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Know the Regs as they apply to you

                                            (plus Residency and Medical Concerns too!!!)

                                                             

Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage

Tips and Hints Around Various Situations

Questions At The Border

Provincial Overview of Med Regs

Plan for the Future

Back to Advice and How-to

 

 

 

           Many RVers are becoming Fulltimers these days while others are enjoying extended getaways. As a result it was time to update the original version of this story covering these complex topics. In this updated version I am happy to report that only a slight bit has changed.

          It pays to know the regulations as they apply to you (both Residency and Medical Concerns). Never leave home without comprehensive Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage. For instance, when John picked up a ‘Superbug’ in a Florida ER a few years ago he was hospitalized for this non-life threatening problem. That stay cost our Medical Insurance $45,000 for his week of tests in the hospital plus a week with an Infectious Disease Dr before they suggested we return home. Our 33-day stay in a motel was also a costly experience for us. John had no operations or treatment other than a battery of tests in Florida and mega blood work-ups in Cda. Our Canadian Doctor eventually released him so we could return to Florida.

         As more and more Canadians sell their homes to enjoy several years of retirement travel, a number of questions surface reference residency….

  • “Where can I call home?”
  • “Can a campground be my official residence?”
  • “How long do I have to stay in the province (or Canada)?”
  • “Can my RV be classed as a residence?”
  • “Can I explore Canada in the summer and go south in the winter too?”
  • “If I take a ‘time-out’ from my provincial medical can I explore the USA for a year or two?”
  • “How long can I be in another country?”
  • “Where can I find a place to spend a season in a campground?” 

These discussions between RVers seem to go on and on.  The emails to our website concerning this topic are frequent as well. I’ve contacted the medical office of each province/territory to verify four questions. 

·         “How long must residents stay in each province?”

·         “How often or for how long can provincial residents apply for an extended ‘time out?”

·          “Phone contact”

·          “Website contact”

           Next I contacted provincial camping organizations, to find out if campgrounds could be used as year round residences.  The results were interesting, NOTE: All provinces do not have a camping association. In those cases I called an RV Park that’s open during the winter.

As Canadians, our medical coverage is very precious to us. Although it is not perfect, I for one would hate to live in a country where our comprehensive medical benefit did not exist. For the most part - especially for travel within Canada - if you do not get sick as you travel and don’t leave a paper trail of doctor bills behind, most medical departments will never know what you were up to. Unless of course you have a jealous friend or relative who alert the authorities that you’re breaking the rules. Bills within other Canadian provinces may be slightly higher than your own, however if you get sick in the USA, expect your medical invoices to be extremely high. During any provincial investigation, it’ll be up to you to prove you were in your province for the required amount of time.

To retrieve your personal answers to these concerns, the provincial medical phone numbers and websites are listed later in this article. This info is also featured in many fall senior newspapers or from your medical insurance broker as well. But in all cases it is your responsibility to understand the regulations and how they apply to you. You are the one who could lose your coverage if you do not comply.

We RVers may be able to sleep wherever we choose, but we also must be a legal resident of a province to reap benefits such as medical coverage - we need an official address/residence that we call home.  In provinces such as British Columbia, RVers residing long term in a campground can use that address as their official residence  – this could be a lot you purchased or one you lease. In other provinces an official residence must become your home base – this can be a house that you own, an apartment or a room at the house of a son or daughter or relative. A mailbox or an RV Park address is generally not sufficient. Just for info officials at the border are asking  numerous questions these days, they mainly wish to be reassured you have a reason to return home.

            To gather residency information I talked to campground owners across Canada who keep parks open in the winter. In Newfoundland I found one park in St Johns; in PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick I could not locate any available during the winter. Quebec also has a couple parks available for year-round living – plus these parks are being used as an official residence, although that policy is under review. One option in the interim, members in one park can settle into one site for summer and move to a different site during the winter.  In Ontario, several campgrounds are open year round – others lock the gate during their closed month(s). Even if an Ontario park is open year round – RVers are only legally allowed to stay long term in one park for a maximum of 9-11 months, unless a portion of the park is zoned for permanent residency.

            Manitoba parks for the most part are closed during the winter, I did find one – there are no apparent bi-laws restricting long-term residency. Parks open in Saskatchewan are limited; if you find any, most likely only power would be offered – along with shower options; but no dump or water available. On the good side of things I did find several parks open in Alberta, plus any restrictions associated for a 12-months stay seems to be minimal. British Columbia promotes numerous parks open year-round. RVers can purchase a site or choose to lease one – that site can then be considered an official residence. However because BC is also a popular tourist destination, you may have to shop around to find one.

In the Yukon, North West Territories and in Nunavut (limited roads are in this territory) I could not find any campgrounds open. If there is one in the area you are traveling – ask about long-term stay. Many parks will allow you to set up in a plowed area with electric only.

 For a complete listing of Canadian Campgrounds ‘Open Year Round’ contact Explorer RV Club. Also see link below to read of our experiences reference winter camping.

One more option if you really must find a place to stay.  Try contacting a Mobile Home Park. In all provinces, these parks operate under different zoning regulations than campgrounds do. Although most do not generally offer sites for RVers on the move, don’t hesitate to ask if they have a spot. Most Fulltimers would prefer to go south in the winter, but if that’s not possible due to medical, family or cashflow and you still want to live in your RV, ask the provincial tourist bureau for the RV or Camping Association phone number. Also pick up their publication listing campgrounds in the area. Each province is so diverse that rules plus contact info vary considerably – phone numbers of each provincial tourism is part of the 4” International Campground Directories plus the www.explorer-rvclub.com > Association and www.rvliving.net/nalinks.htm also list this info.

           Contact all large and small parks near where you hope to spend your time. Some open from October to April are available, but amenities are more limited. You may even luck into a lone full-service site that was once used for park management.  When searching for a summer place to roost, don’t ignore a park 40-50 km away from where you want to be. Out of the way spots may have lower seasonal fees, plus you can relax for a laid back peaceful summer.

In all seasons, it is important to call the various campgrounds to shop for seasonal rates. The longer you stay in a park the lower the price should be. Approximate daily cost in the summer may reach $30. - $40.00, weekly $150. - $250.00, and monthly $500.00+ but a 6-month seasonal could be as low as $1400.00 up to $1800.00 and higher. On any extended stay, also expect to pay for the hydro you use.

 If required, remember to always establish an official residence

 at a ‘sticks and bricks’ location.

 

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Back to the Top

   Know the Regs as they apply to you

      Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage

        Questions At The Border

    Provincial Overview of Med Regs

        Plan for the Future

            Back to Advice and How-to

 

 

TIPS & HINTS AROUND VARIOUS SITUATIONS

·         If access to propane refills is readily available you can reduce charges for electricity by operating your fridge on propane. Buy some table fans and leave the air off ‘til absolutely necessary.

·         RVers who enjoy extended getaways prefer to spend the winter in the sunny south –although occasionally it may be impossible to depart due to family, medical or money situations. Next step is to find alternate places to camp in the north and ways to comply with provincial camping regulations. Although each province operates under different rules the following example offers one suggestions.

·         In Ontario for instance, some parks have been modified to be open year-round, but RVers cannot officially use them as a 12-month home base. Our Fulltiming friends countered this 8-9 month rule by staying in two different parks. When health problems clipped their wings, they couldn’t go south for a few winters. In September they settled into one park, and in May they hired someone to move their Fifth to a different park for the summer. These two simply became working Fulltimers who could not travel.

·         They called their daughters house their official home for Drivers Licences, insurance, voters list, taxes, OHIP (Ontario Provincial Medical Insurance) etc. In many provinces, Fulltimers establish an official address/residence much like our friends did.

·         FYI, it is OK to have a different mailing address than that of your official residence. For John and I, our seasonal site becomes our temporary summer home. However we try to take several short trips between June to September to add variety to the season. By late fall it is time to migrate south, OR as we did in 1998 - move into a Canadian winter park that was open for the winter.

           NOTE: Over the past several years, a number of Ontario park owners tried to comply with the wishes of their seasonals who wanted to live in their parks year-round. The owners launched long and extremely costly legal battles to make their parks into 12-month facilities. The end result, some parks in this province must close their gates for one to three months each year. Although several parks do stay open year round those residents must leave for a few months. Only mobile home parks qualify for the necessary zoning to become a year-round residence. In most cases, RV sites are not part of the mobile home concept.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If Questioned At The Border 

There are several ways to verify you plan to return to Canada such as providing your official residence, or info about seasonal reservations at your park the following summer, or stating your phone is on vacation or that you have a registered business etc. NEVER volunteer you are a Fulltimer – agents feel you may have no reason to return and you could become a burden on the host country. Also NEVER volunteer you will be doing charity work for your church or Habitat for Humanity etc. That translates that you could be taking a job away from a resident. From a border agent’s point of view – even volunteer work – is not allowed without a visa. Your entry may be refused if they suspect you may be working.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to the Top

   Know the Regs as they apply to you

       Tips and Hints Around Various Situations

Questions At The Border

    Provincial Overview of Med Regs

        Plan for the Future

       Back to Advice and How-to

 

Out of Province/Country Medical – is the other half of this equation…

 There is a determined amount of time (from 4-6 months) Canadians are expected to spend in their home province each year to qualify as a resident to benefit from provincial medical (this may be during a calendar year or your year of travel). The balance of the year RVers are free to move about within Canada and/or the USA or Mexico. NOTE: The general consensus is it’s not acceptable to remain in another country for longer than six months (182 days) during any calendar year  or 12-month travel period – unless you have official visas. After that length of time you may be deemed to be a resident and expected to pay taxes. This timeframe is not enforced on any website as much as it is by agents at the border. 

During research I found this website…

‘cauckabroad.com/forum’, that explains it this way.  (Link to the full thread is in the sidebar).  The ‘six-month stay regulation’ is a rule of thumb which CBP (Border patrol) do follow as their website illustrates and I dare say a lot of CBP personnel follow it quite strictly in determining your entry, however legally if you want to go longer and argue with the immigration judge later on, do so.  It mainly comes down to your intent when you enter the USA and how you comply with the other provisions that establish that you are only a visitor.  For example, if you have a a home in Canada and/or sufficient funds to cover the stay etc.  The biggest reason to return is to comply with Provincial Medical Reguirements”.

Again there doesn’t seem to be any control in place to enforce this time period but you should be aware of the legalities. A number of years ago, we knew several Ontarians who lost their provincial medical coverage because they had obtained a green card to work in the USA plus they tried to take advantage of medical benefits when they returned home in the summer. It is not advisable to try to reap the ‘best’ from both countries. Only seldom do we hear of someone losing their valued medical benefit because they were out of the province for longer than their 183 days per calendar year.

Some RV Snowbirds complain that they can’t leave their province to tour Canada. But there are ways around this. You can shorten your time away in the winter by leaving later and returning early – this will free-up several months for touring nearby provinces. You can also take an extended ‘time-out’ from your province. You may have to prove you have a residence in Canada, or provide a full itinerary, or report in when you leave and when you return or other out of the ordinary situations. Highlights reference the ruling of each province is featured below.

Out of country medical requirements also changed for us when John reached 65. Previously we had a no restriction annual medical policy grand-fathered in force since 1985. Our pre-existing health conditions were also dated to what they were in our 40’s. That policy expired at age 65 but since it did not include air ambulance – we added MASA Air Ambulance. 

FYI Air Ambulance Medical Services will only transport patients that doctors say are fit for an Air Evac.  If you had to spend time in the hospital and you did not have insurance, the bill could get very expensive. Those who buy regular Medical Insurance every year are generally covered for Air Ambulance back to your residence,  No MASA or Sky-Med are necessary.

We have since discovered that any change in medication - either new or up or down could make it difficult to find insurance coverage for that problem – until the problem has been stable for 6-months. That is not a big concern for a broken ankle, but it creates other concerns when routine meds or dosages are changed. Some policies promote a more liberal time lapse, but they could be more costly. Be sure to check out all options. Lower cost annual policies are also available for multiple trips from many companies – depending on your coverage and health levels, each trip fall into the 35 or 90 or 180-day limit.

           Talk to your insurance agent about the various available plans. We recently discovered that Federal Government retirees who subscribe to Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) Health and Travel plan – are insured for up to 40-days for any number of trips out-of province/out-of-country throughout the year. We upgrade the original $500,000 coverage to $5 million for a low annual or monthly fee.

           John and I unexpectedly discovered this 40-day benefit several years ago when we called the PSHCP to determine what the 40-day coverage included. The two companies we talked to about this upgrade was CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) – 888-363-2279/416-363-8748 and MEDOC– (905) 764-4884 / 800-461-4597. There may be others. Insurers of this PSHCP military/government upgrade also sell top-up coverage for extended getaways. But so do several private companies . It may be wise to call one or more insurance companies for precise details as they apply to you. Be sure to check with your retirement pension plans as well. FYI I list addresses for 5-6 Insurance companies that RVers use on my "Important Things We All Should Know" forum at www.rvliving.net/forum

Several years ago we called several carriers our original quote of $1900.00 dropped to $1350.00 for the two of us (142 days + our original standard 40 days). Rates depend on the length of your trip, your age and especially medical problems plus Rx you may be taking.  Some brokers offer various discounts to reduce the price for items such as repeat customers, partner coverage, going green by receiving policies by email, etc. It’s best to keep deductibles on the low side. With our policy we pay the first $200., plus changes in BP meds only need be stable for three months – all other scripts must be stable for six months. John is now 71 and his went up this year – mine went up last year when I turned 66. Although Out-of-Country medical can be costly, no one should travel without it.

Out-of-Province medical coverage is equally important and it is usually only a few pennies a day. When traveling in Canada, if you have a medical problem in a province other than your own and you are without additional coverage, you could be charged extra fees. For instance, if one province charges $200.00 for a service and your province only pays $100.00 you could be required to pay the other $100.00. Not all benefits covered by your province may apply while you are in another; many also no longer cover air ambulance charges to bring you, your remains or your vehicle home. As a result Adding Out of Province medical coverage to the mix may also be wise move. On the good side of things, not all provinces follow this practice. I cannot stress enough that it is your responsibility to become informed and determine how provincial regulations apply to you.

Definition of a Resident according to the Canada Health Act is "a person lawfully entitled to be or to remain in Canada who makes his home and is ordinarily present in the province. This does not include a tourist, a transient or a visitor to the province."

             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to the Top

Know the Regs as they apply to you

Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage

 Tips and Hints Around Various Situations

Questions At The Border

        Plan for the Future

            Back to Advice and How-to

 

Provincial Overviews…

            Below are the basic questions I asked each province…for comprehensive details contact your provincial medical office. Frequently time in each province does not have to be consecutive – it can be a 12 month year of travel  or determined by the calendar year. Expect to apply in writing for the extended time-outs and maybe present a full travel plan itinerary. You may also have to prove you have a home to return to. Some provinces request residents check in at the start and end of your trip. Periodically regular provincial absences can be added to an extended ‘Time-out’, other times you must return immediately following the extended ‘time-out’ to stay within the province for the normal 4-6 months.

*** Newfoundland residents must be in province for 4-consecutive months each 12-month period. They can be out 8-months per year. One lifetime ‘Time-out’ covering a 12-month period is available as long as a 4-month stay follows before the next 8 months away. Details here… www.health.gov.nl.ca/mcp/html/info_ben.htm  1-800-563-1557 / 709-292-4000. NOTE: The Medical Care Plan (MCP) travel info was difficult to access from this site –when I called for voice confirmation I was sent to a different site. I finally found the info. Agent I talked to suggested I discuss it with my Dr.

*** Prince Edward Island residents are required to be in the province for 183 days within each year. A 12-month ‘Time-out’ waiver is available once in a lifetime - call for details.  Health departments like to be notified for resident absences longer than one-month www.gov.pe.ca/health  Go to Medicare Services. 1-800-321-5492 / 902-838-0900.

*** New Brunswick residents must be to be in the province for 183 days per year – (consecutive or not). 'Time out' must be applied to Medicare in writing for an extended 12-months once every three years.  Those away more than one month - NB Medicare wants to know. 506-684-7901 (888-762-8600-NB only) www.gnb.ca/0051/0394/index-e.asp

            *** Nova Scotia residents are required to be in the province for 183 days based on your year of travel, not by calendar year. Once every 6-years residents can extend the six month period to cover 12-month 'Time Out'. If away for more than 3 months MSI would like to know. Call 902-496-7008 – in NS 800-563-8880. www.gov.ns.ca/health/msi/moving_travel.asp 

            *** Quebec residents are expected to be in the province for 183 days per calendar year. Absent periods of 21 days or less are not counted in this calculation. Once every 7-years, it is possible to extend the six-month period to cover 12-month 'Time Out'. Provide notice at departure and on return. 418-646-4636 Quebec City/514-864-3411 Montreal/ 1-800-561-9749 in province of Quebec. http://www.ramq.gouv.qc.ca/index_en.shtml

            *** Ontario residents only need be in the province for 153 days (5-months) per calendar year OR with-in a 12 month travel period.. This means they can be out for 212 days (7-months) per year (this does not translate as 7-months in the USA). The extra time is provided to tour other parts of Canada or Mexico. Residents can apply for an extended 'Time-Out' of two 1 year, or one 2-year period every 5 years. If you return before the 1yr + 7 mo. is up, you only must stay for the 153 days.  Contact OHIP for details and exact time required between each ‘Time-out’ period. 416-314-5518 / 800-268-1154 in Ontario. www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/ohip/longer.html  

*** Manitoba residents are required to be in the province for 183 days per calendar year. If absent for longer than 90 Days, Manitoba Health request residents apply for a certificate. Once in every three years you can request an extension of another 6-month period 'Time Out' followed by the 183 days. Manitoba Health request you contact them if you plan to be away longer than 90-days. 204-786-7101/1-800-667-7523  www.gov.mb.ca/health/mhsip

            *** Saskatchewan residents must be in the province for 6-months per year. Extended 'Time-outs' up to 12-months can be requested as needed so long as there’s 6-months of provincial residency before a follow-up request. Any absence over 3-months, Medicare wants to be notified. Some treatment in other provinces is covered. It’s explained in this guide. www.health.gov.sk.ca/health-coverage-guide  306-787-3251; 1-800-667-7523 in Saskatchewan only

            *** Alberta residents are required to be in the province for 183 days each year. Time-outs of up to 24 months once in a lifetime is allowed for extended travel. 780-427-1432 (in Alberta 310-0000 then 427-1432) www.health.alberta.ca

            *** British Columbia residents are assessed a monthly fee for provincial medical coverage – residents must be in the province for 6-months of each year. Extended travel ‘Time-outs’ can occur up to 24-months every 5-years. www.hibc.gov.bc.ca  604-683-7151 / 1-800-663-7100-in/out of BC.

            *** North West Territories - residents must be in the territory for 6-months each calendar year. There is nothing on their main website about how often extended 'Time-outs' were allowed and my calls went unanswered. The website did relay that residents must spend 6-consecutive months in the province after an extended time away – I did see info reference to yearlong absences.  867-777-7400 / 899-661-0830 in the NWT.  For abstract info–dated 2006 www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/medi-assur/cha-lcs/pt-plans-nwt-eng.php–See 4.2/ 4.3.  NWT health – www.hlthss.gov.nt.ca/content/Publications/Brochures/Benefits/benefits.htm  

             *** Yukon Territory residents are required to be in the territory for 6-months each calendar year. Cards are renewed on your birthday. Those who plan to be away from the territory more than 210 days must apply for a 'Waiver' - 867-667-5209 / 1-800-661-0408 ext. within Yukon) - www.hss.gov.yk.ca/  My calls went unanswered and I could not find details about the waiver or 'Time-out' on their website.

 *** Nunavut Territory residents in the past were expected to be in the territory for 183 days each calendar year. Time-outs were allowed for 12 months – the frequency is determined by health services. 867-975-5713/1-800 663-5738  www.gov.nu.ca/health  NOTE: My calls here also went unanswered and I could not find details about reference Time-out on their website.

             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  Back to the Top

   Know the Regs as they apply to you

      Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage

          Tips and Hints Around Various Situations

      Questions At The Border

     Provincial Overview of Med Regs

          Back to Advice and How-to

Plan for the future…  

In all cases it is your responsibility to become aware of your provincial regulations. It is up to you to decide what you can and cannot do to maintain your valuable medical benefit. Be informed for Happy Travels. 

Many RVers are enjoying the Fulltime Lifestyle and although seasonal parks are great economical stays for summer living in an RV, staying put in areas of a cold winter presents a definite challenge. Although it is not an impossible adventure or a perfect problem free solution, it may be an option if family, money or medical problems change your plans to go south. The majority of RV’s are not sufficiently insulated without adding skirting; wrapping the hoses; egg shell foam covering a drivers door; plastic over the windows etc. However on the positive side, it’s so peaceful and hypnotic to walk in the crisp clean snow with lights from the RV’s that resemble tiny chalets glimmering on the starlit night.

Fulltiming is an hypnotic lifestyle. The following recommendations from one campground owner during my research relayed that all Fulltimers should adopt...

·         Appoint a Power of Attorney to make medical and investment decisions at times when you can’t.

·         Everyone NEEDS a will.

·         One cautionary note. Make a list of all investments, include any minor life insurance policies from banks etc., bank accounts with password access at the bank, the ATM and on-line.  Keep a copy with your will.

·         It also bears repeating, be sure to establish a legal residence – only a criminal has no fixed address.

·         RV Parks are fun places but most campgrounds are not meant to be a year round community.

  

Back to the Top

Know the Regs as they apply to you

Out of Province/Country Medical Coverage

Tips and Hints Around Various Situations

Questions At The Border

Provincial Overview of Med Regs

Plan for the Future

Back to Advice and How-to

 

 

RV WebLinks  Updated May 2014: Meet Your Hosts;   

Getting Started;  Articles;  Destinations-(Canada, Mexico, USA);   

  Many Recent Updates - Advice and How To;  Book Nook; 

(As of Oct 10) RV Shows;   Travel to Canada:  Travel to USA; (Oct 10);  

  Q&A;   Contact UsSite ContentsGallery Picasa Web Albums