With March Break just around the corner, many Canadian families and solo travellers alike are looking to get away. As soon as the plane tickets are purchased and the bags are packed, all that's left to do is enjoy the vacation. But what about travel insurance?
PAX sat down with Dan Keon, vice president, market management, Allianz Global Assistance, to find out why Canadians should always remember to book their travel insurance prior to getting on the plane, and to find out just some of the reasons as to why so many travellers take the risk of travelling uninsured.
“With any outbound travel, what a surprising number of Canadians don’t realize is that their provincial health insurance doesn’t travel with them, which is why the Canadian government recommends that all Canadians have travel insurance when they leave,” Keon said. “Sometimes, when Canadians are going on a shorter trip, or they’re healthy, they just assume that they don’t need the travel insurance, but from what we’ve seen historically, regardless of age, destination or length of trip, emergencies do happen.”
While Canadian healthcare tends to be enviable abroad, the matter of travel insurance, both the medical component and coverage component, is completely different. If a Canadian residing in Ontario falls ill while travelling through Quebec, issues can arise when it comes to repatriation back into the province.
“With the cost abroad for medical care being as expensive as it is, especially in the U.S, where two to three days in the hospital can rack up $30,000 USD, for something as simple as a concussion, it becomes even more serious when people are travelling abroad and they need to be airlifted back to Canada, because the cost of that ambulance can be anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 Canadian,” Keon said. “When you compare that to the cost of insurance, which for someone taking a seven-day trip might only cost $30, and you compare the risks to that particular [insurance] policy, it’s a no-brainer to make sure you have that protection.”
"It Won’t Happen to Me"
According to a recent report conducted by Allianz, with statistics gathered for Allianz by The Conference Board of Canada, 43.4 per cent of millennial travellers explore the globe uninsured. Besides having the impression that travel insurance really isn’t necessary, the two other most influential reasons for denying a protection plan included thinking that the travel insurance was too expensive, or that the trip was too short to warrant any sort of extra protection. The latter of the two tends to tie right into many young Canadian travellers having the mentality that ‘it won’t happen to me’ when they go abroad.
“They [travellers] sometimes don’t even bother getting a quote, because they assume the cost of insurance will be too high, and they’re already budgeting for everything else in their trip, and every dollar that they’re putting somewhere else is a dollar that could be spent on that trip,” Keon explained. “But, when you look at the risks you’re comparing the costs to, it’s a very small amount to pay for that added protection. Beyond the financial risk of having an emergency while travelling and not having insurance, it’s the assisted services that come with it that might be overlooked.”
The Tourist Bubble
While travelling abroad, tourists tend to visit destinations, landmarks, and cultural hotspots. For that reason, it’s common to see signs or directions in English, and be in close proximity to people who speak the language.
In the event of an emergency, the nearest hospital, especially if in a smaller country, won’t always be located in the city centre, or within proximity of where travellers tend to end up.
“When you’re travelling as a tourist, you’re in a bit of a bubble,” Keon explained. “When you have to go to the hospital, you’re out of that bubble, and to some degree, now you’re a bit of a burden on the local healthcare system, and that’s where the assisted services that come with travel insurance really make a difference, because we can help customers find treatment by giving them a referral, we can call the hospital ahead of time to arrange billing, and more importantly, we monitor the care to make sure they’re getting the care that they need for their condition. Those pieces take a lot of effort, and if you’re not familiar with the process, it can be very overwhelming in a situation that’s already stressful.”
Travel Insurance: Deconstructed
“Compared to other kinds of insurance like an auto insurance policy, travel insurance is very simple to purchase, and there are limited details required,” Keon said. “As far as understanding the benefits, the main thing that people should understand is that they need to have some sort of medical coverage with at least one million dollars minimum, and to be aware if exclusions around pre-existing conditions.”
A pre-existing condition refers to any medical-related issue that was put on record prior to taking out a travel insurance policy. For example, if an individual who had a heart attack prior to travelling experienced a chest-related health issue abroad, that pre-existing condition clause could conflict with the type of coverage available, and it’s unlikely that any coverage would be applied while travelling.
A common misconception, Keon points out, is that owning a credit card that can earn travel points or is travel-specific can include travel insurance, but that’s simply not the case.
“It might include benefits like baggage interruption, but it’s not guaranteed that they include medical coverage, so it’s really important not to assume that you have coverage, whether that’s through your credit card, or even your employer,” Keon explained. “It’s always best to contact your supplier before, double-check the coverage, and top up if you need to.”
Allianz has a range of travel insurance policies available for various types of travellers, through agency partners, that target the specific travel demographic, be it family travel, group travel, student travel, or solo travel.
“For the most part, policies will include a medical component and a cancellation component in case you need to cancel the trip beforehand, and the adjustments for the demographic really come down to the price,” Keon explained. “If a plan includes both of those, there’s usually several ancillary benefits that people might not even be aware of that they have, like baggage coverage, family-to-bedside, pet return, and a lot of really great value-added benefits that people often overlook because they’re so focused on thinking only about the medical component, so it’s highly recommended to read your policy so that you really understand your coverage prior to travelling.”
Allianz has rolled out its key travel agent product, which includes cancel for any reason, and coverage for travellers up to age 74 travelling 60 days or less without the need for a medical questionnaire.
“Overall our goal is to have a wide range of products, so regardless of the type of traveller that the travel agent is trying to support, they’ll have something fit for their trip,” Keon said. “Last year we launched a program called Easy, which is an online self-directed learning platform for agents, available through the Allianz Academy platform,” Keon continued. “The idea is that it’s a progressive learning platform for our partners, and the big difference is that Easy makes the learning experience much more engaging and entertaining, so it’s a multimedia platform that incorporates video and interactive components to make it more interesting, and the feedback has been great.”
Easy is currently part of Allianz’ current onboarding program, and existing partners can access the services with a password and login.
For travel agents who wish to become a partner with Allianz, visit: https://www.allianz-assistance.ca/en/become-a-partner/travel-agent/.
For travel agents looking to sign into training sessions, visit: allianzacademy.travelinsurance.ca.