As Canadians we treasure our universal health care system, trusting that any serious health problems will be taken care of by professionals — and any costs will be covered by the government.

However, some costs aren’t covered by the federal or provincial governments, leaving patients with the bill — and often the costs are steep. This is why more Canadians are opting to take out policies to insure themselves against the costs of critical illness.

Deb Maskens, co-founder of Kidney Cancer Canada, says she feels exceptionally fortunate that her private insurance policy covers the expensive drugs she needs to fight her kidney cancer.

“The cost of these new cancer drugs can be $14, 000 to $15,000 a year even after 80 per cent coverage,” says Maskens. “You’re financially ruined.”

She says new drugs that can be prescribed by physicians to fight cancer are getting better and better. But often the government won’t pay for newer drugs, so without insurance patients are forced to use less effective treatments or go bankrupt.

“Their doctor says they need this drug, then the government says no. It’s a life or death situation,” says Maskens. “Some people say, ‘I’ll go quietly. I can’t bankrupt my family.’”

Ted Warburton, president of Right Choice Insurance, says that in light of the extra costs people are facing from serious illness, his company put together an insurance policy that gives patients a lump sum to cover bills, lost wages for time off work, prescriptions or whatever you need covered.

“People would be surprised to know that drugs for advanced cancer aren’t covered by the government,” says Warburton.

Warburton also says — in response to research Right Choice has done — they provide representatives to answer questions and help speed the wait times along for their clients by working with the specialists.

“What became clear from our research is, Canadians like their universal health care, but they realize it’s flawed,” says Warburton. “It can be eight or nine weeks to see a specialist, and another seven or eight weeks to get test results back. This can be a terrifying time.”

Deb Maskens says she encourages people to check their insurance plans to see what they cover and consider your future.

“In my mind I’m alive today because of my private insurance plan,” says Maskens.

Latest From ...