Traffic was insane. I was creeping along highway 94 when I first noticed the sharp pain in my chest. Over the next few minutes, the pain became much worse so I decided to take the next exit and slowly inched my way down the onramp towards Meyer’s parking lot that was just a few blocks away. I pulled my truck and trailer to the side of the parking lot and quickly called 911. The pain in my chest was becoming unbearable. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. It felt like it took forever but it only took a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive, and I was rushed to a nearby hospital. I don’t remember much after that until I woke up in recovery.” I heard these words from a client a few years ago who wants to be referred to as “Bob” after he had a heart attack in the state of Michigan.
Thankfully, there was very little damage to his heart, he recovered nicely and is back driving full time again. As he started to see the bills come in Bob chuckled that he was glad he “listened to my wife for a change” after she “made me” purchase the additional travel medical insurance coverage that was offered through his fleet. “It was the best $25/month I think I have ever spent” he replied. Not only were all of his hospital bills fully covered but he was also reimbursed for his wife’s transportation costs to get her to his bedside. Most fleets realize the importance of providing Emergency Travel Medical to Drivers that enter the States, but there are still quite a few that don’t. Unfortunately, some fleets still seem to believe that ensuring their company drivers have WSIB that they are fully covered and recommending they purchase Emergency Travel Coverage is enough. Although it may be true that WSIB will cover their medical expenses for a work-related injury in the USA, what about an injury that occurs when the driver isn’t working or if they fall ill as Bob did? The answer is quite simple. Unless fleets have ensured that their drivers have also purchased (or purchase it for them) a comprehensive Emergency Travel Medical coverage, then the Driver and Fleet are fully exposed.
With US medical costs hovering around $4000-$5000 per day + Surgery Costs, it doesn’t take long for medical bills to skyrocket to over $100,000.00 to $200,000.00 to $300,000.00 or more. Although some Provincial Health Care does kick in very little this is changing in ON), the bulk of the bills won’t be covered and just a few days in a US hospital without coverage could bankrupt them. So who’s responsible for any of these bills? Is it the driver or trucking company? Some say it’s the driver’s responsibility, while others suggest because the carrier requires their drivers to work in the USA then it’s up to the fleet to pay. Regardless of who is responsible, it’s very important that the fleet ensures that comprehensive Emergency Travel Medical coverage has been purchased for every driver or O/O that crosses the border, even if it’s for short trips just over the bridge. Many fleets offer Group Benefits that include Emergency Travel Medical coverage but in some cases these benefits don’t kick in until the driver is employed for 90 days or more. If you haven’t already done so, talk to your insurance broker about a program that can be implemented to cover your drivers immediately for the first 90 days of employment but don’t just purchase the cheapest program you can find. Be sure to check the wording of these policies to ensure they don’t have limitations or exclusions that will leave your drivers and Fleet fully exposed. Although some insurance brokers offer very affordable programs to cover this period, not all the programs fully protect the driver. If you think you have coverage on your credit card, be sure to check the fine print.
Some programs do not cover commercial drivers where others require you to purchase each trip on the credit card for medical benefits to apply. Also, it’s very important to steer clear of a program that has a 90 day (or more) pre-existing condition clause in the policy. These types of policies give the insurance company an out to deny the claim if the driver had any change to their health (or medications) up 90 days before that trip. The Government of Canada put out the following warning to help Canadians make wise choices when purchasing coverage http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/documents/ travel-insurance There is also an ongoing debate on coverage requirements for O/O’s and drivers that don’t necessarily cross the border but do travel in other Provinces. Although most Provinces (other than QC) have a reciprocal agreement and will cover hospitalization costs when traveling in another Province, there are still certain costs that are not covered such as ambulance and prescription drug costs that will come out of pocket. Many fleets are now also offering or recommending that O/O’s and driver pick up Emergency Travel Medical to cover off these risks. Let’s hope your drivers will never need to use the Emergency Travel Medical, but you have to admit, it’s better to have it an not need it than to need it just one time and not have it, especially when the cost is so low. For less than a $1 a day per driver in most cases, is it worth the risk not to have the right coverage?