Travel Health Insurance - don't ask, don't tell? - CycleBlaze

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Travel Health Insurance - don't ask, don't tell?

Steve Miller/Grampies

With the built in risks of cycle touring, and the life savings eating potential of a serious illness while in another country, travel medical insurance is generally a necessity. But as your age climbs above 55, costs begin to grow exponentially. The biggest hits come when you finally develop a "pre-existing condition". As soon as the companies learn of your high cholesterol, or whatever, they begin to ring up the fees, big time. And if there has been any change for better or worse  lately (in some cases, in the past year) they drag over canvas bags and demand you fill them with cash. These costs eventually can easily exceed the airfare to actually get to a distant trip.

Since even a hint or whiff of information that you may not be in perfect health sets the cash registers ringing (or the threats of non-coverage flying), a good defence could be "don't ask" and so "don't tell". So when your doctor suggests a routine blood test, or general check up, it's time to raise the red flags and dig your heels in and resist. Or is it?

On the one hand, it might be useful to know that you could keel over when you attempt to turn on the jets going up Stelvio Pass. But if you know that, maybe you won't go, or will not be able to afford to go. Then again, if you don't know, then you could die happy doing what you love, and still have some money left to leave to the grand kids.

What do you say - go for that checkup, or not?

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9 months ago
Mike AylingTo Steve Miller/Grampies

I would prefer to cark it attempting a mountain pass than spending a number of years with a terminal disease.

Consequently I go for all the tests that my phc suggests including regular colonoscopies so that  cancers etc can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

If this results in huge travel insurance premiums there are still plenty of places in my home country that we can still cycle tour.


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9 months ago
John PescatoreTo Mike Ayling

There was a medical/drama TV show on a few years ago, "House" where for the first 45 minutes they would try and fail to diagnose someone with an exotic disease. Since by then the patient was nearly dead, the young doctors would say "Let's do a full body MRI" and Dr. House would say "No! Everyone has something  that isn't going to kill them - finding out those things will just distract  you from what is wrong with this poor sucker."

I'm pretty much in the same camp with Mike - the dreaded yearly prostate check is about the only regular one. Biking keeps the blood pressure down!

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9 months ago
John SaxbyTo John Pescatore

We have a travel insurance plan linked to my wife's pension. The basic fee for that includes provision for 40 days away from Canada; any time above that is extra, and the longer you're away or the older you get, the more it costs. (These companies don't do seniors' discounts:  "Sorry, sir. Respect for elders doesn't really pay, y'know?")  The "pre-existing conditions"/medications/etc are baked into both levels, and I assume reflect general data and calculations by actuaries. I've often thought that I should just invite whomever it is that designs these things, to come with me on a 100-km ride through the Gatineau Hills, and then we'd talk...  But, that's not going to happen, so I look after my own health as best I can, and that includes taking meds for the duration to keep blood clots at bay. (These days, that's no big deal, thankfully -- it's manageable.) 

On a "don't ask, don't tell" strategy:  We've had some experience in making claims from the company involved, and I reckon that the company would like nothing better than an excuse not to pay a claim.  No point in making it easier for them, therefore.  If I'm going to travel internationally (that includes the U.S.) for long-ish periods, then I'll pay the premium involved. Given the risks (especially from traffic), there are some potentially catastrophic false economies. If I can't or don't want to pay the premium, then I'll stay home--there's lots of unexplored terrain here.

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9 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Steve Miller/Grampies

This is sort of related.

I've just retired and my employer-provided benefits will end at the end of June, while my husband intends to retire at the end of June (with his benefits likely ending with the month of July).  We are therefore investigating our options.  We both turned 60 in 2018.

The fundamental choice is between

  • an extended health plan that includes a pretty decent travel package (emergency medical and trip cancellation/interruption/etc.) for unlimited trips up to 62 days (with option for longer trips) for a set monthly premium (currently $211 for a couple) which will go up at age 75 but is still available to age 84, or
  • one of various significantly less expensive extended health plans (around $130 per month) and getting travel insurance as we need it.

In Canada, all such plans are "extended health" because they are based on the insured having basic medical insurance through the public system.

I always thought I was very healthy, until I fainted on a Skytrain platform shortly after returning from 5 weeks of solo cycling in the Pyrenees.  I was taken by ambulance to the local emergency department where they couldn't find anything wrong other than my low heart rate.  More than two years on and no cause has been identified, so I don't have a pre-existing condition--yet!

I'm trying to compare the options and would like any insight I can get from others who are active, bike-touring seniors.

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6 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Jacquie Gaudet

Some of your choice depends on how the two options may change as time goes by and circumstances change. For example, if you sign on for the $211, does that stay constant even as you age, and acquire pre-existing conditions - like high blood pressure?

Or, can you hold off and only later sign on to an extended health plan, for the $130?

From what follows, you will be see why these questions are important.

First point, at 60 years of age and probably for at least 15 years to come, the extended health is unlikely to pay for itself, given all that is already covered by government in Canada. You would need to get a lot of eyeglasses, ambulance trips, or drugs - which should not happen for quite a while. 

Next, using BCAA Emergency Travel Medical as the example, the cost for you right now (international travel, including USA, $500 deductible, 60 day trips) is $800 per year (total, for both people). However at your current ages if you happen to have one health defect - like high blood pressure - and want coverage for this as a pre-existing condition, then the cost moves to about $1600 (total per year). Once you hit 75 years of age, but if you would be still in perfect health, the cost is about $2300 per year. But with the high blood pressure (both of you, eh) the cost is then $4600 per year.

To summarize some of the choices- if at your current ages you dispense with extended medical and buy the 60 day travel policies, then your cost is $800. 

If you want the extended medical, but still buy the 60 day travel policy, then your annual cost for two is $2360.

Or finally, if you go for the all inclusive package, your cost is $2532.

So all inclusive looks like the most costly option. However, if and only if they will hold firm while you age and sicken (sorry - the brutal truth), then when you are 75 they could still be charging $2532 while your extended health  plus separate travel option would be at $4600+1560= $6160.

My own choice - I would take the $800 cheap current deal and let the future do whatever it does. I could cycle under a bus, or quit travelling, before that scenario 15 years in the future ever happens!

By the way, I should not be so smug, because that 75 year old scenario is only 4 years in our own future!

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6 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Steve Miller/Grampies

Thanks, Steve, for this food for thought.  I will, of course, have to factor in my physiotherapy costs, the most-used of my current employer-sponsored health benefits.

All of the plans require that you sign on within 2 months of your current group plan ending, else you will need to complete a medical questionnaire or exam.  I suspect that if anything shows up in said exam, premiums would be higher.

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6 months ago