Snowbird FAQs

Snowbird FAQs is a forum where we provide answers to some of the most common and interesting questions we receive from Snowbird Advisor members that we feel will be of interest to other members.

Insurance
Question

I’ve heard that when OHIP stops coverage for out-of-country medical expenses, my private travel insurance policy won’t cover me either because one of the eligibility requirements is that I need to be covered by OHIP for out-of-country medical expenses.

This doesn’t seem right. Is it true?

Answer

The short answer is no, this is NOT true.

Private travel medical insurance plans simply require you to be covered by OHIP (or the Government Health Insurance Plan in your province of residence). They do not require OHIP to cover you for out-of-country medical expenses.

You can find more detailed information here about how this rumour may have started and what the facts are.

Question

If I need medical treatment while travelling, will I have to cover the expenses out of pocket and claim them later, or will my travel insurance provider pay them directly? I have heard conflicting information about this.

Answer

First and foremost, whenever possible you should contact your travel medical insurance provider before seeking medical treatment, as they will want to ensure the treatment you are seeking is covered, send you to an approved treatment provider, help coordinate your treatment, and where possible, arrange for direct billing with the treatment provider.

Obviously, in an emergency situation contacting your insurance provider before seeking treatment may not be possible. In such situations, you should contact your insurer or have someone contact them on your behalf as soon as possible after seeking treatment.

With respect to who pays for the costs up-front, it depends on the situation.

In general, if you go to a hospital for treatment and contact your insurance provider prior to or during your hospital visit, your insurance provider will arrange for direct billing, so you won’t have to pay your expenses out of pocket. However, for minor visits to a hospital emergency room, you may need to pay your bill and have your travel insurance provider reimburse you.

Alternatively, if you receive medical treatment at a doctor’s office or clinic, you will generally need to cover your medical expenses up-front and make a claim to be reimbursed by your insurance provider. However, in some cases, your insurance provider may be able to arrange for direct billing with the doctor’s office or clinic.

In either situation, it’s important to keep all of your receipts and get copies of your treatment records in case you need to provide them to your insurance provider at a later date.

Question

My husband and I have both just retired and are beginning our snowbird lifestyle. I have heard that we could lose our provincial health insurance coverage if we spend too much time outside Canada.

My question is this: Is there a limit to how long we can be away and still retain our OHIP coverage in Ontario?

Answer

Yes, there is a limit in each province for how long you can be away without being at risk of losing your health coverage. 

For Ontario residents, you are generally allowed to spend up to 212 days outside the province in any 12 month period and still maintain your provincial health care coverage (there may be exceptions in certain circumstances).

If you plan to spend more than 212 days outside Ontario in a 12 month period, it is best to check with Service Ontario to explain your circumstances and get clarity on whether you will be able to retain your coverage. 

Every province has its own rules for how much time you can spend outside your home province and still retain your health care coverage,  so snowbirds in other provinces should check with their provincial health ministry for clarification.

You can find a summary of how long you can spend outside each province and still retain your health care coverage here.

On a side note, Canadians snowbirds should also be aware of the limits for how long they can spend in the U.S. without violating U.S. tax and immigration rules.

Disclaimer: The material provided on the SnowbirdAdvisor.ca website is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, real estate, medical or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should retain a qualified professional to advise you.