One Tequila, Two Tequila… Uh Oh: What You Need to Know About Your Travel Medical Coverage in Mexico

Canadians travel to Mexico in the fall, winter, and spring in huge numbers (about 2 million every year), in search of sun, sand, food, drinks, fun, and relaxation, all of which is available in abundance.  What travelers don’t necessarily expect is to find illness and injury alongside of the happiness.

Everybody hopes for a safe and fun vacation, but, in the insurance world, we plan for the worst. Having emergency travel medical insurance in place is a vital part of vacation prep! Here’s a quick rundown on some common things that are and aren’t covered under a standard emergency medical travel insurance policy:

  • Covered (for any sudden and unexpected sickness or injury):
    • Hospital and ambulance services
    • Physician care
    • X-rays
    • Prescription drugs
    • Fracture treatment
  • Not Covered:
    • Pre-existing conditions (if you had symptoms and/or received treatment before you left for vacation, you’ve got no coverage for that ailment unless you purchase additional coverage)
    • Anything that happens if you’re travelling against doctor’s orders
    • Elective treatment
    • Pregnancy-related conditions in the nine weeks preceding and the nine weeks immediately following the birth

There are a couple other things that aren’t covered, that can be important to visitors to Mexico, specifically:

  • Sickness or injury that occur if you choose to visit to a place where Global Affairs Canada recommends you avoid all non-essential travel. (Most major Mexican tourist destinations are excluded from the travel advisories, but check before you go, as the lists are ever-changing, and if you want to leave the resort town you’re staying in, you could jeopardize your travel insurance coverage.)
  • Sickness or injury contributed to or caused by alcohol intoxication, or consumption of illegal or controlled drugs (based on the jurisdiction where the incident occurred).

Sorry – if you’re going to Mexico to drink, and swim (up to the bar), and relax (with a drink), and drink, your travel medical insurance coverage may be limited.

If you plan to participate in extreme or adventure sports, such as skydiving, parasailing, scuba diving (over 30m), or hang gliding, you will need to purchase extra coverage. Typically, travel insurance policies do not automatically include any coverage for injury sustained during activities like these.

Travel insurance is also about peace of mind and making things easier for the patient. In addition to covering the medical expenses you incur, your travel insurance provider also handles all the back-end stuff, like coordination of air evacuation (if required), negotiations with hospitals, and reconciliations with provincial plans. This is especially important in places like Mexico, where quality and cost of care vary by region, and hospital billing companies have been reported to threaten patients while awaiting payment.

With all that in mind, here are some tips for travel to Mexico:

  • Look at more than what areas have travel warnings – gc.ca includes details of what kinds of risks you face in the country.
  • Know what your travel insurance policy covers. (If you don’t want to read the policy wording – in all its legalese – ask your insurance broker to explain the coverages and exclusions to you.)
  • Keep your travel insurance policy number and contact info handy.
  • Don’t drink too much! But if you must…
  • Be careful on balconies, as railing standards are lower in Mexico, making the risk of falling (already heightened by alcohol consumption) even greater.
  • Finally, importantly, if you are sick or injured, call your travel insurance provider as soon as you can (or have someone call on your behalf). The sooner your travel insurance company knows, the sooner they can start helping with arrangements and payments.

Even the most cautious travelers can get sick or injured while on vacation, so everyone should have travel insurance in place before heading south.

If you have extended health insurance through your employer, check your plan to see if it covers out-of-country expenses!

For information on some issues sick or injured travelers encounter Mexico, click here.

Morgan Thomas, BA (Dtn.),
Administration Coordinator & Personal Insurance Trainer