Tips & Resources

Understanding Air Ambulance Services During Out-of-Province Emergencies in Canada

By the Intrepid 24/7 Content Team

A common misconception among Canadians is that provincial or territory Government Health Insurance Plans (GHIP) cover all expenses when travelling to other provinces, when in fact, Canadians do not receive complete coverage outside of their province of residence.

In recent news, Amy Savill, a 7-months pregnant Albertan, was visiting family in Northern Ontario when she went into labour several weeks prematurely. Her family transported her to the nearby hospital in Timmins, Ontario, which was not equipped to care for births under 32 weeks. The closest facility that could provide care was a hospital in Sudbury, Ontario.

The decision was made to transport Savill to Sudbury by air ambulance as soon as possible. At the time, Savill thought the expenses were covered by her government health plan or her employee benefits plan. However, neither of Savill’s plans covered the expenses and she is currently facing a bill estimated at approximately $30,000.

The standard air ambulance fleet in Canada is comprised of small business jets. These aircrafts are fast and fully-equipped, but the operating costs alone are approximately $2,400-$2,800 per flight hour, which doesn’t include medical costs, permits, and the fees for the medical team.

When the aircraft is dispatched for a particular case, the air ambulance’s medical crew is taken from the airport and brought to the hospital to assess and prepare the patient for transport. Once airborne, the medical team monitors the patient’s vital signs and responds accordingly. A ground ambulance transports the patient to the receiving hospital after the aircraft lands. It’s a complex process that requires much expertise and coordination, and with that comes a hefty price. Another consideration that is often overlooked is the availability of a hospital bed in the home province. Without it, patients are forced to remain where they are, with costs mounting.

Travel insurance not only covers the additional medical costs not covered provincially or through an employee benefits plan, but also gives access to the services of a travel assistance company. An assistance company, like Intrepid 24/7, includes a full suite of services, such as a medical director that consults with the patient’s medical team to determine when the patient is fit to be transported home. They also ensure quality care while providing cost containment services to control expenses associated with the treatment. This includes determining which air ambulance provider is best qualified to perform the mission, overseeing the flight, and monitoring the outcome.

Savill’s case identifies the gaps in coverage that exist when travelling between provinces and territories in Canada. Unfortunately, her supplementary insurance coverage did not include the additional services that can only be found in a travel insurance plan and corresponding emergency assistance services.

Ingle International and Intrepid 24/7 have multilingual insurance experts and medical professionals who can help you get the coverage you need, and coordinate the best treatment options for you in the event of a medical emergency.