Travel Insurance and Pregnancy Coverage
Over the years, we have had many inquiries at our office concerning private medical coverage for pregnancy. We have fielded similar questions about maternity benefits from different types of travelers, including visitors to Canada, returning Canadians and Canadians traveling overseas. Many people believe that travel insurance can be made available for those who are pregnant. Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case.
Normally, Canadian residents do not have to worry about maternity costs. Canada’s universal health-care system provides all residents with medical coverage during pregnancy. In some cases though, caution is needed.
Visitors to Canada on long-term stays are normally not covered for maternity care by Visitors-to-Canada insurance. While some policies provide coverage for complications related to normal pregnancies during the first 31 or 32 weeks of pregnancy, the final eight or nine weeks are not covered. Likewise, there is no coverage for standard pre-natal care. Therefore, if you are a non-Canadian planning on delivering your baby while in Canada, you should try to ensure that you are covered by your foreign government health insurance or private medical insurance. As government plans tend to be more restrictive, the best option is to seek out private worldwide coverage before becoming pregnant. Otherwise, you should expect a bill from the Canadian hospital where you deliver your baby of between $10,000 and $20,000. Of course, complications related to delivery, extended stays in hospital and care for premature babies can add thousands of dollars to the bill. A recent case in Vancouver provides a stark example. An uninsured Australian woman who gave birth to a premature baby received a $1 million bill after a three-month stay at BC Woman’s Hospital.
Returning Canadian Expats
Similarly, returning Canadians who have been residing overseas for a number of years are initially in the same position as visitors. Many provincial medical programs now have a three-month waiting period until you can join, during which time medical bills are not covered. For those arriving back early in their pregnancy, this is normally not an issue. A visitor’s policy will normally cover complications that arise during the first and second trimesters, and paying out-of-pocket for an initial private consultation with an obstetrician will usually cost less than $200. Private pre-natal care clinics are alsoavailable in many cities for a reasonable cost. Problems arise when Canadian expats arrive back home with less than three months to go before the due date. While some Prairie and Maritime provinces may provide immediate access to provincial medical plans, this is only intended for those who are planning to permanently reside in that province.
Canadian hospitals often charge lower rates to uninsured Canadians than what they charge to foreigners, but a total bill of $5,000 to $10,000 should still be expected for a normal delivery. One lower-cost option for those expecting a normal delivery may be to plan on a home-delivery with the assistance of a mid-wife.
Canadian Travelers & Students
Finally, pregnant Canadians traveling overseas are faced with similar problems. Standard Canadian emergency medical travel insurance excludes most pre-natal care and maternity care. The only exception is complications related to pregnancy up to eight or nine weeks before the due date, which are covered by certain policies. Elective travel should therefore be avoided in the third trimester.
There is one exception to the lack of maternity benefits provided by travel insurance policies. Most student policies for Canadians studying overseas and long-term expat policies do provide limited maternity coverage. Of course, these policies must be purchased prior to start of the pregnancy, and coverage is often insufficient to pay for all of the bills. For example, the TIC Global Expatriate policy offers between $5,000 and $25,000 in coverage, and the Manulife Student Policy provides similar coverage, with a cap of $20,000.