Last month, a very fit and active friend of mine spent 100 hours in a cardiac ICU in Florida following sudden chest pain. He then had a ‘mini-stroke’ which affected his speech for 10 minutes. This is very bad news, especially when you’re 85.
Imagine his relief when he received no bill — nothing! — from the hospital as he was put on an air ambulance back to Canada. True, he had no pre-existing issues with his heart or circulation. But his age alone would have put him in a category that can carry a jaw-dropping cost.
What he did have was a gold-plated insurance policy. He ‘overpaid,’ not because he’d been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, but just because he was old.
His case proves that when you get old, bad things can happen, and the older you are, the more likely they are to happen, no matter how fit and mindful you have been in your life.
I’ll be 80 this year; my husband is a much younger 72. We’re both adventure travelers and athletes. I’ve run the Boston Marathon and was there in 2013 when the bomb exploded at the finish line.
I’m also a physician. I pay attention to the travel needs of my aging patients because they’re often too eager to get on planes and ships, especially after two years of lockdown. That’s why, over the next few months, I’ll be sharing my travel advice for seniors — that is, any traveler 65 and older.
My friend’s story highlights the importance of travel insurance for travellers of all ages, but especially seniors. There are two kinds of travel insurance: cancellation insurance in the event your trip is called off or postponed, and health insurance if you get sick or die while you’re on a trip.
The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have changed the rules around exclusions — in other words, things that your policy won’t cover.
First, COVID is a known event and was excluded until early 2022. But you can buy COVID coverage by adding it to whatever insurance package you sign up for.
The cost is around $125 on top of your basic coverage. But it may be a life saver and at the very least ensure your peace of mind. The first step is to contact your current travel policy provider and ask them about COVID coverage.
The second exclusion is a nuclear attack at your travel destination. Unlike COVID, you can’t pay extra for nuclear coverage. It is an exclusion in all circumstances.
Checkup before you check in
Many of my patients over 80 don’t want to see me before they head off on a trip. They may well have pre-existing conditions, like a weak heart, or they’ve had cancer. They don’t want me to uncover a new condition like hypertension or diabetes that would disqualify them from coverage. And if not disqualify, then make their premiums rise often beyond the actual cost of their trip.