Travel Insurance FAQs

Get accurate, detailed answers to common questions about Canadian travel insurance for snowbirds, boomers, seniors and other travellers, regardless of who your travel insurance provider is.

Question

What is a “pre-existing medical condition” and how does it affect travel insurance coverage?

Answer

Most travel insurance policies make reference to “pre-existing conditions” and include a definition of what this means, which can vary depending on the insurance company providing the policy.

Typically, a pre-existing condition is a medical illness or injury that was diagnosed or treated prior to leaving your Province or Territory of residence. And while many pre-existing conditions tend to be chronic and long-term in nature (i.e. diabetes, COPD and cancer) they can also include other acute, short-term issues (i.e. bronchitis, pneumonia and broken bones). Different insurance companies may define pre-existing conditions differently, so check the wording of your policy.

If your travel insurance application includes a medical questionnaire, it's important to make sure you disclose ALL of your pre-existing conditions. If you have any questions or are uncertain about your conditions, make sure you ask the broker or agent assisting you with your application and contact your doctor.

It’s important for travellers to understand what a pre-existing condition is and how it is defined in your policy, as it can impact your coverage in a variety of ways, including:

  1. Higher Premiums: The more pre-existing conditions you have and the more serious they are, the higher your premiums will be.
  2. Invalidation of Your Policy: If you fail to disclose a pre-existing medical condition during the application process and you need to make a claim, it is possible that your policy will be invalidated for failure to disclose, even if the treatment you require is unrelated to the pre-existing condition you didn’t disclose.
  3. Eligibility: Some more serious pre-existing conditions may make you ineligible for coverage under many regular policies. However, you may still be eligible for coverage under “personalized” policies offered by some providers, including Snowbird Advisor Insurance.
  4. Exclusion from Coverage: Most travel insurance policies include a “Stability” clause, which requires your pre-existing medical conditions to be “stable” for a pre-defined period (usually 90, 180 or even 365 days) before you travel, otherwise your pre-existing conditions and any related issues or treatment would be excluded from coverage.

However, some providers, including Snowbird Advisor Insurance, offer personalized policies with no-stability period requirement for pre-existing conditions.

You can learn more about Stability Clauses here.

Question

What is a “stability period” clause and how does it affect travel insurance coverage?

Answer

Most travel medical insurance policies available in Canada contain what is commonly referred to as a “Stability” clause.

Policies that contain a Stability clause require your “pre-existing medical conditions” to be “stable” for a defined period of time prior to the date you leave on your trip. The stability period varies from policy to policy, but is often 90, 180 or even 365 days leading up to your departure date (or trip “booking date” in the case of Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance).

You can learn more about Pre-Existing Medical Conditions here.

If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you should consider opting for a personalized policy with no stability requirement for pre-existing medical conditions.

The definition of “Stable” can vary from policy to policy, so be sure to check your policy’s wording, but “Stable” generally means that the condition has not changed or worsened in any way.

If there are any changes to one of your pre-existing medical conditions during the stability period, that condition will be excluded from coverage, meaning your policy will not cover any expenses you incur that are related to that condition while travelling.

Keep in mind that depending on your policy wording, any changes really can mean any changes, including some you may not think of, such as:

  • starting or stopping a medication,
  • increasing or decreasing the dose of a medication,
  • seeing a doctor or receiving diagnostic testing about a potentially new medical condition, even if that condition has not yet been diagnosed.

Related medical conditions may also not be covered…

It’s also important to be aware that under a stability clause, any medical treatment for a condition related to an excluded condition would also be excluded from coverage.

To better illustrate this point, take the following example:

Let’s say Mary has diabetes and her condition doesn’t meet his policy’s stability terms. In this case, it’s quite clear that Mary would not be covered for any treatment related to her diabetes while travelling.

What you may be surprised to learn is that Mary would also not be covered for any condition related to her diabetes. For example, if Mary was to have a heart attack while travelling, and the heart attack could be linked to having been caused by Mary’s diabetes, it is quite possible that treatment for her heart attack would also not be covered by her insurance, even though most people would consider diabetes and a heart attack to be two different and unrelated medical conditions.

What are my options if I don’t meet the stability clause terms?

Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions who don’t meet stability clause requirements are essentially left with three options:

  1. Wait until your medical conditions are “stable” before purchasing your policy. This is often not a practical solution, as it would likely prevent you from travelling during your preferred travel dates. There is also a good chance your medical conditions may never meet the stability requirements.
  2. Purchase the policy knowing your non-stable medical conditions and any related conditions won’t be covered. This is a very risky strategy and not advisable, as you’d be exposing yourself and your family to serious financial risk if you require treatment while travelling and need to file a claim. Note that other medical emergencies unrelated to your existing conditions (such as a fall or food poisoning) could be covered.
  3. Find a policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions with NO stability period requirement. While these policies are not as well known or widely available as “standard” travel insurance policies, they can be a real lifesaver and are often the best option for many Canadian snowbirds, seniors, boomers and other travellers with pre-existing medical conditions, regardless of whether those conditions are stable or not.

For example, Snowbird Advisor Insurance offers a personalized policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions with NO stability period requirement.