...they read our policy, and they know!

Summer 2011 CSANews Issue 79  |  Posted date : Jul 08, 2011.Back to list

In 2008 (the last available statistics), the U.S. health-care system provided many free medical and hospital services under their Medicare and Medicaid programs. Just looking at the hospital costs, which comprises the largest portion of course, we find that for every $1.00 of services which the nation's hospitals provided to seniors, the government reimbursed only $0.91 under Medicare.

Under the Medicaid program, the hospitals only received $0.89 for every $1.00 that they spent on these people. Compounding the problem, since 2008, we have had high medical inflation due to increasing labour, drug and ancillary service costs. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of new, very expensive drugs and treatments, as well as costly new machines to better diagnose illnesses. The shortfalls in funding have gotten much worse over the past three years and these hospital losses obviously must be recaptured from other sources. 

To put all this into perspective, U.S. medical costs have increased by more than 100% in the past 10 years. Currently (2008), there are 47 million people receiving benefits under Medicare and more than 60 million people receiving benefits under Medicaid. The hospital revenue shortfalls are enormous.

That's where we come in. Visitors to the United States, and even visitors from a different state, are one of the sources of funding to offset these huge systemic losses. The prices which hospitals charge to out-of-state patients are often several times the prices reimbursed under Medicare; the prices charged to foreigners can be even higher. Canadians are foreigners when we are in the United States and we must pay those excessively higher prices.

But Canadians haven't a clue about medical costs! We have been trained by our various governments to consider medical treatment as FREE. We never see a bill, we never write a cheque and we are all oblivious to the realities of Canadian Medicare. A major portion of our taxes is used to pay for our health care and yet, we do not even know how much that seven-minute doctor visit costs, let alone the expensive battery of tests we undergo for our checkups. And that hospital visit... well, I guess it must cost someone, something.

Our lack of knowledge and lack of cost-awareness is actually quite dangerous. Most of us already know the dangers of unexpected medical costs, but many younger people simply cross borders and take trips and cruises with no thought to injury or sickness. They believe that if something happens to them, they will just walk into the doctor or hospital and get fixed. The government will pay for it; just like they do in Canada. Wrong!

For a typical $100,000 hospital bill, the provincial government will pay you back about $5,000. This leaves a mere $95,000 for you to pay. Will that be cash or Chargex? (For our younger readers, Chargex was the original name for credit cards issued by Canadian banks a long, long time ago.) There have been several claims this past year in the $500,000 range and claims in excess of one million dollars are no longer rare. The travel lottery can become very expensive, and possibly bankrupt you, if you do not pay attention.

Of course, the obvious answer is to buy travel medical insurance to pay the hospitals and doctors and test laboratories and clinics and air ambulances and... need I go on? It is expensive but, when needed, it is invaluable, if you bought the right policy. And, as the ads on TV say, it can be priceless due to the medical assistance and advice that are available through the plans which include full medical assistance services. Some of these services can also save your life, in some instances, as they can often act as second opinions on complicated procedures.

You noticed the italics above, I know, and I sincerely request that you buy a policy which fully covers your pre-existing conditions. These are a little difficult to find, of course, but if you can't find one that covers you, then I would not travel. If you are thinking of buying from someone other than Medipac, I would tell them about your drugs and your hospitalizations and your doctor visits and ask them to tell you that you are covered, preferably in writing. The two or three best rates from other plans often do not cover any condition for which you are taking a drug, or anything related to it. They do not say this in the sales literature or in the brochure. They say that this is the definition of "Treatment" in the actual policy. Many of these other plans are directed at seniors; don't they know that more than 90% of people over 65 take at least one drug? Just to totally make my point - more than 50% of people over 65 take five drugs or more!!!! Where is that red warning label?

I also wanted to reiterate something that I said in the last issue. A lot of snowbirds are being told that no insurance company will cover pre-existing conditions. This is very wrong! There's that word again. Medipac covers pre-existing conditions that are stable AND covers your conditions that require drugs, again, provided that your condition is stable. Other plans say that too, but you don't really know until you read their policy. My guess is that some agents must be saying that "pre-existing conditions are not covered by anyone," because the policy which they are selling does not cover them. Or perhaps they just do not know about Medipac. 

Medipac will rarely appear on travel insurance comparisons as we do not have agents to market our program. However, some of the very best life insurance agents in Canada do sell Medipac because they read our policy and they know. Some do it as a free service to their valued clients and some will charge a fee for their time. We are proud to have these top agents reviewing our products and recommending them.

Did I mention that the Canadian Snowbird Association and the Royal Canadian Legion recommend our program too. Of course I did, about a thousand times by now, I expect. Early Bird is available, so save a little money for next year and buy your travel insurance now.