As a resident of Ontario, Canada, you get to enjoy some free healthcare. Well it’s sort of free, you do pay your taxes and such. Anyway, you wouldn’t really give this privilege a second thought, until you start shopping for travel insurance that will cover you for one year out of the country.
I’m only talking about Ontarians here, but apparently insurance companies won’t cover you unless you are first covered by OHIP – Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and one of the requirements for OHIP eligibility is:
“you are in Ontario for at least 153 days in any 12-month period”
Well that’s a bit of a snag in our RTW adventure. Adam and I were hoping to be travelling for longer than that.
Luckily, Adam’s sister Olivia has done some research on this before when she went to New Zealand for schooling, so she gave us a heads up that there are some exceptions to the rule.
The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website states the following:
Other Types of Absences
You may also be eligible for continuous OHIP coverage during a longer absence when you are away from Ontario for vacation or other reasons for up to 2-years at a time which may be taken as a full two-year absence or as two one-year absences.
To be eligible for continuous OHIP coverage during your first absence of this type, you must typically be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days in each of the 2 consecutive years before the absence.
You may be eligible to maintain your OHIP coverage during subsequent absences of this type. To be eligible for a further Vacation/Other Reason absence, you must meet the physical presence requirements in Ontario for at least 153 days in each of the 5 consecutive years before each subsequent absence.
Turns out all we had to do was go to a Service Ontario service counter and fill out a Change of Information form (Section D). Three pieces of supporting documents were required:
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of address (i.e. Driver’s License, Mail)
- Proof of signature (i.e. Driver’s License, Passport, Credit Card)
Note that one document can only be used to prove one item. For example, you can only use your driver’s license as proof of address OR signature, but not both.
When you search for your nearest Service Ontario location, make sure the “Health” menu includes “Register an Absence from Ontario” at the service counter you’ve selected. I’ve made the mistake of going to one that didn’t deal with what we needed and they shooed me away.
Once you’ve submitted your form, they will clip a hole in your current health card (thereby voiding it) and give you a document with your new health card information on it. You are meant to use this document with your holey health card until your new card arrives in the mail. The new health card will expire at your expected date of return.
When your travels are over, you are to inform Service Ontario of your return by visiting one of their service counters and they will issue you a new health card (as is my understanding).
Travel Insurance Shopping
After the OHIP thing was taken care of, we moved on to insurance shopping. We went with Bon Voyage Worldwide Travel Insurance, Plan B – Budget Plan, offered by Travel Cuts and underwritten by RBC Insurance. For 12 month coverage, the rate was $432 (+8% PST) for Canadians under 50 years of age and not going to the USA. The rate goes up to $825 if your trip includes USA. Under this insurance plan, we are covered for:
- Emergency Medical up to $1 million
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption
- 24 Hour Personal Accident Coverage
We found this insurance package to be the most reasonable out of all the quotes we got and for what we need. Or in other words, it was the cheapest insurance we could find.
Another good thing about Bon Voyage is that it covers a lot of high-risk sporting activities that most insurance companies seem to steer away from, such as bungee jumping, gliding, parachuting, skiing, whitewater rafting, etc.
Travel Cuts was created by students for students, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a student to use their services.
I’m really glad we kept shopping until we found the Bon Voyage package, because we expected to spend close to $1,000 each based on all the previous quotes we got:
- CAA – $2,800 for the both of us ($1,400 each)
- RBC – $935 medical only. $1,161 for enhanced, which includes baggage & personal effects and trip interruption. The quotes were even higher for Adam, just because he was in the 30 and up age group. Medical only: $1,460; enhanced: $1,685.
- TIC Travel Insurance Coordinators – $679 each
As far as we’re concerned, insurance is a huge scam. But I suppose it’s a necessary evil, and you never know what might happen. For our purposes, the cheapest insurance with a decent amount of coverage is good enough to give us a piece of mind.