If you’re travelling you need to ask what should a Canadian do if they are injured on a vacation in the U.S. before you go. With different health care systems and insurance policies, handling medical bills and ensuring you get the care you need to recover, enjoying what’s left of your trip, and getting home safely can seem like an impossible challenge. Fortunately, you have options. Let’s take a look at what happens if you’ve fallen ill or injured in the United States as a Canadian citizen.
Handling Sickness or Injury in the United States
According to the Government of Canada, if you get sick when you’re traveling, there are a few ways to seek help:
- Many major tourist hotels have in-house doctors who are available to provide guests with medical care. Hotels can also help you make an appointment with a local physician.
- If you have travel insurance, which we will discuss in detail later, you can contact the local number you were given or the assistance centre in Canada to ask for a referral.
- If you need urgent care, your best option is to go to the nearest hospital.
Dealing with a Medical Emergency on Vacation
Medical emergencies can happen at any time, anywhere. You could wind up in a car accident while on your way to dinner or a show, or you could slip and fall on a wet hotel floor. If you’ve been injured on vacation in the U.S., deciding where to go and what to do can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you have the option of contacting the nearest Canadian government office.
If you contact the closest government office, they can provide you with a number of services including providing a list of physicians, clinics, and hospitals, contacting your next of kin in the event of incapacity, assisting with contacting your insurance company, contacting your medical doctor in Canada so they can discuss your condition with the local treating physician, and provide assistance for medical evacuation and safe transfer back to Canada.
It’s important to note that if you’re injured in the United States, the Canadian government cannot pay your hospital or medical bills, pay for medical evacuations, make decisions regarding your care, interfere in your medical care, or provide legal advice.
If you believe negligence was a contributing factor to your injury outside of the country, we can provide you with legal guidance and help you determine how best to proceed.
Travel Insurance and Other Considerations Before Leaving Canada
Canada’s national health insurance program is designed to ensure all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary care on a prepaid basis. There are 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, as opposed to a single national plan. If you reside in British Columbia and are eligible for Medical Services Plan coverage, it’s important to understand that health care costs incurred outside of the province may not be covered and the difference could be substantial. That’s why it’s recommended to purchase additional health insurance prior to leaving the province or country. Take a moment to ask your insurance provider, what should a Canadian do if they’re injured on a vacation in the U.S..
If you plan to travel outside of Canada, even for just a day, it’s best to buy travel health insurance before you leave. You can get travel insurance through a travel agent, insurance broker, employer’s insurance provider, or credit card company.
The travel health insurance you get should cover medical evacuation, pre-existing medical conditions, and repatriation in case of death.
- Medical Evacuation. If you’re injured or fall ill, having evacuation covered means the cost of a medical escort to travel with you to a hospital or medical facility in Canada will be covered.
- Pre-existing Medical Conditions. The definition of a pre-existing condition can vary depending on the insurance provider. You’ll want to get in writing that the insurance covers your condition. Make sure the agreement includes a stability clause. This clause covers you if you experience no changes to that condition.
- Repatriation in Case of Death. If a Canadian resident dies in the United States, this covers the preparation and return of the remains to Canada.
If you need medical attention while travelling in the United States, be sure to get a detailed report and invoice from the doctor and hospital before leaving the country for travel insurance policy reimbursement. This will ensure you won’t be waiting for paperwork to arrive across borders. You’ll be able to submit the claims as quickly as possible and focus on your recovery.
It is your responsibility to know and understand the terms of your health insurance and travel insurance policy. Be sure to ask for clarification when necessary. Sometimes, however, getting answers from insurance companies can be hard. At Wishart Brain & Spine Law, we can answer any legal questions you may have. Contact Us for more information.