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Monique Keiran: B.C. travellers like to play it safe

Now that the school year has run its course, the exodus has begun. Those who seek to take advantage of the coming interrupted work week have made their reservations, packed their bags and made their escapes.

Now that the school year has run its course, the exodus has begun. Those who seek to take advantage of the coming interrupted work week have made their reservations, packed their bags and made their escapes.

Others are taking their time, planning the requisite excursions to visit family, see new sights and experience new adventures later during the season.

It’s also around this time that the latest data and surveys on travel intentions and travel habits become known. Every June, BMO Financial Group releases survey results about Canadians’ summer travel plans. This year, the survey says, B.C. residents intend to take a mental vacation from worrying about money.

We, apparently, each plan to spend more than $6,000 on vacations, summer outings and entertaining at home. We rank second in Canada in profligacy, although the report also says that more than 40 per cent of Canadians have not yet set budgets for summertime expenses — which might, come fall, lead to actual budget tallies with entirely different results.

Statistics Canada indicates we like to travel abroad. Fewer B.C. residents travelled to the U.S. for spring break this year compared to last, while more of us travelled to other international destinations.

Another trend appeared earlier this year in the spring-break BMO travel survey. Apparently, we British Columbians are a cautious lot. We rank third in Canada for worry about needing medical attention while abroad. We are also among the most likely of all Canadians to purchase travel health insurance.

Our older population might be skewing those results. British Columbians approaching retirement (55 to 64) outnumber youngsters 15 to 24. With age comes a multitude of aches and pains. Because we, as a population, deal with more of these on a daily basis, on average we’re correspondingly less likely to overlook the risks of travelling in bodies with long-expired warranties.

Another reason for our cautious nature might be that those of us of advancing years are also well aware that the B.C. Medical Services Plan is among the stingiest of Canada’s government health-insurance programs when it comes to covering out-of-country health care. Last year, the province spent less than $10 million reimbursing B.C. travellers for services received abroad.

At the going daily rate of $75, that equals about 120,000 days worth of out-of-country expenses. Broken down another way, it’s about $2.16 per British Columbian for the entire year — or about the cost of the Jell-O a patient might be served in hospital during the course of a week.

Under the portability clause of the Canada Health Act, provinces and territories are required to help residents pay for non-elective insured health services received outside of Canada. However, the law permits the provinces and territories to set their own rates and criteria for those services. Some provinces simply prefer to keep their health dollars at home.

And perhaps because our ears ring constantly with either the sound of our creaking joints or tinnitus, we British Columbians also might pay more attention to the cautionary travel tales that make the rounds.

Among these, we have November’s reports of a Saskatchewan couple who took a pre-parenthood vacation, but delivered their baby nine weeks prematurely in Hawaii. Total amount billed for hospital and doctor fees: $950,000 — which won’t even buy you a small bungalow in East Vancouver these days, but still ...

Or, from 2013, a B.C. old-timer experienced an emergency while overseas. Total amount billed for her hospital stay: $8,000. Total reimbursed by MSP: $686.68. Total covered by her private travel insurance plan: the remainder, but only after MSP paid its portion. She had to put the entire amount on her credit card, then wade through piles of paperwork when she returned home to be reimbursed.

In other words, when we go out in the world today, we might be in for a Big Surprise. And we British Columbians, who live where bears could wander through our backyards, look askance at both teddy-bear picnics and other kinds of surprises.

Even when we’re looking for a summertime mental escape from money worries.

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