Header Graphic
By Katherine Kiang
KaTsZoNe Newsletters > KaTsZoNe - Issue 35 - Ready to Travel?

1 Nov 2007

Hi everyone,

Hope you're enjoying October!

My lovely aunt flew to Canada from Malaysia to visit but two days after she arrived, she experienced a mild stroke and we had to bring her to the hospital.  When she first experienced symptoms, I thought she was overly tired from her long, seventeen-hour flight.  She is normally an active, independent seventy-one year old lady, so, I figured, travelling can be exhausting.  But, when it was apparent that only her left side was feeling numb and weak, this was a sign of a stroke.

Having lived in Ontario for most of my life, I have never had to deal with paying medical costs for myself or for my parents.  We were all covered by Ontario's health insurance plan.  However, in my aunt's case, I have become aware of the cost of medical treatment for foreign visitors.  Each doctor has to be paid separately and charges vary depending whether they are on staff at the hospital or  a specialist (i.e. internal surgeon, neurologist) who is not paid by the hospital.  Although I paid for the admission into ER where various tests are covered (i.e. blood tests, basic X-rays), a CATSCAN is an additional cost ($1,100.00 CDN).  Once my aunt moved to a standard room, it was $1,800.00 CDN a day. 

I am very thankful to have a health plan in Ontario.  My aunt's neurologist said, imagine if our system was like the U.S.  In spite of the waiting period in Emergency, which is still ridiculous, once you are in there, at least those who do have provincial health insurance coverage are not overburdened by the cost.

Because of my recent experience of helping my aunt deal with her travel insurance company and ensuring that she will be able to prepare a claim when she returns home, here are some tips I would like to share with all of you:

1.  Make sure you have ample coverage. 

If you have a medical condition (i.e. heart disease, hypertension, etc.), this is especially important.  Ensure that your policy covers medical care, hospitalization, post-hospitalization and perhaps, even travel arrangements in case you need to go home before the end of your trip.  If you require a doctor or nurse to accompany you (which would be ultimately be decided by the doctor for the insurance company), your policy may cover the cost of it.  However, ensure that you are able to send all the medical reports to your insurance company as soon as possible, so that they are able to make the special travel arrangement to ensure that you return home safely.

2.  Read the fine print. 

If you have a "pre-existing medical condition", your insurer may not cover you.  If my aunt had a stroke previously, she might not be covered now because it may be considered a "pre-existing condition".  So, read the fine print and be sure you know what you are, and are not, covered for. 

3.  Contact the travel insurer as soon as possible when you require medical assistance.

Ideally, it is best if you or someone else (i.e. next-of-kin) can contact your travel insurer even before you are hospitalized, or, as soon as possible.  There are forms which the hospital doctor(s) will be required to fill out.  As well, the insurance company will require medical reports to be included with your claims, or possibly, sent to them before you reach home.  Advise your insurer as much as possible on the status and call them for assistance, if required. 

4.  Be prepared to pay for medical bills. 

For travel insurance, you are most likely required to pay doctors, hospitals, pharmacist, etc. first and be reimbursed once you have returned home and submitted a claim.  Be sure you have the funds in case you need to pay for medical expenses in advance.  In Canada, a widely accepted credit card may be accepted by hospitals, but, some doctors may not accept payment by credit card.  So, access to cash is still the best.

5.  Take notes.

One thing I have learned from the experience with my mom last year when she was in the hospital was to keep detailed notes.  In particular, I believe it is important to write down names of medical professionals/contact names & telephone numbers, hospital name/tel. number/address, etc. in case you have questions later on.  As well, if you are sick and are treated by a local doctor or you need to be admitted to a hospital, make a list of medications, type of treatment received, results of treatment.  When you are dealing with a travel insurer, it's very important to obtain the doctor's reports.  Sometimes, doctors can provide the reports to the next-of-kin right away, instead of having them fax them later to the travel insurer.  The hospital I am dealing with had me sign a form which states that I agree to pay the bills, but, they are also required to provide reports so that the insured person can provide them to his/her insurers. 

I am keeping a notebook for my aunt, which includes a record of all the doctors who treated her at the hospital, the type of treatments they gave, a list of bills/amounts charged, exchange of phone calls with the travel insurance company, and any other discussions I have had with individuals related to her treatment (i.e. physiotherapist, social worker, nurses, etc.). 

6.  List your medication and names of family doctor and pharmacist.

If you take medication on a regular basis, keep a list of the medication(s) on you when you travel.  Include the generic name and the dosage you are taking.  If you have a family doctor or a pharmacist that you go to on a regular basis, keep their business cards with your list of medication as well. 

Before I took my aunt to the hospital, I asked her all the medications she was taking and also whether she had a family doctor.  I also asked her about her health issues.  It makes it easier when being admitted to the hospital and consulting with doctors who will ask the same questions several times.

Other reminders before you travel include the following:

1.  Prepare a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, Finances/"Living Will" before you travel.

Whether you have next-of-kin or not, it's a good idea to prepare a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and for Finances (or "living will") in case you are unable to make decisions about your health and finances.  I'm taking the opportunity to remind some of you and myself.  Preparing these documents, formally, ensures that you are giving someone you trust the authority to make important and vital decisions about your health and finances if you are unable to do so.  If you live in Ontario, refer to this document prepared by The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (part of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General): http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/livingwillqa.pdf
In other provinces, you should be able to obtain similar information.  In Ontario, although it is not necesary for a lawyer to prepare a "living will" or Power of Attorney for Personal Care and Finances, I think it is best to get a lawyer's advice to ensure everything is up to date.

2.  Contact Person(s) in Case of Emergency.

Make sure you fill out the section about who to contact in case of an emergency, preferably, not the name of someone who normally travels with you.  If you travelling to a destination without a passport, place a note or card in your wallet, purse or business card folder where your an emergency contact person can be easily found, which includes a telephone number and/or address.

If you carry a cell phone, there's a program which has spread across Europe and is gaining popularity in North America which allows paramedics, police officers, firefighters, etc.  to contact in case of an emergency.  You would enter "ICE" (meaning "In Case of Emergency") in your cell phone contact list.  If you have more than one contact person, you could enter ICE1, ICE2, etc.  I think that's a great idea.  I started putting "1" in front of the name who is my emergency contact, so that it would appear as the first name on my contact list.  [For more information about "ICE", see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_case_of_emergency]

My aunt is now home and is recovering very quickly.  She has a strong faith in God, a great sense of humour and a couple of family members who are doting over her in Canada, as well as concerned loved ones overseas who try to speak with her regularly.  With lots of love, encouragement and my mom's yummy home-cooked meals, how would it not be possible to recover quickly?


In the past month, I have purchased more music (surprise, surprise) and attended one concert.


I'm sure most of you have already heard this news no less than three times!  I have sent many of you a report about that night and my experience trying to get better tickets.  If you have not seen the photos I took at the concert, you can view them at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/katszone88/VanHalenConcertToronto?authkey=z5WeVkiWwDs  OR

Those of you who are registered on Facebook, you can read my notes about the show at:

If you did not receive my e-mail about the concert and would like to read it, please send me a note.


1.  James Blunt - "All The Lost Souls" (released September 18, 2007)

I could not believe that I forgot to mention this in last month's KaTsZoNe because I was absolutely hooked on James' latest album and in particular, the single, "1973".  i downloaded the album from iTunes and actually bought the vingle (video+single) a couple weeks before the album, "All the Lost Souls" was released.  My other favourites include, "Annie", "Shine On", "I'll Take Everything".  One of my friends (Irene) mentioned that she liked "1973".  She used to always complain about James' previous hit, "You're Beautiful" because it was so overplayed on the radio.  I do prefer "1973" over "You're Beautiful".  So, if you are a James Blunt fan or admirer, give his latest CD a listen!

2.  Van Halen - Various Songs

After seeing them in concert on October 7th, I had to download some of my favourites.  I went on a shopping spree on iTunes and picked out several songs including "I'll Wait", "Jamie's Cryin", "Love Walks In", "Somebody Get Me A Doctor, "Spanish Fly", "Beautiful Girls" and "Hot For Teacher".  I already had the Best of Van Halen - Vol. I before I went to the concert.  I also want to thank Larry for adding songs to my Van Halen collection!  I think I have all the Van Halen songs I want to listen to for quite a long time.  I've been too much fun rockin' with Van Halen on my way to work and on my way home! 

It does not matter where you are, you can think of your favourite song and suddenly, it just makes your day!  Where would I be these days without Teddy G., James B. and James C., Josh G., Justin L., David Lee and Eddie, Daphne D., Daniel K., Will D. and Sophie Y.?

I'm so glad to see more friends on Facebook!  If you are a Star Trek fan, you'll know what I mean when I say, "Resistance is futile!"  Just join me on Facebook!  Give it a try.  It's free.  It doesn't matter if you're not on there all the time, although, I know some of us are frankly addicted to it.  I'll bet you will find lots of old friends, relatives, co-workers that you would like to keep in touch with.  If you don't want to keep in touch with someone, you don't have to.  It's all up to you. 

I wish you all a great November, whatever you may be up to.  Write or call me and let me know what you are up to.  I would love to hear from you. For those who forward me e-mails (i.e. funnies, videos, etc.), I want you to know that I appreciate that you take the time to forward stuff on to me.  For the rest of you, I know that life can be really busy and I want you to know that it's always great hearing from my friends and family.

See you in December for the next episode of KaTsZoNe!

Take care,