Travel Insurance, the Global Pandemic and the “Pre-Existing Condition” Enigma: “Be Sure To Read the Fine Print”

Many “Snowbirds” are anxiously preparing for their extended trip down south, while others are contemplating an extended holiday to Europe or elsewhere this fall or in the Spring. The emergence of the Global Pandemic and the spread of COVID-19 has caused many to re-evaluate their travel plans and assess the “risk” of leaving the country. Here is an revised and updated version of an earlier article which was written and posted on my blog in 2018, which was part of the series of articles on the Canadian Visitor to The United States. I hope you find it informative and of interest. READ ON:

“Flying the Friendly Skies” May Not Be So Friendly Anymore!

Recent anecdotal evidence would suggest that there has been a demonstrable change affecting Canadian Visitors to the United States in the wake of the new legislation regarding pre-clearance sites at Canadian airports.

Being retired, my wife and I are frequent visitors to the United States, having had the good fortune of spending our winter months down south over the last number of years. Although we have never had any difficulty in crossing the border into the United States, the “happy hour” conversations down south invariably give rise to the occasional “horror” story about a friend or acquaintance, who has had “run in” with an overzealous U.S. Customs and Border agent. (“U.S.CBP”), most of which are usually quite amusing but typically are uneventful.

However, a number of recent newspaper articles, including reported personal stories and anecdotes, suggest that there is an enhanced level of inspection and statistically, an increasing number of refusals of entry at the Canadian/U.S. border, apparently as a result of recent changes and amendments to the Pre-clearance Agreement between the United States and Canada. 


The Consumption of Alcohol and Travel Insurance and the Canadian Visitor to the United States

In an article entitled,Travel Insurance and the “Pre-existing Condition” Enigma and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America (or Elsewhere), I discussed stability clauses that are found in most travel insurance policies and the impact that a pre-existing medical condition may have in the ability to obtain travel insurance coverage. For the Canadian Snowbird or anyone travelling to the U.S. or elsewhere for any extended period, the importance of travel/emergency medical insurance is well documented.

Embedded in the standard policy of insurance is a section referred to as “Limitations and Exclusions” and as one might expect, this section identifies the limits of the coverage, typically in dollar amounts and exclusions -things or matters which are not covered under the policy of insurance. Travel insurance is no exception. Most travel insurance policies have an exclusion as it relates to alcohol, which for the naive or unsuspecting Canadian visitor to the United States could have some disastrous consequences. READ ON

“CBD” and “THC”: Two Acronyms You Should Know About in Today’s World

In two earlier articles entitled, “Bill-C45: The Cannabis Act and the Canadian Visitor to the United States” and more recently, “Cannabis, Medical Marijuana and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America, I discussed in some detail, the legalization of “cannabis” in Canada and the implications for the Canadian Visitor to the United States. Embedded in these articles is an explanation about the legal anomaly that exists in the United States, where legalization of “marijuana” has become a “patchwork” of legislation and regulations, both at the State and Federal level. A handful of States have legalized the substance both for recreational and medicinal purposes in varying degrees, while the Federal Government (which includes the Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Service), considers “cannabis” or “marijuana” to be a controlled substance, under Section I of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. § 802(16), such that its possession and use continues to be a serious criminal offence in the United States. This is potentially problematic for the Canadian visitor and those involved in the “cannabis” industry in Canada, which I explained.

CBD and THC: “What’s it all about Alfie?”

With the legalization of “cannabis” in Canada and several States in the U.S., (including California), I lamented in one of my those articles that it was unlikely, given the average age of the typical “Snowbird” that the use of “cannabis” for recreational purposes would become a popular leisurely retirement activity.  On the other hand, as evidenced by some recent discussions with some close friends and relatives, the therapeutic use of “cannabis” or other forms of the substance and its derivatives is receiving more and more attention, and those suffering from a myriad of aliments from sleep disorders, insomnia, anxiety, depression and chronic pain are apparently finding some relief. Some have reported that its use has a “calming” effect and that it allows one to be more focused and not as “stressed out” thereby creating a healthier and more positive outlook on life.

Most of my knowledge on this subject was limited to two common acronyms–CBD and THC, both being components of “cannabis” with each having their own unique qualities. As a former Federal Drug Prosecutor, THC was well known to me in my former life as being the active component of cannabis that produces a “high” or psychotropic effect in terms of its recreational and at the time, illegal use.

How things have changed?

More recently, CBD has become a popular term and has increasingly crept into our vocabulary and “adult” conversation at our regular “Happy Hour”.  Some of my friends have been touting it as a new “wonder drug” offering many anecdotal positive experiences.

At the risk of offending those from the Mediterranean island, all of this was “Greek” to me and somewhat of a mystery, so I thought it might be a useful exercise to examine this area more closely and try to clarify the mystic surrounding these acronyms –CBD and THC and offer some incite into the multitude of new “products” now being promoted commercially in the United States and Canada.


Ageism and the Insurance Industry

-A Topic Which is Not Often Mentioned

In the 1960’s, Geriatrician Robert Butler coined the phrase “ageism”. It was used in the context of the prevailing social practice of stereotyping older people and the aging process in a negative manner. It reflected existing societal attitudes towards the elderly, which portrayed them often in disparaging terms and that identified them as unflattering stereotypes. As time progressed, ageism was viewed more in a legal context having regard to policy or practices, which were considered prejudicial or discriminatory in nature.

Today, ageism is defined more specifically as discrimination on the basis of a person’s age.

In a time of increased diversity and a desire to promote inclusivity within Canada, ageism is seen as one of the newest challenges facing society. Much of the world is caught up in the #MeToo movement, which focuses on sexual harassment in the workplace. But in addition, there is a growing awareness and strong sentiment being expressed also about age discrimination in the workplace environment.

But there are other areas where ageism is not often mentioned but in reality exists to the financial detriment to the “retiree” or “senior citizen”. This prompted one observer to remark,

Ageism is the most tolerated form of social prejudice in Canada and there is no greater safe haven for this kind of prejudice than in the insurance industry.”

In my opinion, one of the last bastions, where age discrimination continues to be accepted and tolerated is in the area of private sector insurance and in particular, private health insurance and more specifically, Travel Medical Insurance.

Let me explain.


The Canadian Traveler Abroad: Explore. Dream. Discover.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain

In an earlier article entitled, “The Canadian Traveler and Trip Cancellation Insurance and Trip Interruption Insurance”, I reviewed in some detail the nuances of this type of insurance product generally available to the Canadian traveler, either as a standalone insurance product or one that is imbedded and forms part of a medical travel insurance policy or is a feature of the “use” of some credit cards in booking your holiday. My wife as an example is a retired teacher and we have had the luxury of travelling to the United States and other places around the world and being protected with medical travel insurance as part of her retirement package through Alberta Retired Teachers Association (ARTA). Imbedded in this coverage is generous trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance.

For the Canadian traveler going abroad or anywhere for that matter, this type of insurance product is very important. But there are other things you should consider doing before starting your next adventure. READ ON

The Canadian Traveler and Trip Cancellation Insurance and Trip Interruption Insurance

The Canadian Traveler and Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance

“Are You in Good Hands?”

In an earlier article entitled, “Travel Insurance and the “Pre-Existing Condition” Enigma and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America (or Elsewhere), I outlined in some detail the necessity for some form of travel insurance for those Canadians that spend an extended period of time down south, far from the cold frigid temperatures, which we typically experience during the months January through March. For those of us who are retired and are living the “good” life, we often plan while we are still continue to be in good health, the occasional holiday or extended holiday to Europe or other destinations beyond North America.

My wife and I together with another couple are planning a 10-day Baltic cruise in the spring with stops in Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and other notable cities and ports along the way. Another couple, who we know well, are planning a hiking holiday to Italy and Croatia and when recently talking about our upcoming adventures, one of our friends enquired about whether or not we were planning to get trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance. To be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought but on further reflection and further prompting from her, I decided to investigate these additional product offerings made available to the Canadian traveler by the insurance industry and others.READ ON

The Right to Privacy, Border Security and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America

In my most recent article entitled, “Cannabis, Medical Marijuana and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America”, I examined the ramifications of the use of cannabis whether recreationally or for medicinal purposes, now that the substance is legal in Canada and the implications of such use for the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America. As I explained, many Canadians seeking access to the U.S. may now be faced with an ethical, moral and legal dilemma, when they may be asked now among the usual perfunctory questions by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent at a port of entry,” Have you ever used marijuana in the past for any purpose”? In conclusion of the article, I summarized the issue as follows:

“Some Canadians are under the mistaken belief that with the legalization of Cannabis in Canada, that past or continuing legitimate medical use by prescription and/or past or current recreational use will not have any adverse effect on their ability to enter the United States of America.  Although the majority of us will not be using Cannabis (marijuana) for medicinal or recreational purposes, now that it is legal in Canada, the same cannot be said for many of our friends or family members, particularly as availability increases and the stigma associated with it becomes more relaxed. For those who may be tempted to give it a “try”, it is all about the “risk” verses the “reward”, particularly for the frequent Canadian Visitor to the United States of America.

Until there is greater clarification by the Department of Homeland Security, many Canadian Visitors to the United States may be faced with an ethical, moral and legal dilemma, when asked the least intrusive question by the US CBP agent, “Do you have a prescription for medical marijuana? Or that penultimate question,” Have you ever used marijuana in the past for any purpose?”

In either case, be prepared to give an answer!”

These somewhat invasive questions raise a broader issue in relation to the competing interests of border security and the right to privacy and the impact these competing interests have on the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America. READ ON

Cannabis, Medical Marijuana and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America

“But Officer I Have a Prescription”

In a previous article entitled, “Bill C-45: The Cannabis Act and the Canadian Visitor to the United States”, I discussed the then proposed legislation and the potential impact of the legalization of “marijuana” on the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America. Since then, of course, we have seen the passage of the legislation which makes Canada the first country of the G7 nations to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis. Since coming into effect in October 2018, there continues to be concerns expressed by some “Snowbirds” and other travelers to the U.S., to what degree, if any, an admission to CBP agent that the traveler has “used” marijuana either recreationally or medically, will have on his or her admission into the United States. I decided to examine the issue more closely, particularly, after a close friend reported that on his most recent attendance at a U.S. port of entry, (January 2019) he was asked “out of the blue” by a U.S. CBP agent, among the several perfunctory questions, “Do you have a prescription for medical marijuana? READ ON

Air Travel and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America

As frequent extended visitors to the United States of America, (affectionately referred to as “Snowbirds”) it is not uncommon for my wife and I to drive to our destination (in our case, Palm Springs) and fly back to Canada from time to time for various reasons. For example, we routinely return to Canada for the Christmas season and return down south in early January. This is typical for a lot of our Snowbird friends. Occasionally, it becomes necessary to voluntarily cancel or change a flight, which depending on the circumstances can have some severe financial consequences. More often, flight cancellations or extended delays are encountered, which unfortunately occurred on our most recent return visit back to Canada. It is therefore prudent for the frequent flying “Snowbird” to be aware of the “rules” relating to air travel to and from the U.S. and the implications that these exigent circumstances might create. Hopefully this article will provide some valuable information and provide some guidance for future air travel for the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America.