Do You Need Private Health Insurance for Travelling Within Canada?
The increasing possibility that the Zika virus may soon find a home in the southern regions of the U.S., i.e. Florida, Texas, the southeast Atlantic, and the other Gulf States, suggests that young families scheduling summer vacations may think travelling across Canada to be a good alternative. ("Young families" because the danger of Zika virus is greater for pregnant women or those who might become pregnant).
Luckily, Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that transmit this virus, is not native to Canada, which adds a valid reason (along with slumping loonies) to begin thinking about domestic travel in the upcoming vacation months.
That begs the question, "Do I need private travel health insurance to visit my own country?”
Do I need travel health insurance in Canada?
Whether you question travel agencies, official government websites, motor leagues, and travel insurance. The response will still be 'yes,' even though Canada has a long history of offering affordable and equitable health coverage to all its residents—no matter where they live.
Although a more circumspect response may be, "It depends on your circumstances."
Realize that medicare is planned and operated by the province, not by Ottawa. It is a regional service (with some federal funding) that, as such, has its regulations, benefit plans, vendor return rates, and costs that it can cover—and not cover. Additionally, the laws differ from province to province.
Under the original Medical Care Act, which introduced universal health care to Canada and its sequel, the Canada Health Act (which amended the original somewhat), Canadians are entitled to the portability of health care facilities anywhere they go. However, the federal government has declined to implement the portability provision completely (e.g., allowing provinces to pay only a pittance for health care when you exit the country).
For example, British Columbia provides only $75 (loonies) a day to international hospitals for hospital services given to residents afflicted by medical emergencies in foreign countries.
Coverage within Canada
As far as coverage within Canada is concerned, provinces have mutual agreements with each other in which the province is offering the service bills to your home province or territory for the most medically required care. So, for the most part, you face no significant financial burden to fund these vital care and healthcare facilities.
However, certain "additional benefits" (e.g. prescription medications, land and air ambulance systems, and treatment given by allied health workers) are usually not portable beyond one's home jurisdiction or territory and can be relatively expensive. (One such instance was the case of Amy Savill in 2015.) For example, in Nova Scotia, the patient's emergency ambulance charge is $142.30. It can run from $270 to $530 in Manitoba. In other provinces, these payments differ considerably.
If you're travelling in a relatively remote area and need an air ambulance to get to the closest suitable hospital. In that case, the costs will be even higher—and more likely your responsibility will be.
What this boils down to is how happy you are with a certain amount of danger
Risk or insurance: what do you prefer?
If you're not concerned about the possibility of paying $400, $500, or even $1,000 out of pocket for an unforeseen medical accident, and you're able to face the reality that maybe private health care isn't for you. Some individuals perceive insurance to be a purchase solely meant to cover any economically calamitous event—like getting a heart attack.
To shield your family from the risk that one of them might suddenly require an ambulance ride to the hospital, or a new prescription while driving, health insurance for Canadian citizens is a sound purchase.
Whatever your choice is, it is based on your strategy and your level of risk and convenience. Speak to your travel insurance counsellor, or if you have private health insurance offered by your company or your retirement account, check it out—you will find that you are still insured.