of $200,000 per person per trip for eligible medical-related expenses for illness or injury incurred due to a pre-existing medical condition.   

“We don’t want a pre-existing condition to prevent travellers from leaving the country with confidence,” says Kellee Irwin, vice president of Orion Travel Insurance Company, a CAA Company. “With CAA’s Pre-Existing Condition Rider, even if you were recently prescribed a medication, as long as you’ve been taking the new medication for at least seven days before your departure date, you will be protected.”  

Add this optional rider coverage to single-trip or multi-trip travel insurance plans at the time of purchase for an additional fee. There is no need to divulge your pre-existing condition before heading off on vacation, so spend your time packing and planning fun activities for your getaway. Medical records only need to be provided in the event of a submitted claim.   

What is an example of a stable versus unstable condition?

Are your medical condition and vitals steady, and have your medications (including dose) remained unchanged? Then, it may be considered stable, but if you need clarification, it’s best to contact your travel insurance provider to confirm. 

Here are examples to help you determine if your pre-existing condition is stable or unstable.  

You’ve had an annual appointment with your family doctor or specialist: 

  • Stable: You’re told you are doing well   
  • Unstable: Medical tests were ordered 

Your prescription: 

  • Stable: Is the same dose 
  • Unstable: You have a brand-new prescription or a dose change (even if it’s a decrease) 

You have diabetes:  

  • Stable: Your insulin keeps it under control 
  • Unstable: Your insulin treatment or dose has changed 

Don’t allow pre-existing medical conditions to keep you from travelling

CAA Travel Insurance offers emergency medical plans where you can add a pre-existing medical condition rider. Get a quote online, or book an appointment with a CAA Travel Consultant

CAA Travel Insurance is underwritten by Orion Travel Insurance Company, a CAA Company. Certain exclusions, limitations and restrictions apply. Subject to change without notice. A Medical Questionnaire is required if you are 60 years of age and older. Quotes are valid for 30 days. 

  1. All pre-existing medical conditions must be stable within 7 days prior to departure. Certain exclusions, limitations and restrictions apply. 

®CAA trademarks are owned by, and use is authorized by, the Canadian Automobile Association. 

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