The Ontario government confirmed on May 1, 2019 that it will eliminate OHIP’s out-of-country travel insurance coverage after a brief six day public consultation. The change is expected to take effect by Oct. 1, 2019.
The government is eliminating out-of-country travel insurance as part of its larger initiative to reduce the provincial deficit and has stated that the cost of administering the program is an inefficient use of taxpayer money. The province has been spending $2.8 million to administer approximately $9 million in claim payments through the program every year.
What does OHIP currently cover for out-of-country medical expenses?
Currently, OHIP covers the following amounts for out-of-country medical treatment:
- Up to $400 per day for emergency in-patient services such as intensive care, and
- Up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient services and other doctor’s services
While these amounts may seem significant, they are actually quite minimal when you consider the cost of medical treatment for Canadians travelling abroad.
For example, the typical cost for an inpatient stay in a U.S. hospital can be $10,000 per night, and in most situations, an individual without supplemental travel medical insurance would only be able to recover approximately 3% - 5% from OHIP for the cost of emergency medical treatment received outside Canada.
Unfortunately, many travellers are currently under the false impression that their provincial health plan will cover most or all of their out-of-country medical expenses. This false sense of security can lead these individuals to not purchase supplemental travel medical insurance, which can result in serious financial hardship if they require emergency medical treatment outside Canada.
What does the change in OHIP mean for snowbirds?
Insurance companies are still digesting the recent change to OHIP coverage, but it is likely that the cost of travel insurance will increase to cover the amount that will no longer be covered by OHIP.
However, because the amount currently covered by OHIP is quite small, it is likely that any premium increases will be relatively small as well.
There is also speculation that some other provinces may follow suit by eliminating out-of-country travel insurance currently provided under their provincial health insurance plans.
Increasing awareness about travel insurance coverage
According to Health Minister Christine Elliott, the government will engage in a public campaign to raise awareness among Ontario residents that OHIP does not cover out-of-country medical expenses and remind travellers to purchase travel medical insurance coverage before they leave the country.