An important note on the HSBC World Elite Mastercard’s 65+ Emergency Medical Coverage

This past February the HSBC World Elite Mastercard underwent some changes that included some major improvements to the insurance coverage provided with the card. One of those improvements was the addition of the 21 day out of province emergency medical coverage for those 65 and older. It was with this coverage and addition of gas, grocery and drug store multipliers we had heralded this card as one of the best for travellers 65 and over to have in their wallet. It also is featured in our Ultimate Travel Credit Card Portfolio for those 65 and over.

An astute reader of ours has read the insurance policy inside and out and brought a very important detail to our attention. They note that HSBC requires a stabilization of 365 days of any pre-existing medical conditions for that condition to be covered should it be the cause of an emergency medical situation while out of your home province. This is double the amount of time required that cards require for the same age group. This is a detail should definitely be noted by anyone who is 65 and over and utilizing this card.

365 Day Stabilization Period for Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have read our Guide to Credit Card Emergency Medical Insurance Coverage you will have knowledge of the stabilization period that is set in place on all emergency medical coverage. Typically the period ranges from 90 days to 180 days for those under 65 while 180 days seems to be norm for cards that have coverage for those 65 and over. That being said those other cards with coverage for the 65+ age group only goes as high as 15 days of travel and only to age 74 or 75. Several cards do cover 76 and over but max out at 10 days of coverage. For more details we recommend reading our Guide that we link to at the beginning of this paragraph.

Here is the direct wording of HSBC’s definition of a pre-existing condition:

Preexisting Condition means any Medical Condition for which symptoms appeared or for which an Insured Person sought the attention of a Physician, had investigated, diagnosed, treated, had treatment or further investigation recommended or for which medication was prescribed or altered, in the case where the Insured Person is under 65 years of age, in the 180 days prior to the Trip departure date, and in the case where the Insured Person is 65 years of age or older, in the 365 days prior to the Trip departure date. A Preexisting Condition does not include a Medical Condition which is controlled by the consistent use of medications prescribed by a Physician, provided that, during the 180day period or 365day period, as applicable, before the Insured Person’s departure, there has been no other treatment or investigation recommended and there has been no change in medication. A new medication or increase/decrease in dosage constitutes a change (Source HSBC Insurance Certificate)

Another item noted by our reader is that last line of the Pre-Existing Condition definition from HSBC. And what they noted is that any change to your condition or treatment including a decrease in a medication you may be taking is considered a change in your condition.

That piqued my interest, as you would think a lowering of your medication dosage could constitute an actual improvement in your condition and not be an issue for insurance. However, if you do have an improvement in a medical condition where you are able to lower the dosage of your medication and then that condition causes a medical emergency while on vacation – you will not be covered.

Seeing this, I decided to check the policies of some other card’s policies and sure enough all the ones I randomly checked have this clause as well – an increase or decrease in dosage constitutes a change. So this is not unique to HSBC and in general you should make a mental note if you have a medical condition where you were actually able to reduce the dosage of medicine within 90 to 365 days (depending on the card) of your date of departure you won’t be covered for that said condition.

What about other cards?

If your typical travels don’t extend beyond 15 days there are several other cards in the market that provide 15 day coverage for the 65 to 75 age range and have a 180 day stabilization period. These include the Desjardin Odyssey® World Elite® Mastercard® and the National Bank of Canada World Elite Mastercard.

If you are over the age of 75 the list of cards with coverage drops significantly with only some cards offering up to 10 days of coverage while the HSBC card still provides their 21 days of coverage. For example, the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card provides 10 days of coverage for those 75+ however just like the HSBC card they require a 365 day stabilization period (180 days for those under 75)

Wrapping it up

Even with this additional knowledge about the HSBC World Elite’s emergency medical coverage it doesn’t change my opinion on the value of this card. I still feel it is one of the best options for those in 65+ age group (and really it is one of the best cards for all ages) since it does provide a complete three weeks of emergency medical coverage with no age limit. However it is good to know beforehand the conditions set out by HSBC’s insurance provider for this particular coverage. Know that you need to be medically stable for a period of one year before you travel should any pre-existing condition become the cause of an emergency medical situation while you are out of province. If you have an existing medical condition that does change or a new one that arises within 365 days you may have to consider taking out additional travel insurance coverage for peace of mind.

Click here to learn more about the HSBC World Elite Mastercard