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Government Relations


Jim Sherb

First Vice-President


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

medical care.

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 at .

Have a wonderful rest in your winter homes.