Brendon Dantzer

With the Canadian health care system being accessible and free, many people are surprised by the financial burden a serious illness can create. There are many factors that can lead to financial stress after a diagnosis – time off work, travel expenses, need to modify home or vehicle etc. However, many times it is the actual treatment itself that can be the biggest burden.

With the evolution of medicine, treatment options have progressed and a lot of the new drugs and therapies are not covered by the public health care system, or traditional benefit plans. As a result, many Canadians find themselves in a position where they cannot afford the medicine or therapy they desperately need. It is an unfortunate reality but money still does impact the level of care you get in Canada’s health care system.

There are many ways that Critical Illness insurance can lessen the impact of being sick; we deal with clients who face financial burden following a serious illness diagnosis more often each year. What we find is that Critical Illness insurance bridges a significant gap left in most people’s health care coverage. Here are two stories that illustrate the role Critical Illness insurance can play in helping you get back to a normal life:

Mary was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer when she was 58 years old. When meeting with her oncology team, two possible treatment plans were presented to her:

• Treat her cancer with chemotherapy administered intravenously at the hospital.

• Utilize a new oral drug that would allow Mary to treat her cancer in the comfort of her own home.

Mary wanted to avoid constant trips to the hospital and the significant side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. She opted for the oral drug, but was shocked to discover that the cost was $6000/month, and would not be covered by public healthcare. Her oncologist explained that she could apply to have the medicine covered by the Trillium Drug Program, or the Exceptional Access Program, but the process could take 6 to 8 weeks. Mary could not afford to delay treatment any further; her cancer was spreading aggressively and needed to be treated now.

Fortunately, Mary had purchased a Critical Illness policy a few years prior and was able to use the insurance benefit to pay for the oral treatment. For Mary, Critical Illness insurance gave her the freedom to choose the treatment option that worked best for her.

Glen suffered a major stroke when he was 44 years old. After his surgery, and a handful of rehabilitation sessions, he was released from the hospital and sent home. However, Glen still had trouble speaking at times, and had not regained full use of his arms. As a result, he was unable to return to work immediately and would require further rehabilitation sessions to regain full mobility. Unfortunately, the rehabilitation sessions he needed would not be covered by public health insurance. Glen was forced to pay $1,100 per week out of his pocket to get the treatment he needed. Adding to the financial burden, his wife was forced to take time off work to care for him and drive him to his rehabilitation sessions. The couple also had to pay for expensive modifications to their home as Glen had trouble using the stairs.

Luckily for Glen, his Critical Illness policy provided him with the money he needed to pay for these extra expenses. After another 6 months of therapy, his condition had improved enough to allow him to return to work. For Glen, Critical Illness insurance allowed him to continue his treatment until he was well enough to resume his regular life. He often wonders if he would have been able to return to work and normal life if he had not been able to pay for the extra rehabilitation sessions he needed.

In speaking with our clients about Critical Illness insurance, we find that very few people have considered the reality of being diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Even fewer have put serious thought into how they might cope with the financial toll of a serious illness. It is very easy to develop the “it won’t happen to me, I’m healthy” attitude. However, the stats are not in our favor. 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime (*Canadian Cancer Society). 1 in 5 Canadians will develop heart failure in their lives (*Heart & Stroke Foundation). It may be unpleasant to consider this now, but it is far worse to wait until after developing an illness to start planning.