Depending on the details of their policies, though they may have been declared essential workers by the federal government, truck drivers headed to the United States during this pandemic may find out too late they have limited health coverage while outside of Canada.
An eastern Ontario grain operator said he proactively approached his insurance company recently, and was surprised to learn that his health insurance provider “will no longer provide out of country coverage for drivers.”
Kevin Wilson said that after four hours of back and forth with the provider, “we got a special exemption…extending the coverage to us.”
However, he said, he was worried about companies which hadn’t researched their policy.
Wilson said the insurance company told him it “does not cover a pandemic.”
Wilson isn’t the only business affected, says Kevin Dorse, of the Canadian Health Insurance Association. He said the life and health insurance industry “has been in regular contact with federal government officials and this matter has been raised with them.”
Dorse is assistant vice-president, strategic communications and public affairs, with CHIA.
“What’s at play is that some workplace – or group – insurance plans refer specifically to Government of Canada travel advisories as a limitation for out-of-country medical coverage,” he said in an email. “Since Saturday, the United States has been under an “Avoid non-essential travel” advisory by Global Affairs Canada due to the COVID-19 situation. As such, cross-border workers under workplace plans with a travel advisory limitation will not have coverage for health issues related to COVID-19 once they enter the US.”
He did say though they “would have it for other medical conditions.”
Driver Justin Martin said as he crossed the border back into Canada last week, he was notified by his company’s carrier that he was covered.
NAL texted its drivers telling them coverage is valid so long as they don’t exhibit signs of coronovirus before leaving on a haul to the US.
Out of country medical insurance is still valid for ITS drivers NAL Insurance said in a text; advising that drivers are covered if they face an emergency quarantine in the US due to the Covid-19 and it provided a phone ap for drivers to do free screening.
Dorse added “It is crucial to note however that not all workplace plans have such a clause, so we are strongly encouraging employers and employees to review their group insurance plan contracts, or contact their insurer directly if they need more information or advice.”
OMAFRA, which had issued a statement last week assuring consumers that there was no shortage of food, told Ontario Farmer “The health and well-being of the people of Ontario is our government’s number one priority, including working to maintain Ontario’s food supply system. Since we first learned of COVID-19, Ontario has been taking decisive action to help contain the virus and protect all Ontarians.
“At this point, we cannot speculate on possible impacts of COVID-19’s impact on the Ontario agriculture sector. Minister Hardeman has been actively engaged with his federal counterpart Minister Bibeau to try to find solutions to the challenges the sector is facing. The Minister is also in daily communication with agricultural stakeholders to fully understand their sector-specific issues to ensure any solutions the government implements supports their needs.” OMAFRA said in an email.
The Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance were reportedly pleased when truck drivers were declared essential workers and not required to serve 14 days of self-isolation between runs- unless they were exhibiting symptoms.
Ontario Farmer checked with other trucking firms which were not aware there might be an issue.
“That doesn’t apply to us,” an official at TST said.
A spokesman for the Ontario Trucking Association told Ontario Farmer it was a “very fluid situation. We’re looking into it.”
Transport minister Marc Garneau was quoted as saying “The safety and security of the travelling public and the transportation system is a top priority for our government. These measures will help ensure that Canadian travelers remain safe and our transportation system continues to operate as smoothly as possible to support the economy.”
After enquiries from Ontario Farmer the Cooperators Insurance was backing away from its no coverage position.
Conor Quinn, Vice president of Group Benefits Insurance issued a statement saying “In light of the Prime Minister’s message on Monday morning that the supply chain must remain intact despite the travel ban, we will allow coverage for individuals undertaking essential travel during the advisory and travel bans.”
However the vice president’s statement did include a qualifier.
“We are recognizing truck drivers who must cross the US border to complete deliveries as essential travel and emergency out-of-country coverage will apply subject to the terms of the policy.”
The spokesman added “We are in the process of providing an updated communication which will be distributed to our clients as soon as possible.”
Ontario Farmer was seeking to clarify with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat what benefits are afforded to “essential workers.”
Treasury board president Jean-Yves Duclos had said “In these challenging times, Canadians should know that all hands are on deck and that whatever comes, our government will do what it must to protect the health and safety of all Canadians and to minimize the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on our workers, our businesses, and our economy.”
In 2017 $150 billion in goods left Canada for the United States.