Canadian snowbirds: Don't clip our wings!


Canada has a significant snowbird population—people, mostly retired, who spend their winters in warmer climates and return home when the thaws start. But now a large group of them are squawking, because Ontario has cut off their out-of-country health benefits, even for emergencies.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has filed suit against the change, which took place on January 1st and only involves Ontario, at least for now. All other provinces continue to cover at least emergency care.

The CSA lawsuit is based on a provision of the Canada Health Act, which guarantees portability of health benefits and provides that all residents who are temporarily absent from their home province or territory or from Canada, must continue to be covered for insured health services during their absence.

The changes were part of cutbacks in many areas implemented by the new provincial government elected in 2018. Ontario is a particular focus for the snowbirds; about 43% of the 115,000 members are from Ontario, which accounts for about 38% of Canada's population.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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The current Canadian plan covers only a fraction of the billed amount the snowbirds might encounter with an emergency medical problem in the USA, Mexico or Caribbean.  Most of the snowbirds I know have a supplemental travel policy that protects them fully in case of emergency.  

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

I have a hard time feeling sorry for those snowbirds, generally retirees with the wherewithall to escape the winter.  I suspect subsidizing lying on a beach for weeks or months wasn't something meant to be built into the system.

And yet, the right to emergency medical care, no matter what beach you're lying on, is supposedly guaranteed under CHA. And every other province honors it, as did Ontario until Doug Ford (brother of the late bizarre Toronto mayor) was elected.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

I believe one may have a right but still be thought presumptuous for taking advantage of, I suspect, unintended benefits.  I think there are more equitable ways of spending taxpayer money.  Maybe rather than re-include Ontarians(?) they might cut off everyone else.  If it means fewer Canadians in the Caribbean as a result, so be it.  I don't think beach is a right either.