President's Message Issue 66

Spring 2008 CSANews Issue 66  |  Posted date : May 24, 2008.Back to list

It is both an honour and a privilege to have been elected president of the Canadian Snowbird Association.

For more than 15 years, the association has actively defended the rights and privileges of travelling Canadians. As your new president, I am committing to you today to carry on with that challenge on behalf of all of our members across Canada and the United States. I would like to thank our outgoing president Gerry Brissenden and his lovely wife Joan for their years of service.

Immediately following my inauguration at the Snowbird Extravaganza in Lakeland, my wife Alice and I embarked on our work with the Western Extravaganzas in Texas and Arizona, followed by our Winter Information Meeting tour in Arizona, California, Mexico and Florida.

I was fortunate enough to meet thousands of CSA members and non-members alike. I would like to thank all of you who took the time to speak with me and I look forward to seeing you at next year's shows.

Between our board of directors and the hard-working staff at the CSA office in Toronto, we have a great team. We look forward to doing everything we can to enhance the snowbird experience for you, our members.

The CSA has been an advocate of the rights of Canadian travellers on many issues, but none more so than the right of Canadians to travel freely without losing their health coverage or residency status.  This right is enshrined in the Canada Health Act and its integral principle of portability.  Unfortunately - and unfairly - the manner in which this principle is defined across Canada varies widely from province to province.

Under the portability criterion of the Canada Health Act (section 11), insured Canadian residents who are temporarily absent from their home province and outside of Canada must continue to be covered for insured health services during their absence. Where the insured services are provided outside of Canada, payment is to be made on the basis of the amount that would have been paid by the province for similar services rendered in the province. This allows individuals to travel or be absent from their home province or territory, within a prescribed duration, while retaining their health insurance coverage.

As many of you are aware, a large number of our members are from Ontario. Ontarians who require emergency in-patient hospital services while out of the country are eligible to receive a reimbursement of up to a maximum of $400 per day for complex hospital care, and $200 per day for less-intensive medical care.

The 2004 Ontario Budget Papers prepared by then-Finance Minister Greg Sorbara stated that the average cost of one night in an Ontario hospital is $851. We don't know what that figure is in 2008 because the Ontario government won't tell us, but one thing which we do know is that with ever-increasing health-care costs, that number has gone up. With a maximum out-of-country reimbursement rate of $400 per day, the current policy of Premier McGuinty's government is a clear violation of the portability principle of the Canada Health Act.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the Ontario government will spend $40 billion on health care. That's your money. It is the money that each of you Ontario residents have paid over the years through your hard work and taxes.

It is also money that you paid because you were told that your health care would be provided for, and that if you needed emergency care, in Canada or anywhere else in the world, the government would pay for it.

What do we expect the Ontario government to do about this? We are simply asking the McGuinty government to reimburse emergency in-patient services required by travellers at the same rate per day as that paid for similar services within Ontario. We are not asking them to pay the high costs of U.S. hospital stays and our proposed changes will not cost Ontario any more money than if the emergency had occurred while the patient was in Ontario.

Snowbirds pay a full year of taxes to the Ontario government. We pay for infrastructure and other government services that we do not use for a full year, but we can live with that. The one thing which we do expect and deserve is to have full, equal access to the health care for which we pay. We should not have to choose between exercising our right to travel and having access to the health care that we may require.

Because this is such an important issue, and because so many of our members are from Ontario, I intend to place a special emphasis on making regular contact with the politicians at Queen's Park, including members of the opposition parties. Unfortunately, thus far, we have tried many times to meet with members of the McGuinty government to discuss this issue without success.

This past January, at its meeting in Lakeland, Florida, your board of directors decided to take action on your behalf. We have retained one of Canada's top litigation lawyers to represent us in bringing our case against the Ontario government. If we are successful with this approach, it could well establish a precedent right across Canada that would bring about real reform.

The net result? Reduced premiums for travel medical insurance for all travelling Canadians. Doing this important work is expensive and I take great responsibility with the membership dues that you entrust to us. At the end of the day, we are here to serve you, our members, and advocate on your behalf.  I trust that you will agree that it will be worth the effort.

As I mentioned earlier, we have a hard-working board of directors and a really great staff team at the CSA office in Toronto. If you need help or you have any questions, pick up the telephone and give the CSA staff a call. I count on them every day and you can too!

Alice and I are looking forward to working on your behalf and, with your help and support, the possibilities for success are endless.