Karen Huestis says restoring the coverage of out-of-country medical emergencies will lower travellers’ insurance premiums, making travel more affordable, particularly for seniors.

A court has ordered the Ontario government to restore health insurance coverage for residents who face medical emergencies while travelling outside of the country.

The Out-Of-Country Travellers Program was eliminated by Premier Doug Ford’s government on Jan. 1, when the province stopped paying for emergency health care coverage for those who travelled abroad.

In a ruling released Wednesday, the Ontario Divisional Court said the province must reinstate the $200-to-$400-per-day coverage for emergency in-patient services and the as much to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

“The Canadian Snowbird Association is pleased with the court’s decision,” said Karen Huestis, president of the association that took the government to court. The advocacy group represents seniors who fly south in the winter months to avoid the cold in Canada.

“The ruling affirms the right of Ontario residents to out-of-country emergency insurance coverage, as required by the Canada Health Act.”

Under the Ontario Health Insurance Act, corresponding regulations cannot violate any of the five pillars of the federal health legislations, which include “portability.”

The federal law stipulates that provincial and territorial health insurance plans must provide coverage for insured health services for residents who are temporarily absent from their home province or territory or from Canada.

While the snowbird organization, which represents more than 50,000 Ontarians, always advises members to obtain adequate travel medical insurance prior to all trips abroad, Huestis said restoring the coverage will lower insurance premiums, making travel more affordable, particularly for seniors in the province.

She said she hopes the Ontario government will respect the court decision and not seek an appeal.

More to come.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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