For most of us, Canada’s universal healthcare system is a point of national pride. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll be taken care of in the event you become sick or injured is priceless. Unfortunately, some treatments do come at a cost, and not everything is covered under your provincial healthcare plan. For example, in some provinces, prescription drugs, rehabilitative care, vision and dental care are not covered.
And while you can apply for separate health insurance coverage to offset some of these expenses, this surely comes with a cost, and some plans don’t completely cover certain treatments – leaving you to still pay a portion of the bill.
If you find that you’re paying for certain healthcare expenses out-of-pocket, here are some ways you can reduce your healthcare costs.
Back to school
In order to become an official doctor, nurse, or dentist, you need to first study the trade in school. Part of that studying calls for practicing on real patients. People who are willing to be treated by soon-to-be doctors and dentists can get a discounted rate on treatment. Medical school faculty clinics generally offer everything from checkups to major surgery at rates significantly lower than what a private practice would charge. You may also be able to find savings on eye care, physiotherapy, and chiropractic care by visiting clinics offered at schools with those types of programs.
The cost for an individual or family to apply for an separate healthcare plan can be quite high. But you may qualify for a group discount through your employer (ask your HR representative), an industry association you belong to, or a school alumni program. Before going with a specific insurer, make sure you inquire about any further discounts for which you may be eligible.
Seniors and students
Your age can also be a factor in determining which treatments you are required to pay for and which ones are free. For example, in Ontario, the provincial health insurance plan covers the cost of an annual eye exam for children up to 19 years of age, and for adults age 65 or older.
The Ontario Drug Benefit plans also covers the cost of more than 4,000 different prescription drugs, including allergy medicine and diabetes treatments, but only for residents 65 years or older. Even still, most pharmacies charge a dispensing fee of about $10 per prescription.
Whether you qualify for free prescription or not, seek out one of the many independent pharmacies that waive the dispensing fee or reduce it significantly to cut down on costs.
Nothing can ruin a vacation like illness or injury. But if you don’t have travel insurance, needless to say, expensive medical bills can ruin your life even when you get back home.
Many people are under the impression that with a Canadian province-issued health card, they can receive free healthcare anywhere in the world. However, this is far from the truth. Even a quick clinic visit can rack up a costly tab in a different country.
If you don’t have a separate healthcare plan that covers travel, consider signing up for a credit card that includes travel coverage. With a travel rewards card, not only can you earn points towards free holidays, but these also typically cover you for everything from healthcare and auto accidents to flight delays and lost baggage.
Note that most travel insurance plans limit out-of-country healthcare coverage to a maximum of two weeks, but you can pay a small fee for additional days. Travel insurance should be a necessity when leaving the country, and for a small one-time premium you can protect your health and your pockets in the worst-case scenario.
One of the harsh realities of the Canadian healthcare system is that everyone has to wait their turn. That can result in waiting weeks or months for testing and treatment. For those with the means, however, there is an alternative option: seeking medical treatment abroad. And this so-called “medical tourism” is a growing trend.
The Fraser Institute recently reported that in 2015, patients had to wait 8.5 weeks on average to see a specialist in Canada, and that over 45,000 Canadians sought non-emergency treatment abroad. The Government of Canada does warn that, depending on the country, there may be risks including blood that may not be properly screened for HIV or hepatitis, and the risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria. Before receiving treatment from any physician, you should always check the credentials of the specialist and the clinic.