What is a "Stability Period" clause?
What is a “stability period” clause and how does it affect travel insurance coverage?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Disclaimer: The material provided in the Snowbird Advisor Insurance Learning Centre is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute insurance, legal, financial or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should speak with a qualified professional to assist you.