Changes to OHIP means no emergency health coverage abroad

Travellers to the U.S. and overseas from Ontario will soon be losing their provincial medical coverage. (Getty)

Starting in the new year, Ontario will no longer pay for basic emergency health care for those from the province who are travelling abroad. 

As of January 1, changes coming to Ontario’s Insurance Plan means Ontarians who requires emergency medical attention when visiting another county will have to pay for it out of their own pockets. 

Until the end of this month, the province’s current plan will continue to provide coverage for inpatient treatments in other countries. The rate is a maximum of $400 a day, for higher tiers of care, like intensive care. It also covers up to $50 a day for emergency outpatient and doctor services. That can help soften the blow, particularly in the U.S., where basic procedures like ER visits, X-rays and hospital stays can run up to thousands of dollars for those without insurance.

After Dec. 31, the only treatment the new plan will cover is $210 per treatment for kidney dialysis patients, which can cost up to $750 a day in the U.S. All other medical coverage outside of the country is up to the traveller to cover out of pocket.

The program was scrapped as a result of high administrative costs, which was costing the government around $2.8 million a year. 

Anne Marie Thomas, an insurance expert with Insurancehotline.com, says a way to bridge that gap in coverage is to get familiar with the different types of travel insurance available. While there’s insurance to cover lost luggage or last minute cancellations, Thomas strongly suggests investing in travel medical insurance when going abroad. 

“It’s a lot of coverage to get for a fairly reasonable premium,” she tells Yahoo Canada

Recently, a Nanaimo man who didn’t have travel medical insurance made headlines after falling off a ladder in Thailand, which resulted in him requiring extensive medical care. Dan Treacher’s ongoing medical treatment is costing his family $2,000 a week and will cost a minimum of $75,000 to bring him back home, since he didn’t have any health coverage. 

“If they’d gotten travel insurance, they would have been financially worry free,” says Thomas. “They’ve already got enough stress when they’ve got a family member sick abroad, too.” 

While insurance costs range depending on age and medical history, Thomas says for the average senior who spends winters in warmer countries, it would cost around $1,500 up to 120 days.

“It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” she says.