It’s that time of year again.

Families are putting up their Christmas trees and decorating their homes with poinsettias. Offices around Toronto are full of colour, Secret Santa exchanges, and holiday parties. During the holidays many people go away on vacation with their families and friends – getting away from the concrete jungle and enjoying some well-deserved R&R. Don’t forget your employee benefits plan may cover out-of-country medical emergencies!

It’s common practice for your airline or travel agency to offer you insurance for lost baggage and trip cancellation – and yes, it’s always a great idea to buy those. But just in case they offer you insurance for unexpected medical emergencies, it’s wise to check if your employee benefits plan covers this benefit, before you check off that box.

Most employee benefits plans that have a health and dental coverage typically have this benefit covered. It might be a good idea to have a quick chat with your Employee Benefits Administrator or HR Manager and ask them if you have emergency travel medical coverage. If the answer is yes, make sure you have the contact information in case of an emergency. While most insurance companies like Manulife, Sun Life, and Equitable Life, will list this benefit as part of the employee benefits booklet, they will likely contract with another global provider to deliver this service – for example, Allianz Global.

Typical emergency medical plans provide 100% coverage but often come with a lifetime maximum, and more importantly a limit on the number of days you can be out-of-country in a single trip. For example, a common travel medical benefit would cover 100% of your emergency medical costs up to a lifetime maximum of $3,000,000 for a trip no longer than 60 days. More often than not, the 60-day limit is not an annual, but a per trip maximum.

Lastly, always remember to carry your benefits card that contains the out-of-country provider’s information. The card should display a number to call in case of emergencies. A very simple yet time-saving tip: ALWAYS call the number on the card BEFORE paying any medical bills in another country. The process to recover costs from another country’s hospital, that might be on a different time zone, coordinating for reimbursement with OHIP yourself, and speaking to hospital administrators in foreign languages can be no less than a nightmare. Some insurance carriers have leveraged their technology by having apps that will display the benefits card electronically. If yours does not, take a picture of your card (along with the group policy number and certificate number shown) and also email this to each of your family members who are traveling this season – or any season for that matter!

Better safe than sorry!