For those adventurous souls who flock south during the frigid Canadian winters to bask in warmer climates, navigating health insurance options can be a daunting task. Managing provincial health insurance, like OHIP, can be complicated, and private travel health insurance can be expensive.
We have compiled a comprehensive guide to help you stay protected and worry-free during your snowbird escapades. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time snowbird, join us as we unravel the secrets to smart, cost-effective health insurance solutions for your winter migrations.
If you live in Ontario and go down south every year, you need to understand what OHIP covers and how to keep your coverage valid.
OHIP won’t cover while abroad. It used to, but that ended in 2020. It is still important to maintain OHIP coverage on the other hand because having valid OHIP will reduce the cost of your private health insurance. Most traditional travel health insurance offered by Canadian insurance carriers requires that you maintain valid OHIP coverage for the duration of your trip to remain eligible. They do this to allow for repatriation of your healthcare in the event of a more complicated medical event. If they can get you seen in Canada, on our public funded system, they will, which is why keeping valid OHIP coverage will save you money.
Maintaining OHIP coverage as a Snowbird.
If you plan on being outside Canada for more than seven months (212 days) in any 12-month period, you can keep your OHIP coverage for up to two years if you:
- Have a valid health card
- Make Ontario your primary home
- will be in Ontario for at least 153 days a year in each of the two years immediately before you leave the country
It’s up to you to ensure that your OHIP coverage remains valid, you won’t be receiving a phone call, letter, or any communication from the government if your coverage is no longer valid because you have been out of the country for too long.
This is still important because your travel insurance likely requires it and they will verify in the event of a claim. They certainly will in the event of a catastrophic claim like a heart attack. If OHIP is a policy eligibility requirement, and yours wasn’t valid, then neither is your travel health insurance. This could mean a denied claim. Having valid OHPI is something to be sure about.
If you want to be 100% sure. The Government of Ontario recommends doing the following.
Before you leave, take the following items to the nearest Service Ontario Center to make sure your OHIP coverage stays active:
- Your health card
- Proof of residency (e.g. mortgage, lease or rental agreement, property tax bill, valid driver’s license)
You’ve Lost OHIP coverage, What Now?
It’s not a problem, there are options, but they are costlier and how you navigate going forward is important. Both foreign and Canadian insurance carriers offer emergency health insurance to Canadians who do not have valid provincial health coverage. Many foreign insurance companies can also offer comprehensive global medical insurance which will cover the entire gambit of medical services, such as oncology, preventative medicine, palliative care, and much more.
Emergency health insurance is more affordable and is suitable for those who may have accidentally lost OHIP and are planning on regaining it in either the short or medium term. It is a short-term solution because health expenses are an inevitability and comprehensive global health insurance does not view pre-existing medical conditions favorably. While it is often possible to get coverage on pre-existing conditions, terms are often less favorable and more expensive. Getting coverage on acute (happening now in a severe way) pre-existing conditions is quite challenging.
Long Term & Permanent Expats
If you are planning on becoming a long term or permanent expat, you should invest in comprehensive global medical insurance early, even before losing OHIP coverage. This will anchor that coverage before pre-existing medical conditions become an issue, or more of an issue. Comprehensive global medical insurance may be more expensive than emergency health insurance, or traditional Canadian travel insurance but may be the difference between recovery and passing over prematurely for lack of financial means when your health inevitable becomes more challenging.
Get Quotes & More Information
Talk to one of our experts to find out what’s best for you. We have an impressive lineup both domestic and international health insurance carriers to offer a wide variety of coverage options at the best prices available.