After what seemed like a never-ending and bitterly cold winter, summer vacation season is but a mere few weeks away. With school almost out for the kids, vacation plans are able to kick into high year allowing for some much needed rest, relaxation, or perhaps even that long anticipated grand holiday you've always dreamed of.
With travel comes thoughts of packing and trip preparation. Here are some tips to think about as you plan for your upcoming summer vacation:
1) Be early. If you are flying, it helps to book your tickets early to secure the best deal in dates and pricing. Whenever you fly, it is helpful to bring along a valid passport.
Plan to arrive early at the airport. Parking may be an issues as well as the potential for long lines at secure checkpoints. Also, plan your travel and accomodation itineraries early. In the 'high' season, which usually is summertime, hotels and car rentals book up quickly.
2) Keep a watch out. Keeping an eye on your belonging as well as the people you're traveling with is important. It may be easy to get distracted, and in big airports and bustling cities, there are those who would like to relieve you of your wallet, identification and valuables.
3) Keep your important information handy. Ensure that you keep your identification including your benefits and out of country coverage information handy. An emergency is never planned, but when it happens, you want to be ready and avoid the stress of not being able to access important contact information quickly.
4) Review your coverage. Knowing information specific to your group benefits coverage is is helpful should an emergency arise when you are traveling. Update your smartphone with your travel assistance group number and your employee benefits identification and the toll-free number or keep your ID card in a safe and easily accessible place. Please check out my blog on out of country coverage and other travel tips for more information.
If you are traveling abroad, it is helpful to know where normal travel coverage and services are not guaranteed by your benefits provider. Many provide a list where coverage is guaranteed. To avoid surprises on your trip, I encourage you to source this list before you zip up your suitcase and head out the door.
Some people wonder why they need travel assistance at all. The benefits include helping you find a hospital or clinic nearby that can provide you with the necessary treatment. The travel assistance provider can contact the hospital in advance of your arrival to give them a heads up as well as arranging for direct payment of medical bills. This is one less thing you need to worry about when facing a medical emergency. If needed, the travel assistance provider will arrange to have you returned home to Canada should additional treatment be needed.
For more tips and benefits coverage best practices, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Many of us push away the winter blahs with trips to warmer climates. Planning for these getaways can be fun, but also a bit stressful when we think about all the preparation necessary before the trip. Packing lists are made and suitcases are pulled from the closet. We remember to pack our camera, sunscreen and favourite flip flips. What else should be on your packing list?
Aside from vital government documentation like a passport, it is easy to forget to pack important documentation such as your group benefits travel insurance information. Out of Country (OOC) coverage isn't normally top of mind, but remembering to pack OOC documentation could mean a world of difference if you have an unforeseen medical emergency while on your trip.
Insurance providers and benefits administrators report that Out of Country travel coverage is often misunderstood and top of the list in terms of frequently asked questions. Most plan sponsors offer travel coverage through their group extended health coverage, but it isn't something plan members carefully consider when planning a trip outside of Canada.
If you have group benefits coverage with OOC travel coverage, it is helpful to read and understand the insurance policy especially for the limitations and exclusions. Insurance carrier call centers often get questions related to: the number of days of coverage, the definition of a sudden and unexpected emergency, preexisting conditions and coverage eligibility for a plan member during the third trimester of a pregnancy.
OOC coverage often is confused with travel assistance. They are different. OOC coverage provides benefits for medical costs associated with medical emergencies for you and your eligible dependents including the services of a physician, lab and hospital fees. "What is a medical emergency?" is the most frequently asked question. For Out of Country coverage, it depends on what's written in the group benefits plan. Most definitions include wording such as:
Travel holds the possibility of creating wonderful experiences and great memories. An unforeseen medical emergency can be compounded with unnecessary stress if you don't remember to:
Pack your travel insurance documents and carry them in a safe place. Record the toll free number on your travel assistance card as well as your group benefits plan number and certificate number, provincial health insurance number, name, address and phone number of your family physician in Canada.
Have adequate coverage. Aside from your OOC coverage, will you need additional travel insurance?
Understand how to submit a claim and who has the burden of proof. It is the plan member's responsibility to manage his OOC claim and sometimes completing the forms can be confusing. To facilitate the most efficient reimbursement process, insurance carriers generally ask plan members to submit their OOC directly to them. This allows for the carrier to coordinate payment with the provincial governments quickly and easily.
Know what to do if you or an eligible dependent has a medical emergency:
When you're packing your bathing suit and a book to read at the beach, remember to pack your travel insurance documents including the toll free travel assistance number along with your group benefits plan and certificate number. If you have questions about Out of Country coverage or travel assistance, please call your designated insurance provider.
For information about how we can help optimize your benefits plan, give us a call or send an email. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.