Ontario Ends Out-Of-Country Emergency Medical Coverage

By Lesley Green
A close-up of a woman walking barefoot on a beach at a sunny destination.

Ontario’s plan to scrap out-of-country health insurance coverage through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) is now in effect. As of January 1, 2020, what little coverage the program for emergency medical services provided Ontario travellers while outside of the country is no longer available.

Why Was the Program Axed?

In its 2018 annual report, the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario stated the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care spent $2.8 million to administer $9 million in claims for emergency services outside of the country. On average, payouts amounted to $127 per claim, or about five cents for every dollar a foreign hospital or physician billed an Ontario resident.

Citing the program’s limited coverage and low reimbursement rate in its announcement, the government said the “change will have no impact on 99.5% of Ontarians. OHIP data suggests of those 40,000 Ontarians who do travel outside of Canada each year and require health services, over 90% obtain private travel health insurance."

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The Exception to the Rule: Dialysis Costs

Following criticism from residents who require dialysis after announcing the cutback – the former program offset the cost of dialysis up to $210 for residents when abroad – the government’s new plan for dialysis patients who travel mirrors its predecessor. It also came into effect on January 1, 2020.

With funding from the province, the Ontario Renal Network operates the program ensuring residents outside of Canada who need dialysis will not foot the full bill for the treatments they need.

On the Docket: Canadian Snowbird Association Challenges Decision

Meanwhile, the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) is fighting the province’s decision, filing a legal challenge against the government’s cuts. The program's termination, the CSA says, is unprecedented and makes Ontario the only jurisdiction in Canada to cut all emergency medical coverage for residents travelling abroad.

"We are filing this legal challenge on behalf of our members, and all Ontario travellers, in order to protect their right to out-of-country emergency medical care which is enshrined in the Canada Health Act (CHA)," said Karen Huestis, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association in a press release. "These cuts are an egregious violation of the portability requirement of the CHA and must be addressed head on."

It’s Time to Reset How You Think About Travel Insurance

Whatever the outcome of the court challenge, Ontarians need a different view of travel insurance. In a 2018 InsuranceHotline.com survey, 34% of Canadian travellers said they’re unlikely to purchase travel insurance for their next trip abroad. Although some said it was because they have coverage through their employee benefits (36%) or credit card (19%), many were willing to throw caution to the wind and take the risk:

  • 13% said getting travel insurance doesn’t usually cross their minds
  • 12% believed it’s not needed
  • 10% said they can’t afford it
  • 6% believed their trips are too short to require it
  • 3% travel close to home and feel it's unneccesary

A Couple of Dollars a Day Is All It Costs

With or without OHIP’s out-of-country travel program, when you’re going on holiday, having travel insurance is a must. Whether it’s a day trip to the U.S. or a getaway for a couple of weeks overseas, travelling with emergency medical travel insurance is essential. It’s also very affordable and won’t break your vacation budget.

The following were some of the best travel insurance rates provided at InsuranceHotline.com for $2 million in coverage with no deductible for a 10-day trip away.

Traveller(s) Travel Insurance Quotes
20-year-old traveller $23.50
35-year-old couple $44.28
Family of four $45.36

(Quotes are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change. Your quotes may vary depending on your personal details.)

Chances are you won’t need to rely on travel insurance coverage, but why would you risk travelling without it? Before you head out on holiday, get the travel insurance coverage you need at the best available price. Compare travel insurance quotes and policies at InsuranceHotline.com.