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Will my travel medical insurance cover me for extreme sports?

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When you’re planning your vacation activities, do you check your plans against your travel insurance policy? Some of the activities on your list could pose a problem if they lead to an illness or injury that requires treatment far from home.

All activities may not be covered

To some of us, walking from the pool to a beach chair may be as close to an extreme sport as we care to get while on vacation. For others, the lure of adding extreme excitement to our adventure is too tempting to pass up. If you’ve made plans or may be tempted to try your hand at something risky, there’s something you need to know: your travel insurance policy may not cover you if you get injured.

Travel medical insurance purchasers will be ineligible to claim for emergency care or other medical benefits if they are injured or become ill while engaging in a sport named in a policy exclusion.

What is a travel medical exclusion?

An exclusion is a policy provision that eliminates coverage for some type of risk. Exclusions narrow the scope of what the policy covers and insurers use exclusions to carve away coverage for risks they are unwilling to insure.

Most travel medical insurance policies contain exclusions for dangerous or extreme sports (or a similar term, like “high risk activity”). These exclusions don’t list every sport possible, so if you are in any doubt about an activity, confirm whether your sport would be excluded before you try it.

What may not be covered if you participate in “extreme sports”

If you are injured or become ill while participating in an excluded “extreme sport” and as a result need medical attention, you will not have coverage to see a doctor or go to the hospital. The definition of “extreme” can vary from person to person and policy to policy, but generally, illnesses or injuries that happen while you are doing the following are excluded by most travel insurance policies:

  • Scuba diving or professional snorkeling
  • Sky diving/parachuting/hang gliding
  • Freestyle skiing or snowboarding/ski jumping, downhill skiing or snowboarding outside marked trails or heli-skiing
  • Motor vehicle competition, including any racing or training
  • Operating or learning to operate any aircraft, as pilot or crew
  • Bungee jumping
  • Acrobatics or stunt flying
  • Rodeo activity, show jumping or horse racing
  • Rock/mountain climbing with or without ropes

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and the exclusions vary by policy and carrier. What constitutes a hazardous or extreme sport isn’t always clear in insurance policies, so check carefully.

And remember, sports that are your principal paid occupation or those that you are participating in as a professional athlete are usually not covered.

High-risk activities can be costly

The price of an adventure-related mishap abroad was underscored in 2014 after a B.C. woman’s skydiving accident in Arizona. During a jump over Arizona, the woman’s parachute collapsed, sending her plummeting to the ground. She suffered a collapsed lung, a broken femur, pelvis and eye socket, and brain swelling. Although she survived, she racked up $500,000 in medical bills in a little more than two weeks.

Read the CBC.ca article here

Her family was stunned to learn afterward that her travel medical insurance claim had been dismissed as invalid because she was participating in an extreme sport.

So think first before you try something risky. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your mother would advise against it, your insurer probably won’t cover it.

Check your policy wording before you go

One of the greatest things about travel is the ability to try new things that you would never be able to do at home. There is something about being far from home that brings out our inner daredevil. Unfortunately, these relaxed inhibitions could come with some serious consequences for our physical and financial well-being if you don’t know what your policy does — and does not -— cover.

If you want to be adventurous, there may be a policy that will meet your needs — and it may not be much more expensive. The cost for the insurance can be very similar -— it’s just that the policy exclusions are different.

It’s important to always check with a travel insurance broker like SBIS for guidance regarding your personal insurance needs, and to review any special considerations for your travel destination of choice. If you have any questions about the fine print, consult with SBIS for a detailed explanation of what is, and isn’t, a covered activity while on vacation.

Regardless of your plans, make sure you have travel medical insurance in place whenever you are out of province. Any activity -— not just extreme ones —- can result in out-of-pocket health care costs unless you have coverage.

Call us and ask — we can help

Our SBIS toll-free number is 1-800-667-0429. If you are ready for adventure, we’re ready to help you get the travel medical insurance plan you need.

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