Understanding insurance and organizing finances

Your personal finances

When it comes to your personal finances, even with health insurance, cancer treatment can have an impact for you and your family. Most aspects of your cancer care will be covered by your provincial health insurance, but there are exceptions depending on where you live in Canada. You can avoid surprises for any out-of-pocket or indirect costs like lost time from work, childcare or transportation and lodging by taking steps to manage your finances now.

It's important to resolve financial issues before they become a source of increased stress or limit your access to needed treatments, prescription medications or support services.

You may want to book an appointment with a social worker through the cancer centre to help you understand your provincial insurance coverage and refer you to financial assistance programs that you may be eligible for.

Getting financial assistance

There is a variety of disability benefit plans and programs in Canada that can help can you financially while you take a leave of absence from work. Each has its own criteria for eligibility. Keep in mind that there are critical deadlines, including when the application is due.

  • Sick days: Many employers offer sick days to their employees. If you have access to sick days, this is the first thing you will use when you go on disability leave. Review your HR policies to see what you qualify for.

  • Short term disability benefits: If you have an insurance policy with your employer, short term disability benefits is typically included. If this is available to you, it can provide you with income if you need to be absent from work for one month and up to three months. You will need to review your policy plan to see if your employer offers this benefit and how to apply for it.

  • Employment Insurance (EI) benefits: If you do not have short term disability benefits through your employer, you may qualify for the Government of Canada’s EI sickness benefits. EI provides financial assistance to people who cannot work because of illness, injury or quarantine for up to 15 weeks. You will need a medical certificate to show that you’re unable to work for medical reasons. Making an appointment to speak with your doctor specifically about your application and how they can complete the report can help increase the likelihood your application will be accepted. Get more information about EI sickness benefits here.

  • Long term disability benefits: In the event that you cannot return to work by the time you’re sick pay and EI sickness benefits or short term disability benefits have ended, you may be eligible to receive long term disability benefits. To be eligible for long term disability benefits, you must be covered under a disability plan or insurance policy. It is possible that you may need to do a new application in order to receive this benefit.

  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits: If your medical condition is expected to be long-term or permanent, you may qualify for the CPP disability benefits. Most long-term disability plans will require you to apply for CPP disability benefits as soon as you move from short term to long term disability. There are eligibility requirements, including that you have been off work for 4 months. Learn more about the CPP disability benefits here. If you live in Quebec, find information about disability benefits under the Quebec Pension Plan here.

  • Tax credit: You may get a tax deduction from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for some medical expenses that are not covered through your province’s health coverage or for the portion of the expenses that is not covered by your insurance. Additional tax deductions and credits are also available to you if you live with a disability. Use the benefits finder on the CRA website to check which benefits you may qualify for and the medical expenses that are eligible for a tax credit. If you live in Quebec, find information about provincial tax credit here

  • Caregiver benefits: If a family member or someone close to you will need to take time off work in order to provide the care you need while you are critically ill, they may be able to receive Employment Insurance caregiving benefits. If you live in Quebec, find information about caregiver tax credit for respite here.

  • Benefits for families: If you have children under 18, you may be able to receive a Canada Child Benefit every month for each child from the Government of Canada. The amount you receive is based on your household income.

  • Benefits for seniors:

    •  Old Age Security (OAS) Pension is a monthly payment you can get if you are 65 and older. Eligible seniors are automatically enrolled, but applications can also be submitted online.
    •  Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is a monthly payment if you are 65 and older, who also receive Old Age Security, and based on your income. 
    • Allowanceis a benefit available to you if you are a person aged 60-64 and your spouse or common law partner receives Old Age Security Pension and is eligible for Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). 
  • Rainy Day Fund: In the event that your family should face a financial crisis while you are in treatment, you may be eligible for monthly emergency payments made directly to utility companies and landlords through the Rainy Day Fund. You may also be able to receive payments for hospital transportation or parking costs and grocery gift cards.

Transportation assistance programs

  • Canada-wide: If you are in financial need and live far away from the necessary medical care, your transportation and accommodation may be covered for you and a medical escort, if one is required through Hope Air.

  • British Columbia: You may be eligible for discounted fares if you must travel a long distance for specialist medical care through the Travel Assistance Program. If you live in a rural part of the province, you may qualify for transportation assistance from Health Connections program. 

  • Alberta: The Alberta government may cover your transportationto the nearest facility where you will receive regular and necessary medical services paid for by the Alberta Health Services through its Medical Extraordinary Transportation program. If you are 65 years of age or older and you must travel more than 80 kilometres roundtrip to see a specialist, receive treatment or for testing, you may be eligible for the Special Needs Assistance for Seniors. If you reside in the Municipal District of Bighorn, are aged 65 and up or have a disability and limited access to transportation, you may be eligible for additional assistance.

  • Saskatchewan: Transportation may be covered if you must travel outside of your community to access medically required health services through the Supplementary Health Program benefits.

  • Manitoba: If you have been referred to a medical facility outside of the province, your transportation may be covered through Out-of-Province Transportation Subsidy Program. If you live north of the 53rd parallel from the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border to Lake Winnipeg, transportation costs for you and one necessary escort may be covered through the Northern Patient Transportation Program.

  • Ontario: Funding for planned medical services outside of the province, but within Canada, must first receive written approval from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

  • Quebec: If you have to travel more than 200 kilometres from your place of residence to the facility where you will receive the necessary care and services for your illness, you may be eligible for a lumpsum allowance from the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services.

  • Nova Scotia: Some financial support may be available to you if you must travel outside the province for necessary medical health services for your illness through the Out-of-Province Travel and Accommodation Assistance Policy.

  • Prince Edward Island: If you have approval from Health PEI to travel out of the province for medical health services, you may be eligible for travel assistance through one of the four travel support programs.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: If you must travel outside of your home community or out of your province for specialized insured medical services that will incur a substantial out-of-pocket travel costs, you may be eligible to receive some assistance through the Medical Transportation Assistance Program.

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