Can You Use Travel Insurance If You're Studying Abroad Year-round?

Have you thought about studying abroad? About three percent of Canadian university students study in other countries each year, according to the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE). About 14 percent of them choose to study in France and another 9 percent in the United Kingdom. Nine out of 10 Canadians who have studied abroad say their experience enriched their education and career potential.

The last thing most students have on their mind when embarking on their educational adventures is getting sick or getting in an accident - but it does happen. That's why insurance is a vital part of any student's travel pack.

Why do Canadian students need travel insurance for studying abroad?

Most colleges and universities require students to have health insurance. Other countries also require students to have travel and emergency medical insurance to study in their country.

Some Canadian provinces have reciprocity agreements with other countries to provide healthcare services to their residents while traveling. For example, Quebec has reciprocal health agreements with Belgium, France, Norway, Denmark, and six other European nations. These agreements don't provide all necessary coverage under all circumstances. As an example, medical transportation within the country or an emergency flight home isn't covered by a reciprocal agreement. Even if you're studying in a country that has a reciprocal health agreement with your province, travel insurance is a vital safety net.

Some provinces like B.C. and Ontario, will provide their residents whom have health cards, with partial reimbursements for emergency medical treatment while traveling abroad. B.C. limits reimbursement to $75 a day, and while Ontario's benefits were more generous, the province recently reduced them. Even then, provincial healthcare plans amount to less than 5 percent of the total bill for most health claims overseas. In short, the coverage is woefully inadequate and doesn't replace travel insurance benefits.

What should student travel insurance cover?

Being alone in a foreign country and falling sick is a stressful enough experience even with the proper coverage. Let's say you need emergency medical care for an illness or after an accident, if you're hospitalized, would your family want to visit? If you fell very ill, you might need transportation home to be treated in Canada. This can cost thousands of dollars.

You should look for travel insurance that provides enough coverage to pay for emergency medical care while you're studying abroad. Don't neglect emergency dental care, either. A broken or infected tooth is a dental emergency.

Travel insurance will usually provide you with 24-hour assistance. Whether you're at your school abroad or traveling in another country, you'll want the security that 24-hour assistance provides.

How long can students stay abroad and still be covered by their provincial health plan?

There is a lot of confusing information online about provincial health coverage. For example, students from Ontario and many other provinces can study outside Canada for 212 days (7 months) in a one-year period and keep the benefits of their provincial health plan without interruption. British Columbia residents can leave Canada for up to 24 consecutive months at a time without losing their coverage. If you return for 30 days, say over summer break, your 24-month count will start over again, allowing you to finish your 4-year or longer degree. But that really only refers to not having to reapply for OHIP or MSP coverage when you return home.

It is important to note that your provincial coverage will not adequately cover you outside the province, and this allowance for time out of the country doesn't mean you're covered – only that your provincial coverage won't lapse while you're studying.

Instead, if you're planning on studying abroad, consider a travel insurance plan that will provide you with the medical, dental, and travel services coverage you need. Plans are surprisingly affordable and provide peace of mind.

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