1000’s of people are dusting down their salopettes and preparing for a winter season. For many, travel insurance is an afterthought. This could be a costly mistake.
Here are common misunderstandings about travel insurance whether you’re going for a week, a fortnight or the whole season:
The NHS is only applicable in the UK. If you need medical treatment abroad you’ll need to pay any local charges. In North America medical treatment is privatised and excessively expensive (although the level of care is excellent). A good travel insurance policy will be able to cover these costs.*
Policies linked to banks and credit cards are normally limited by duration (typically 30, 60 or 90 days) and often by the activities you can do. Check: does the policy cover you for the full length of your trip; does it include the activities (skiing, snowboarding, on/off piste) and does it cover the country you are visiting.
Note: short term cover may not be valid if you knowingly rely on it for a trip that exceeds the maximum length of cover.
You need to live in Canada for a qualifying time before you can apply for their healthcare. Plans are regional and differ from one Province/Territory to another. They do not provide international cover; ie they won’t fly you home in an emergency situation; similarly they won’t fly a family member to be with you if you are hospitalised. They won’t cover baggage or travel delay. You may qualify for Canadian Health Care, but it isn’t comprehensive for an international visitor.
Your employer is legally obliged to provide employee liability insurance so if you have an accident while working they will cover some fees/bills. However, they won’t cover you for your free time, it won’t be an international policy and it won’t cover any flights nor will it cover personal belongings, travel delay, etc.**
Trying to buy a comprehensive policy once you have already started your trip is difficult. Only a few insurers offer this option. In addition it is unlikely that your ski gear will be covered unless you have the right level of insurance from day one (ie if you are planning on taking your own board/skis, boots etc for the whole journey).
Some overseas medical treatments can be more than the price of the average UK house, e.g. over £500,000 for treating a multiple fracture of the leg and artery tear in the USA with an air ambulance back to the UK***
If you have an accident on the slopes, the ski patrol is responsible for your well being and may not give you a choice – especially in the case of a bad accident. Here are just some of the things you could be billed for:
- mountain rescue
- fracture clinic
- operation (in which case there will be bills from the surgeon, anesthetist and nurses, you’ll also be billed for the equipment they use and any overnight care/accommodation)
In North America, they are very cautious about skiing/boarding injuries and are very quick to give x-ray and MRI.
If you have medical treatment and don’t have insurance you WILL have to pay for it
So what’s it worth?
According to the FCO, an average medical claim in 2012 cost £914; the average claim for personal accident was £7,500. A worthwhile Gap Year Travel insurance policy including winter sports could cost in the region of £60 per month. Its a significant amount if you don’t end up needing it. But if you do have an accident on the slopes the cost could be £10,000’s and it will have been an invaluable investment.
Once you have your Travel Insurance, make sure you read the documents carefully. If you are tempted to skim read them then pay attention to the “Exclusions” sections. These highlight things that you won’t be covered for and can be very enlightening. You are responsible for checking that your insurance is right for you.
* There are reciprocal arrangements in place within the EU, but you will need to have a European Health Insurance Card.
** If you are being transferred to another country by your employer they should be providing a full travel/health policy in which case you should have cover. Make sure you check before you travel.
***Information according to the British Association of Insurers