Ontario kills travel insurance programme

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The Canadian province of Ontario is to cut its basic out-of-country travel insurance programme, which government officials say is overly expensive and provides little value to taxpayers.

Currently, the government insurance programme will cover Ontario citizens for out-of-country inpatient services, to the value of CA$400 per day, and emergency outpatient and/or doctor services for up to $50 per day. This costs the province $2.8 million annually, and it pays out an average of $9 million in claims.

“That is not good value for Ontarians,” said Christine Elliot, the province’s Health Minister. “People should be making their own plans to obtain coverage, which can be obtained quite inexpensively and provide them with full compensation if they sustain any health problems while out of the country.”

She went on to say that, in order to pre-empt the loss of the service – it is expected to end on 1 October – a campaign of public awareness will be necessary, in order to educate Canadian travellers about the importance of purchasing travel insurance for their trips.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has publicly condemned the move, saying that it would have a negative impact on snowbirds – older travellers who head south from Canada during winter for extended periods – as well as cross-border shoppers and families planning trips. However, proponents of cutting the programme have pointed out that many Ontario citizens weren’t aware that they were covered for overseas medical issues in the first place (although arguably this reflects fairly poorly on the government for not effectively educating Ontarians).

Ultimately, while this may be an inconvenience to some travellers, if it pushes them to seek out and purchase more comprehensive coverage that will protect them against all eventualities, rather than relying on basic coverage that could have gaps, there may well be a silver lining here.