Canadian snowbirds told to come home as some insurers warn medical insurance will be restricted

John Paul Tasker · CBC News

Johnson, Medoc have given policyholders until March 23 to come home or risk losing emergency medical insurance

Canadian snowbirds are being advised to return home as the COVID-19 pandemic advances in the U.S. — and access to out-of-country medical insurance comes to an end for some travellers.

Speaking to reporters from self-isolation Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a plea to all Canadians abroad: come home now or risk being stranded as countries close their borders and limit flights.

The Canadian Snowbirds Association says it’s advising all of its members to heed the PM’s advice and head for home.

The advocacy group, which represents tens of thousands of Canadians who winter in warmer climes, has told members to leave their residences in places like Florida and Arizona because insurance options will become increasingly limited in the days ahead as some providers move to cancel or restrict policies — including policies that were signed well before COVID-19 spread to parts of Canada and the U.S.

“Other than perhaps a medical emergency or some extenuating circumstances, we believe our membership should return home as soon as possible,” said Evan Rachkovsky, director of research with the Canadian Snowbirds Association.

‘We are concerned’

“We are concerned,” Rachkovsky said when asked about some insurers cutting people off. “We are telling people to contact their travel insurance provider.”

Rachkovsky said many snowbirds are “unsettled” because they are dealing with a very fluid situation that has changed dramatically in the last 72 hours. “We’re doing our best to supply our members with updates as soon as they’re available,” he said.

The organization is expecting an uptick in traffic at border crossings as “hundreds of thousands” of snowbirds head for home at roughly the same time.

A number of medical insurance providers have advised clients that their coverage will end 10 days after Ottawa issued the advisory warning against all non-essential travel outside of Canada.

That means many medical insurance plans will stop covering treatment and procedures for snowbirds on Monday, March 23.


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