Snowbird Insurance

Snowbird Insurance

Written by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 26, 2021

Every winter, there’s typically a mass exodus of retirees from Canada as they flee the frigid temperatures in favour of a more tropical climate. These “snowbirds”, as they’re affectionately called, tend to spend a good chunk of the winter season down South, whether in Florida, Arizona, California, or any other southern destination. 

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If you’re looking to spend a few months out of the year in a warmer place this winter, you’ll need to think about a few other things aside from booking your flight and reserving a long-term rental. 

Illness and injury can happen anytime, anywhere. And while you may be covered for medical expenses in Canada, you’ll be on the hook to pay for any medical bills incurred on your own; that is unless you have a separate insurance policy in hand. 

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Before you head south for the winter, consider taking out some form of snowbird insurance to ensure that you are fully protected while you’re outside the Canadian borders. In this article, we’ll go into detail about what snowbird insurance is and what it covers.

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What is Snowbird Insurance?

Snowbird insurance is designed for Canadians who live in warmer climates outside of Canada for a few months out of the year and require medical coverage.  If you ever get sick or injured while you’re outside of Canada, your snowbird insurance policy will cover the medical bills you may incur as a result. 

More specifically, snowbird travel insurance typically covers the following:

  • Doctor visits
  • Prescription medication
  • Hospitalization
  • Medical procedures, including surgery
  • Medical equipment
  • Ambulance fees
  • Emergency dental work
  • Non-medical emergency evacuations

This type of insurance may also go beyond medical coverage and may also include protection against trip cancellations and interruptions, travel accidents, and lost luggage. 

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It’s also important to find out whether or not the policy you take out covers emergency transportation back to Canada in case of a medical emergency. Known as ‘medical repatriation coverage’, this type of coverage will pay to have you flown back to Canada in the event that you suffer a medical emergency. 

The costs of repatriation can be very high, and some policies may not cover these services. As such, you’ll want to find out whether or not this type of coverage is offered if you feel it’s important to you.

How Much Does Snowbird Insurance Cost? 

Your policy’s cost will depend on a number of factors, including the following:

  • Your age. As is the case with the average life insurance policy, age plays a role in the cost of premiums. The older you are, the more you’ll pay for your policy. Similarly, your gender may play a role as well.
  • Duration of your trip. The longer your trip is, the more expensive your policy may be. 
  • Trip destination. Certain destinations might be considered risky, and your insurance provider may charge a slightly higher premium to cover your travels as a result. 
  • Pre-existing conditions. Like a life insurance policy, a pre-existing condition could impact the price you pay for your snowbird insurance policy.
  • Whether or not you smoke. Smokers or cannabis users will pay more for travel insurance than non-smokers. 
  • Coverage amount. Higher coverage amounts tend to come with higher premiums. 
  • Deductible. Higher deductibles can decrease the premium amount you pay, and vice versa. 
  • Single versus couples’ policy. A couples’ policy will be more expensive than a single policy because there are more people being covered. That said, you may find it more cost-effective to buy a couple’s policy instead of two single policies if you are travelling with your spouse or partner. 

While the above-mentioned factors play a key role in exactly how much you will pay, the average snowbird insurance policy for Canadians hovers around the $700 mark. 

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How Much Coverage Can You Get With Snowbird Insurance?

You can choose the coverage amount that you want, though it typically ranges anywhere from $1 million to $5 million. 

Can a Pre-Existing Condition Affect my Ability to Get Snowbird Insurance?

A pre-existing medical condition does not mean that you will be automatically denied insurance coverage when you travel. You should still be able to take out a travel insurance policy, though your condition could impact your coverage somewhat, depending on your condition and the insurance provider you work with.

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For instance, some insurance companies offer riders that you can add to your policy to provide additional coverage for a pre-existing condition. Others include a stability clause, which means the insurer will cover a pre-existing condition as long as it has been under control for a certain amount of time. These ‘stability periods’ typically range from 7 to 365 days, depending on your exact condition and the insurance company.

Otherwise, there may be reduced stability periods for an unstable pre-existing condition. 

Generally speaking, your snowbird insurance policy will likely be more expensive as a result of your pre-existing medical condition. 

It should be noted, however, that there is a chance that some pre-existing conditions may not be covered, depending on the insurance company. Just make sure to closely review any exclusions to the policy when you obtain a quote. And always be honest about any medical conditions when applying for a policy. 

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Snowbird Insurance: Single Trips and Multi-Trips

If you’re heading south for the winter and are not planning to go back to Canada until the end of your trip, then a single trip policy will do. Single trip policies will protect you on one trip and will expire when you get back home. During the time you’re away, you can visit multiple destinations and will still be covered until the trip is done. 

But if you plan to go back and forth a handful of times throughout the duration of the winter, then a multi-trip policy would be best. A multi-trip or annual policy will cover you for multiple trips taken over a 12-month period. It’s more convenient and cost-effective than taking out a single-trip policy every time you head back down after a quick visit back home.

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Should You Get Snowbird Insurance? 

If you’re planning to escape to a warmer climate at any point this winter, then it’s definitely worth it to take out a snowbird insurance policy. You just never know when illness or injury may strike, and if you’re caught without coverage while abroad, you could find yourself having to pay a hefty bill. 

Medical care is very expensive in the US, so even a minor situation could cost you a few thousand dollars. Before you head to the airport or cross the border, be sure to have some type of travel insurance policy with you. 

How to Get The Best Snowbird Policy 

To make sure you’re getting the best coverage at the lowest rate, consider the following tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time before your trip to look into various insurance companies and policies.
  • Compare quotes from a handful of insurance companies to find out where the most affordable rates are.
  • Compare policy coverages among each insurer in addition to the prices charged.
  • Verify policy coverage inclusions, exclusions, and limitations.
  • Go over the insurance policy thoroughly before you buy into it to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for.  

Learn more on how to buy insurance online.

Do I Need Snowbird Insurance if my Credit Card Offers Travel Insurance?

Depending on the type of travel insurance your credit card offers and what you need, you may not always need snowbird insurance. If you’re just heading down South for a week, then perhaps your credit card’s insurance offerings may be enough.

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But if you’re planning to spend a lot more time away from home and are looking for more comprehensive coverage, then you may want to look into a snowbird insurance policy. It will ensure that you’re covered for the entire duration of your travels and that you’re sufficiently covered.

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Where Can You Get Snowbird Insurance?

A snowbird insurance policy can be purchased anywhere that sells insurance. That includes the following:

  • Banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Insurance brokers

Final Thoughts

For an extra few dollars a month, it’s well worth it to take out a snowbird insurance policy if you plan to spend part of the winter in a southern destination. In most cases, it’s not worth the risk of falling ill or getting injured while abroad, only to find yourself requiring medical attention and having to pay out-of-pocket for service received. Before you head south for the winter, consider taking out a comprehensive snowbird insurance policy.

Caitlin Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Loans Canada and specializes in personal finance. She is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. Caitlin has covered various subjects such as debt, credit, and loans. Her work has been published on Zoocasa, GoDaddy, and deBanked. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security.

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