Alberta Health & Snowbirds

Fall 2009 CSANews Issue 72  |   Posted date : Sep 22, 2009.Back to list

Bird talk - Le Jaseur
Dear Bird Talk,

Prior to my move to Saskatchewan, I was a resident of Alberta. In September 2008, I called to let Alberta Health know that I was leaving the country for six months (182 days) as per my instruction. I didn't leave the country until the 10th of October. There was no mention of calling when I returned back to Canada. When I returned, my husband and I (we had been married in January and were moving to Saskatchewan when we returned to Canada) went for our medicals in Alberta with my doctor, as we had not established a doctor in Saskatchewan.

We applied to Saskatchewan Health on the 6th of April. I received a phone call shortly after from the lab and the doctor to tell me that Alberta Health had cancelled my health care. When I contacted Alberta Health to find out what was going on, I was told that they had cancelled as of September as they had sent me a letter to let them know where I was. That was only 60 days after I had left the country. Needless to say, I never received a letter so, of course, there was no reply from me. I was not expected to return until the 10th of April. I am now having to pay the bills and fight with alberta health to be reimbursed. Not only was I not insured by Alberta Health, my extended insurance was not valid. If I had been sick in the States, I would not have had any coverage. There is nothing on their website which indicates that you have to phone in when you leave the country, just if you are away for more than 182 days.

Heads up to all snowbirds. I was penalized for complying with a verbal rule and was cancelled before I even left the country. Alberta Health has "red-flagged" me as a "snowbird" – not my words, theirs. My brother had a similar experience. He had called when he left, but did not phone when he returned and got a letter from Alberta Health after he had renewed his prescriptions on his return to Canada. He was instructed to call or be cancelled. I have been going south for the winter for 15 years and have never run into this problem.

Marlene Greenhill
Fort Qu'appelle, SK

Response :
Ed: These government-related “incidents” seem to be on the increase. It would certainly be nice if Alberta “red-flagged” you as a snowbird to provide better service and extended-stay drug benefits for you, but I somehow doubt it. As a Canadian, you are entitled (and have paid for) free and universal health care in any province. If you do not get full satisfaction, let us know and we will help.

The point about the travel insurance is very valid; if you do not have a valid government health insurance plan, your travel insurance benefits will be severely restricted and often lost entirely. Medipac would immediately take care of you in this situation, but many companies would not. Our congratulations on your marriage; may it be a long, happy and healthy one.

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