n 1992, the Canadian Snowbird Association was
founded when 1,092 Canadians staged a rally oppos-
ing the reduction of payments, by several Canadian
provinces, for out-of-country emergency medical care.
Some owned property in the United States. Many were
seniors living on fixed or limited incomes who were
renting a vacation property from year to year and some
were simply occasional vacationers.
All believed in the basic principle that Canadians of all
ages and backgrounds should have access to the same
emergency health services outside of Canada that they
receive inside Canada.
In 1994, the Ontario government reduced the maximum
reimbursement rate for out-of-country emergency med-
ical expenses from $400 to $100 a day. In 1994, $400
a day was essentially what it would cost the Ontario
government to treat you if the emergency occurred
right here in Ontario. Cutting it to $100 a day was a
clear violation of the portability principle of the Canada
Health Act. The relevant section of the act clearly states,
“Where the insured health services are provided out of
Canada, payment is made on the basis of the amount
that would have been paid by the province for similar
services rendered in the province.” That appears pretty
straightforward. To put it mildly, this did not go over well
with our Ontario members.
I mean, it’s not as if we were asking the government to pay
the high costs of U.S. hospital stays. U.S. hospitals have
always charged us more; that’s why we’ll always have our
emergency travel medical insurance. All we were asking
for was the provincial rate. None of our requests would
ever cost the province more money than if the emergency
had occurred right here in Ontario.
As I said, this did not go over well with our members,
so much so, that the newly elected government in 1995
restored the rate to a maximum of $400 a day. That rate
has not budged in 20 years and so, when you combine the
rising costs of health care with the general rate of inflation,
it’s now actually a much lower amount and well below
what it costs to treat you in an Ontario hospital. What is
the rate?Well, we don’t know exactly because theMinistry
of Health won’t tell us, but it was approximately $850 a
day in 2004 so we know that it is quite a bit higher now.
Why am I telling you all of this? The Ontario Ministry
of Health is currently reviewing many of its programs
looking for more money and your emergency out-of-
country health care is one of the areas at which they are
looking. So far, no official decision has been made and
it is our hope that the government will look at options
other than cutting your emergency out-of-country
If in fact this is the route they decide to go, they will have
to publicly post their proposal for 60 days in order to
afford an opportunity for public comment. Rest assured,
we’ll let you know exactly how you can do that. With
well in excess of 90,000 members, I suspect that many
of you will comment with a loud voice.
As most of you are aware, the Canadian Snowbird Asso-
ciation has successfully worked with a number of juris-
dictions regarding the issue of residency requirements
and eligibility for continuous health coverage. Over the
last few years, the CSA has succeeded in advocating for
an additional month of coverage in British Columbia,
Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
We can now add the Northwest Territories to the list.
We are pleased to announce that the Northwest Terri-
tories has recently amended their temporary absence
policy to increase coverage for residents on extended
vacations. Long-term vacationing residents will now
only need to be present in the territory for 153 days
each year, as opposed to the previous requirement of
183 days, in order to remain eligible for continuous
territorial health benefits.
Snowbirds from the N.W.T. should keep in mind that
they need to complete a temporary absence form for
absences exceeding three months, to ensure that they are
covered for the duration of their absence. This form has
recently been amended, making it more user-friendly
and easy to complete. The updated form is available
online atwww.hss.gov.nt.ca .
Have a wonderful rest in your winter homes.