Canadians are catching up on long-overdue travel put off during the pandemic. According to CTV News, travel spending is up 30% over 2019 levels and remains a priority despite inflation.
While international destinations are always popular, the website Business In Vancouver reports the increase in spending is almost entirely owed to Canadians travelling within the country. Canadians spent more than $15 billion on travel without crossing the border in the first quarter of 2023 alone.
Whether it’s a road trip to the east coast, camping in the Rocky Mountains or a resort in Tofino, there’s lots to see and do. But do you need travel insurance when you’re not leaving the country? There are times when you may want to.
Do you need health insurance to travel in Canada?
While each province and territory administers its own health insurance system, the Canada Health Act requires them to extend coverage when you’re travelling within the country. As long as you have a health card in your home province, you will be able to get medically necessary care from a walk-in clinic or emergency department anywhere across Canada.
That said, some services are not covered outside of your home province. This typically includes non-medically necessary care, services that aren’t covered by your home province (even if they’re covered in the province you’re visiting), and paramedical services. You may also be asked to pay up front and seek reimbursement from your home province when you return.
Also read: Travel insurance FAQs
For example, for Ontarians travelling outside of their province, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) does not cover the following:
- ambulance services (including transport and paramedic)
- prescription drugs and other drugs are given outside a hospital
- home-care services
- fees charged by private hospitals or facilities (e.g. physio, dentist)
- diagnostic or laboratory services outside of a public hospital (e.g. bloodwork, x-ray)
- long-term care or residential services
- assistive devices (e.g. prosthetics)
- Other services not generally covered in Ontario (e.g. cosmetic surgery)
In general, most people don’t need these services while out of the province. However, purchasing travel insurance for seniors, someone with a pre-existing condition, or disability, would be a wise choice.
If you have extended health care coverage through your employer, or that you’ve purchased, it may extend to these services while you’re travelling; make sure you have adequate coverage especially if you’re a senior, or have a pre-existing condition or disability.
What medical services are covered by provincial health insurance in Canada?
As long as you have coverage in your home province, you are covered for medically necessary care everywhere in the country. This includes walk-in clinics and emergency departments, and any services provided by the clinic or hospital. Services provided outside a public hospital, such as an x-ray or blood work done at a privately-owned medical lab, usually aren’t covered while travelling despite being covered within your home province.
Care that is not medically necessary usually won’t be covered, even if your home province’s health plan provides coverage. For example, Ontario and B.C. both provide some coverage for certain contraceptives like birth control pills and IUDs, but wouldn’t consider them to be medically necessary under normal circumstances.
Just like at home, you will need to show your provincial health card when seeking care. Make sure it will be valid for the entire duration of your trip, and don’t forget to bring it with you.
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Types of travel insurance for travel within Canada
Medical emergencies are one of many problems that can disrupt your trip. Consider these options for travel within Canada:
Trip Cancellation or Interruption Insurance
This insurance covers you in case your trip is cancelled or interrupted, such as by a medical emergency or cancellation by a carrier. With coverage, you’ll be reimbursed for any prepaid and non-refundable travel expenses, including hotels, rental cars, or skiing in Banff. Many credit cards include this coverage at no extra cost, as long as the entire cost of the trip is paid using the card. Be aware of coverage limits, and be sure you have enough to recover the entire cost of a cancelled trip.
Delayed and Lost Baggage Insurance
Delayed and lost baggage insurance coverage reimburses you for your expenses if your luggage is lost, stolen or vandalized. It also provides coverage when your bags are delayed, so you can buy essentials like clothing and toiletries while you wait. Be sure to keep records and receipts, and pay attention to coverage limits. Many travel credit cards also include this coverage for no extra charge.
Travel accident insurance
Accidents do happen, and travel accident insurance coverage extends benefits in the event of accidental death or injury while you’re travelling. This type of coverage is usually available regardless of your age, health or pre-existing conditions.
Emergency medical travel insurance
While your provincial health plan will cover most emergencies, this policy ensures you’ll have access to all the care you need. Within Canada, emergency medical travel insurance will pay for non-covered hospital care and services, ambulance transportation, paramedical services (such as those provided by physiotherapists), emergency dental treatment, and additional travel expenses caused by your injury or illness. You may already have coverage if you have an extended medical insurance plan through your school or employer.
Car insurance while travelling
No matter which province or territory you call home, your auto insurance policy follows your vehicle across the country. This usually includes coverage for third-party liability, collision, fire, theft, vandalism and accident benefits.
If you’re planning to rent a car, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate rental car insurance coverage. Rental car companies must include the minimum coverage for third-party liability by law, but you are responsible for any additional liability insurance, collision, and accident benefits.
You may have rental car coverage through your existing insurance policy (usually called a “damage to non-owned automobiles” endorsement). Failing that, many credit cards include collision insurance when you charge the full cost of the rental to your card. Double check you have adequate coverage before hitting the road.
The bottom line
Travelling in Canada is fun and exciting, and there are risks. Be sure you have the insurance coverage you need to protect your health, rental car, and the trip itself.