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Buying Travel Insurance for Food Allergies

Living in Vancouver, we are very fortunate to be able to travel to the United States on a whim. We live less than an hour away from the Blaine-Delta border and when the little man was 5 weeks old, we got him his own passport.

We drove to Bellingham (an hour away from Vancouver not including border wait times) more than a handful of times before the little man was diagnosed with a food allergy. My husband had extended travel medical insurance that covered all of us incase we had a medical emergency.

After the little man was diagnosed, I heard a news story about people being denied coverage after purchasing travel insurance due to undisclosed preexisting conditions. That news story stuck with me and had me thinking about whether a food allergy can be considered as a preexisting condition.

So I called our extended health provider to find out if my son is covered. To my surprise, we were not covered as my son had to be in stable condition for 90 days. This included any follow-ups or even calls to our allergist (whom we had seen the week before). As a result, I was forwarded to another department to get a quote on travel insurance coverage for my nut allergic child.

Shopping around, I found a coverage that worked best for our short day trips to the US. BCAA offered a policy that allowed us to take short trips across the border and provided coverage up to $200,000 Canadian for pre-existing conditions. The stability period required was only 7 days and we were able to get coverage for an annual multi-trip for less than $80.

The whole experience of shopping for travel insurance was a little exhausting as I wanted to make sure the insurance we purchased actually covered us incase anaphylaxis strikes. This is the list of questions I had come up with while speaking with different insurance companies. I hope this will be a valuable tool in helping you select the right coverage.

Insurance companies can change their policy wording and premium rates at any time without notice. Frugal Allergy Mom does not guarantee the accuracy of the information found on this page or any links provided. We will not be held liable in any case, for any problem arising from using these questions. Please use this information at your own risk.

Sample questions to ask:

About the insurance policy

  • What is the eligibility criteria? 
    • Some plans require you to be in the country when purchasing travel insurance, others require you to be a citizen with provincial health coverage.
  • What is the deductible?
  • Are there any medical tests required?
  • What is the stability period required? 
    • 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or no stability period required
  • Does the insurance coverage cover food allergies? 
    • Make sure to disclose any pertinent information required: ie. anaphylactic reactions, hospital visits, age of the patient, other health issues.
    • Do you have to purchase a special rider for pre-existing conditions?
  • What is the amount of the coverage provided and in what currency?
  • Do you need pre-approval from the insurance company before seeking medical attention? 
    • Certain insurance companies require you to call them before you seek medical help. Otherwise, you are liable for a portion or the full medical bill. What are the exceptions to this rule?
    • Do they have phone numbers you can call toll-free, collect or is there a phone number available?
    • Is there someone available 24/7 to answer calls?
  • What type of services are covered under the travel insurance plan? What services are not covered?
  • Who else is covered under the plan? 
    • ie. Are family members covered if they had to fly back home with the insured individual?
  • Will the insurance coverage automatically extend if there are flight delays or situations beyond the insured's control?
  • Are there specific conditions you need to fulfill to receive the insurance coverage? 
    • ie. Do you need to carry epinephrine and antihistamines with you?
  • Does the insurance company provide direct payment with the medical facility or do you have to pay upfront?
    • If you have to pay upfront, how quickly are you reimbursed afterwards?
  • Which location/countries is the insurance coverage valid for? 
    • Certain travel insurance is only valid for a specific location/country.
    • Does the insurance cover any stopovers at other locations or sudden detours beyond your control? 
      • ie. Flight from London to Vancouver with a stopover in Amsterdam.
  • Where can you find the policy wording booklet?
    • Read through it carefully and ask questions. Pay special attention to exclusions, sections which details pre-existing conditions and definitions.
    • Make sure to note down the name of the agent and time you spoke with them. Ask if calls are recorded.
  • Can you cancel the policy if you change your mind? What are the conditions or time limit to do so? Is there a cancellation fee?
  • Can you add on other optional coverage: ie. trip cancellation at a later time?
  • What is the time limitation on submitting expenses? 
  • Can you extend the period of the insurance coverage?
  • What is the lookback period for pre-existing conditions?
  • If there is a mistake on the application, can you change it on the policy? What are the costs associated with changing it?
  • What other features or services are provided with the insurance coverage?
    • Certain insurance offers concierge services to fast-track you through the emergency room

Disclosure Requirements

  • Do you have to disclose any other information between the policy purchase date and effective date of the insurance coverage? 
    • What type of information is required: hospital visits, doctor visits, prescription changes, or other medical conditions?
Sufficient Coverage
  • Will this coverage be sufficient to cover all medical expenses?
    • Medical treatments can be very expensive in certain countries. Check to see that you have sufficient coverage.

Before you purchase:

  • Ask for a quote and compare different insurance policies
  • Read the policy wording booklet in detail and ask questions. If the customer service agent is unclear or unhelpful, call back to speak to another agent.
  • Ask family members or friends for referrals; especially if they had to file a claim previously.
  • Google the insurance company and their reputation for insurance payouts or any issues others have experienced with travel insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Make sure the coverage you are getting is sufficient for your needs: time duration or amount of coverage.
  • Any answers provided for any medical questionnaires and/or information on the policy is truthful and accurate.

Before you leave:

  • Give one designated person (family or friend) who is not traveling with you your itinerary and travel insurance information. This individual should be reachable while you are away and listed as your emergency contact.
  • Update any information with the insurance company. ie. any new medical conditions as required per your insurance policy.
  • Check that the place you are traveling to has cell phone coverage.

What to bring:

  • A copy of your insurance coverage with your policy number
  • A copy of the policy wording booklet and contact phone numbers (know how to call the number when you are traveling)
  • Epinephrine, antihistamine and other medication needed
  • Medical bracelet or something that alerts others of your food allergy
  • Food allergy chef cards (translated if you are traveling to somewhere where English is not the primary language)
  • List of local hospitals in the area you are visiting and directions on how to get there.
  • Emergency phone number for calling an ambulance

If you have to file an insurance claim:

  • Call the insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Document and keep records (receipts) of all costs incurred and paid
  • Document any conversations with the insurance company: name/ID of the agent, claim number, etc

If you want to dispute a claim:

  • You can dispute a claim if you disagree with the insurance company by arbitration law in the Canadian province or territory where your policy was issued.


  • Travel Insurance Review - provides synopsis of different insurance companies and brief descriptions of types of services provided.
  • Kanetix - online tool to compare travel insurance prices
Edit (November 20, 2014) - Million Dollar Baby
The following link discusses a case of a pregnant woman who delivered a baby in the United States and was denied coverage by Pacific Blue Cross due to pre-existing conditions. Read more here:

1 comment:

  1. Nice and interesting information and informative too. Can you pls let me know the good attraction places we can visit: t ravel insurance