Medical Insurance for full time RV Living in Canada

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***Provincial medical insurance when out of the province for full time RV living in Canada.***

If you’re a snowbird or full time RV Living in Canada you probably know about problems that can occur regarding medical insurance. This isn’t travel insurance we’re speaking about – just regular health coverage.

One of the challenges Canadians face if they are full time RV living is ensuring they keep their medical coverage active. It’s important to know what the rules are for the province that’s classified as their ‘Home Base’.

Table of Contents

How long can full time RVers leave their province?

It really doesn’t make a difference whether RVers are traveling within Canada or outside of Canada the issue is whether they are in their home province for the required number of days per year.

Many people are under the mis-conception that as long as they stay in Canada their medical coverage can remain active, no matter how long they’re out of their own province. Not true!

Each province has their own rules as to length of time their residents can be out of the province (regardless if you’re in Canada or outside of the country) and it’s important to check with your own provincial medical services to ensure you’re compliant.

I’ve listed each province below with their current guidelines but I’m not an expert and don’t even pretend to be. If in doubt check with your own provider please!  

Canadians – Travelling in Canada–are you covered?

Having extra travel insurance is important when you leave your home province at any time – even for a day.

There sometimes is a misconception amongst Canadians that if you’re travelling in another province within Canada your medical coverage is adequate. Not necessarily true!

Let’s use an example for this.  Say your province will pay $1,000 for an emergency procedure but you’re in another province and need it done right away. Maybe the province you’re visiting charges $2000 for the same procedure. Your provincial medical plan will cover the first $1000 and you’ll have to cover the rest. But… if you have travel insurance then it is probably completely covered depending on your plan.

Your provincial medical will help pay for unexpected insured services that are medically required and performed by a qualified medical doctor, whether you are in Canada or another country (not all provinces cover any out of country expenses), but you are responsible for any excess costs. 

Based on the above example it’s wise to have travel insurance even when traveling in Canada and not only for outside of the country. This is something many people don’t even think of.

Canadians – Travelling outside of Canada

Be prepared for higher health costs in other countries, and you may have to pay for it upfront. Don’t leave Canada without travel medical insurance. I’ve heard horror stories of people who ended up in an emergency situation requiring surgery or care and they aren’t insured. What happens if they refuse to treat you because they fear lack of payment? You may not be in a position to argue with them.

Rule of thumb:  Don’t forget to have adequate medical insurance in case of an accident or illness – not only your provincial medicare but travel insurance as well.

Provincial Medical Information

Of course each province in Canada has different guidelines! I don’t know why we can’t all be consistent but that’s not the case. So, I’ve gone through every province and territory to find their guidelines to share with you.

The provincial information listed below is current but things change regularly so please confirm with your provinces medical system before you leave home. 

Rule of thumb:  Don’t assume you’ll be covered – ask for permission first. IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT THE PROVINCIAL RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS ARE.

A person must be a B.C. resident to qualify for medical coverage under MSP.

A resident is a person who meets all of the following conditions:

  • A citizen of Canada or lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence
  • Makes their home in B.C.
  • Physically present in B.C. at least six months in a calendar year
    • Eligible B.C. residents (citizens of Canada or persons who are lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence) who are outside B.C. for vacation purposes only, are allowed a total absence of up to seven months in a calendar year
    • BC residents who plan on being absent for six months or more in a calendar year, need to contact Health Insurance BC to confirm eligibility and discuss options for continued MSP coverage that may be available during an absence.

It’s possible that BC residents temporarily outside the province for work or vacation may apply for an ‘extended absence’ of up to 24 consecutive months, once in a five-year period. 

There’s qualifications to meet but anyone wishing to take an extended vacation may be able to retain their medical coverage. Worth checking out.

You’re eligible for Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) coverage if you are:

  • legally entitled to be in and remain in Canada and make your permanent home in Alberta
  • committed to being physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days in any 12-month period
  • not claiming residency or obtaining benefits under a claim of residency in another province, territory or country
  • any other person deemed by the regulations to be a resident or temporary resident, not including a tourist, transient or visitor to Alberta

When you move to Alberta from another province or country, there may be a waiting period before you become eligible for coverage under the AHCIP.

You won’t be penalized for temporary absences – that still counts as being physically present in the province. However, if you’re away longer and are a permanent residence in Alberta you can apply for continued coverage.

It’s possible to be absent for 24 months for travel, personal visits or educational leave but you must apply for the coverage before you leave on any extended vacation. Alberta Health covers only some (limited) physician and hospital expenses outside Alberta.

It is strongly recommended that Alberta residents carry private supplementary insurance when travelling outside of Alberta to cover unforeseen emergency care and transportation, as these costs may be significant.

If your home is in Saskatchewan and you normally live in the province for at least five months a year, then you’re eligible for Saskatchewan health coverage.

If you are temporarily living outside Saskatchewan, but intend on returning and living in Saskatchewan, you need to contact eHealth Saskatchewan to ensure your Health Card remains active and you are eligible for health benefits. 

Notify eHealth, or complete the Notification of Extended Absence form, if you will be absent from the province for more than seven months because of:

  • A vacation, visiting, business engagement or employment within Canada for up to 12 months.
  • An employment contract outside of Canada for a maximum of 24 months.

If you are planning to reside outside of Manitoba for an extended period for the purposes of vacation or an extended travel leave, you can be absent from the province for up to seven months and remain eligible for Manitoba Health coverage.

To ensure that you continue to have uninterrupted coverage from Manitoba Health coverage during your extended absence, you should report any expected absence of 90 days or more in a 12-month period to Manitoba Health prior to your departure. You can notify Manitoba Health by providing the following prior to your departure:

Additionally, if you wish to apply for a Temporary Out-of- Province Registration Certificate to ensure uninterrupted coverage during your stay outside of the province (and limited coverage for out-of country medical and hospital services), you may complete a Request for Temporary out-of-Province Benefits form.

Please note:  Manitoba Health recommends that you explore private insurance options along with your Manitoba Health coverage to ensure that you have sufficient coverage for all of your health care needs while out of the country.

There’s a good possibility you may have to pay for your own medical bill when out of the province and then request a refund when you get home.  No guarantee the Manitoba Medical Services will reimburse you.  

What’s covered elsewhere in Canada

When you show your valid Ontario health card in another Canadian province or territory, you will be covered for some of the same services you’re covered for in Ontario including:

  • physician services (e.g. visit to a walk-in clinic)
  • services provided in a public hospital (e.g. emergency, diagnostic, laboratory)

Any service or treatment you receive in another Canadian province or territory must be medically necessary for it to be covered by OHIP.

What’s not covered elsewhere in Canada

Services that are not covered by OHIP in another Canadian province or territory include:

  • services not covered in Ontario (e.g. cosmetic surgery)
  • ambulance services (including transport and paramedic)
  • prescription drugs and other drugs given outside a hospital
  • home-care services
  • fees charged by private hospitals or facilities
  • diagnostic or laboratory services outside of a public hospital
  • long-term care or residential services
  • assistive devices (e.g. prosthetics)

We recommend that you buy private health insurance before leaving Ontario to cover any uninsured services you may need.

Away from Canada for more than seven months

If you plan to be outside Canada for more than seven months in any 12-month period you can keep your OHIP coverage for up to two years if you:

  • have a valid health card
  • make Ontario your primary home
  • will be in Ontario for at least 153 days a year in each of the two years immediately before you leave the country

Before you leave, take the following items to the nearest ServiceOntario centre to make sure your OHIP coverage stays active:

  • your health card
  • proof of residency (e.g. mortgage, lease or rental agreement, property tax bill, valid driver’s licence)

You must be present in Québec to remain eligible for the Health Insurance Plan. If you live in Québec, to remain eligible for health insurance, you must not be absent from Québec 183 days or more per calendar year.

  • Certain exceptions apply. Check the conditions for maintaining your eligibility and make sure to have health insurance coverage before leaving Québec.
  • You must contact QHIP before leaving Québec to find out the rules applicable to your situation. This way, you will know whether you remain eligible during your absence. 

 (absences of 21 days or less do not count).

  • The departure and return dates are not considered days of absence from Québec. 

Calendar year A year running from January 1 to December 31 of the same year

Exceptions to the rule

Certain persons may remain covered by the Health Insurance Plan despite an absence of 183 days or more in a given calendar year, if they are in one of the following situations:

        • They qualify for the once-every-7-years exception;
        • They will be working, studying or taking training outside Québec;
        • They qualify for coverage under a social security agreement;

You may be temporarily absent from New Brunswick for up to 182 days (consecutive or not) in a 12 month period without affecting your coverage, provided your intention is to resume permanent residence in New Brunswick.

  • Approval may be granted for a duration of up to 12 months only once per 3 years from the time of return.  
  • If the leave exceeds 12 months, residents must reapply for Medicare coverage upon their return to NB.

To be eligible for Nova Scotia Medical Service Insurance benefits you must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen or “Permanent Resident” (Landed Immigrant);
  • a resident who makes his/her permanent home in Nova Scotia;
  • present in the province 183 days every calendar year; and
  • registered with MSI. 

Once deemed a resident for MSI coverage and ordinarily present (physically present in Nova Scotia for 183 days in every calendar year), you may retain coverage while temporarily absent for up to one year, provided you intend to return permanently to Nova Scotia.

Your MSI Coverage may be continued if you do not meet the physically present requirement, if you are:

  • attending an educational institution on a full time basis and provide documentation from the institution
  • a mobile worker – your employment requires you to travel frequently outside Nova Scotia (i.e. truck driver, musician etc.) and you do not establish residency elsewhere
  • engage in employment/volunteer work outside Canada which does not exceed 24 months and your permanent and primary home is in Nova Scotia (necessary documentation required).
  • travelling outside of Nova Scotia on vacation for up to seven months per calendar year.

Some provinces explain their policies quite clearly and Nova Scotia is one of the best.

If you are traveling outside Canada for a short period of time MSI will provide coverage for emergency medical services only.

1. Out-of-country in-patient hospitalization as the result of an accident or sudden illness while temporarily absent from Canada, is covered in Canadian funds. The current rate for emergency in-patient services is $525CDN. Per day plus 50% of ancillary fees incurred while an in-patient. Physician Services, as the result of an accident or sudden illness during a temporary absence from Canada are covered in Canadian funds at Nova Scotia rates.

2. The following services are not payable under the MSI program.

  • Facility and Hospital Out-Patient charges
  • X-Ray, diagnostic tests and laboratory charges from Out-Patient, Emergency or Private Facility
  • Pharmacare and Childrens Dental Programs
  • Routine Vision Analysis

The balance of an account after payment by the Department may be quite large. It is strongly recommended that any resident traveling out of province purchase a Travel Health Plan for the period of absences to cover these balances and other insured services.

Ambulance Services rendered outside Nova Scotia are not subsidized and are therefore the patients responsibility.

All claims must be received by the department /MSI for payment within six months of the date of the discharge from the hospital to be eligible for payment. No claims received after the lapse of six months will be considered.

All physician claims should be sent to P.O. Box 500 , Halifax NS B3J 2S1.

Any questions, please contact MSI at 902-496-7008 or toll free in Canada at 1-800-563-8880.

If you are a resident of PEI you are eligible for a PEI Health Card.  You are considered a resident of PEI, if you:

        • are legally in Canada; and
        • make your home in Prince Edward Island and are present for at least six months plus a day each year, or have received a waiver of this requirement from Health PEI.

If you are traveling within Canada, your PEI Health Card will cover you for emergency or sudden illness health care services.

Notify Health PEI if your absence will exceed one month to help avoid any delay in payment for an out-of-province service.

Provide your departure and return dates, destination and reason for absence. For example, a student at an off-Island university, an extended winter vacation, or a sabbatical leave.

If you’re traveling outside Canada, your PEI Health Card will cover you for emergency or sudden illness health care services.

The cost for services outside Canada may be considerably higher and you will be required to pay medical costs up front.

Submit your detailed invoice and proof of payment to Health PEI within six months of the date of service.

You will be reimbursed at PEI rates in Canadian currency.

You will be responsible to pay the difference between the amount charged and the amount paid by Health PEI.

If you are leaving the province for more than 30 days an Out-of-Province Coverage Certificate should be obtained in order to ensure that your MCP coverage will not expire

  • For eligible beneficiaries who are temporarily away from Newfoundland and Labrador for extended periods (e.g., work or vacation) coverage may be available for services received out-of-province that are insured under the Medical Care Plan and the Hospital Insurance Plan.
  • Coverage may also be provided for MCP insured services that are unavailable in the province. In cases where service is received out of the country, or where a provider in Canada directly bills the patient, an Out-of-Province claim formmust be submitted. Further information can be found here.
  • Beneficiaries should note that the costs of medical transportation, emergency assistance and other health care services obtained outside Newfoundland and Labrador can be very significant and may not be fully or even partially covered by MCP even within Canada.
  • MCP will not cover any costs for medevac or ground and air ambulance outside the province; and most likely these services will not be freely provided by the province, territory or country in which you are travelling.
  • Travelers are strongly advised to obtain insurance from a private insurer for medical transportation and health care services not covered or only partially covered by MCP prior to leaving the province for any length of time.

Please notify the Health Services Administration Office if you plan to be out of the NWT for more than 90 days at a time by providing a completed Temporary Absence Form

This notification will help to avoid delays in payment for any necessary medical services that you may receive while you are temporarily out-of-territory or out-of-country.

Attach the following documents to the Temporary Absence Form if you are temporarily out of the NWT because you are

  • A SNOWBIRD – If you leave the NWT for long winter vacations, provide a copy of your most recent income tax form (please black out financial information) and a statutory declaration affirming that you are a NWT resident.
  • For NWT residents travelling outside of Canada, the cost of medically necessary services for emergency or sudden illness will be reimbursed at NWT rates only, in Canadian funds.
  • You will be responsible for paying the difference between the full amount charged and the amount reimbursed by the Health Services Administration Office. The difference may be considerable and for this reason, it is recommended that you get travel insurance when travelling outside of Canada.
  • For NWT residents travelling outside of the NWT but within Canada, the cost of medically necessary services you receive from a doctor or hospital in Canada will be covered. However, things like ground ambulance or medevacs are NOT covered. It is recommended that you get travel insurance when travelling outside of the NWT.

Full time RV Living in Canada Medical not impossible

Challenges? Yes, full time RV Living in Canada can be a challenge. But… not impossible.

Be familiar with what regular medical coverage you’re eligible for and just as important obtain extra travel medical insurance as well.  

There’s no avoiding “pre-existing” conditions and by not letting the travel insurance representative know of any – you risk losing your travel coverage.

Yes, Canadian full time RVers do face challenges with their medical coverage but most of the provinces (but not all) are starting to be a bit more accommodating and anyone who really wishes to take an extended absence from their province may be able to do so. You just have to know the rules to follow.

Many of the provinces require notification before you leave the province – which makes some sense so you can get clarification before you leave. 

What kind of challenges have you faced ensuring you’re covered for medical insurance in your “Home Base” Province? How did you resolve them? I would love to hear from you.

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