One of the most commonly asked questions we get is what Canadian travel insurance companies offer direct payment for travel insurance claims? In this article, we talk about what direct pay is, and give a shortlist of Canadian companies that offer direct pay travel insurance policies.
There’s a cost to getting sick, whether that cost’s physical, emotional or in the wallet. Sometimes it’s all three. The truth is, there’s not much you can do about it. Accidents happen when you least expect them and when you get sick or hurt, it’s definitely not by choice.
This is doubly true when you’re travelling. No one wants to spend time in a hospital or waiting in a recovery room. Even though we have good healthcare in Canada, as Canadians we’re used to waiting in line to see a doctor or get a prescription. What we’re not used to doing is paying for our healthcare and waiting for the government to pay us back.
The sad part is, nearly everyone knows someone who got sick or hurt while travelling outside of Canada. For the most part, either they paid for their hospital bill themselves or their travel insurance provider took care of it.
Hopefully, they had travel insurance and the majority of the cost was covered by an insurance policy. Even so, sometimes how and when the bill gets paid by the insurance provider comes into question.
If the insurance provider pays the bill, what you might not know is if the provider paid the bill directly or the person in question had to cough up the dough and patiently wait for the insurance company to pay them back.
This might not be a big deal if the amounts are reasonable, but what happens when the costs reach into the tens of thousands? The other question you need to ask is how long will it be before you’re reimbursed for medical expenses? Days, months, a year? Will it even happen?
Benefits of Direct Payment
For that reason, a lot of Canadians choose to find a travel insurance provider that offers direct pay or direct payment. Essentially, the insurance provider pays the bill directly (with you perhaps paying only the deductible if there is one) and then you go on your way. This is great for so many reasons, however there are also a few warnings.
Obviously, the best reason for direct pay is that you’re not going in the red when it happens. You know that you’re being covered and the stress and hassle of having to pay with your own funds is diminished. You can also rest easy knowing that you won’t be on the hook for any interest or foreign transaction fees if you had to use your credit card to pay.
A credit card is often one of the easiest ways to pay your hospital bills in a foreign country.
For those without spare funds (which could number in the thousands) to pay for their bills up front, direct payment is the easiest solution.
That being said, there can be some issues with direct pay.
Negatives of Direct Pay
For one, nearly every policy we’ve seen that offers direct pay has a clause saying that direct pay is not always available. The best example of that would be in countries without a well defined payment system.
Likewise, some areas are so remote that the insurance provider has no way of directly paying for the bill. You would be on the hook for those costs and would need to submit your bills and then wait for the insurance provider to reimburse you as in a typical plan.
There are also some places, private or otherwise who refuse to deal directly with insurance providers, and once again you’ll be responsible for paying your bill out of pocket and then submitting your bills for reimbursement. Frankly, your insurance provider can only do so much in those instances.
Note: Just because your insurance company might pay your bill instantly via direct pay doesn’t mean that you won’t be on the hook in case a problem arises in your policy. For example, if they found out you incorrectly filled out your medical questionnaire and weren’t eligible it could void your policy and you might be on the hook for paying them back.
There’s also the clause that most providers require you, or a person traveling with you, needs to contact them prior to seeking treatment. If it’s an emergency that could be difficult. Regardless, it’s still in your policy to contact them first. There are many reasons to this and it’s usually in your best interest.
For instance, the requirement to call first can be so they can direct you to a place where they can direct pay, a hospital that they know will take better care of you or even to a hospital where they already have an agreement in place for a reduced sum.
You might not care how much it costs them, but realize every policy they pay out means higher premiums for us all as well as that there’s a chance you might be on the hook for some or all of those costs. As we’ve seen in a previous post, that could amount into the thousands or even tens of thousands.
More Direct Payment policies on the horizon
The nice part about direct payment insurance in Canada, is that every year we’re seeing more Canadian companies getting on board. As modern instant communication, international money transfers and the internet expands, direct communication between your travel insurance provider and the healthcare facility in the country you’re travelling in becomes even stronger.
We’re hoping to see more companies offer this in the years ahead, however it’s always possible that your current or favourite travel insurance provider now offers it so it never hurts to ask.
Canadian travel insurance companies that offer Direct Pay
We’ve looked through our ever changing list of companies that now offer Direct Pay and have included a few to get you started. Feel free to check out their reviews while you’re deciding which plan is right for you.
April International offers direct pay and here’s what they say about it.
“Direct Payment — Direct payment of eligible medical expenses approved in advance is part of our service, but if it is not possible for the Insurer to pay directly, you may be required to provide payment yourself and submit a claim supported by proper documentation.”
You can get a quote from April International here.
World Nomads doesn’t mention anything in their policy however we called them up and this is what they had to say: “we do have the ability, however it ultimately depends on the facility” and to contact them before seeking treatment so they can help send you to a place that will do direct pay.
Tugo (formerly Travel Underwriters) offers direct payment for medical treatment, when possible, if you’re traveling outside your home province up to the expenses insured for a covered claim. The expenses need to be medically necessary for the treatment of an acute, sudden and unexpected sickness or accident.
You can get a quote from Tugo here.
Travel Cuts has nothing in their policy wording regarding direct payments however we called in and were told that they do offer it however it usually depends on the clinic or hospital in question. As usual, it’s always best to contact your travel insurance provider before checking into any hospital to see which hospital or clinic they recommend. Not only can they direct you to the place with the best care but they also might save you thousands of dollars and a big hassle.
You can get a quote from Travel Cuts here.
As always, all policies and coverage can change at any time, without warning. This article is only intended as general advice. Please check your own policy carefully.
Looking for more direct pay travel insurance policies?
Start your search off with a free quote from Kanetix.ca. They’re from Canada and Kanetix is also a great place to begin your search to compare travel insurance costs from several different Canadian companies at once. From there check out any of our reviews up top to find more about each company.
*As always, the information on this page is from one Canadian traveller to another. We have spent years abroad and have gotten to know the ins and outs of the industry however we are not travel insurance agents. If you have any travel insurance questions, please talk to a qualified travel insurance agent or broker. Finally, policies and plans can and do change all the time, without warning, so always consult your insurance policy since that is the legal document to which you are agreeing to.
*This article is only intended as general advice. Please check your own policy carefully.