Canada's extraordinary health care system covers most of the population. Only a small fraction of its 37 million residents lack health insurance. Only certain recent immigrants and workers are ineligible for care.
However, healthcare is not free. In addition to tax-funded universal basic care, many Canadians also carry supplemental insurance to avoid medical cost surprises. Supplementary plans cover dental and vision care, ambulance service and prescription drugs.
Nearly 80 percent of all Canadians who have supplementary insurance plans, pay for them through their employer or union. There is a dizzying array of choices high or low deductible, expedited claims service, 80/20 co-insurance and variable co-pays.
How do you compare health insurance in Canada?
Read on to learn more.
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13 Different Public Healthcare Systems
Your location determines what is considered "medically necessary." A covered expense in Alberta might be an out of pocket expense in Vancouver. Each province and territory decides what is a priority in that healthcare plan. In turn, these priorities influence the cost and value of supplementary insurance.
Almost all prescription drugs, short and long-term care for the disabled, dental care and vision care are paid out of pocket. Get to know your local health policy. To accurately compare health insurance in Canada you need to know which "gaps" in public healthcare are important to you and your family.
Beyond the basics, look at side-by-side comparisons of costs, plan benefits and limitations. Focus on extras that are important to you, like complementary alternative medicine, acupuncture or physiotherapy.
What to Consider When You Compare Health Insurance In Canada
There are at least 150 insurers admitted to selling health policies in Canada. Not all insurers may sell all policies in all 13 provinces and territories. The first thing to look for is whether or not a company is authorized to offer policies in your area.
Look to see if the insurer is a specialist in the area of insurance coverage you seek. If you or a family member have specific needs or a pre-existing condition make sure the companies you consider can offer insurance to you. Some companies and policies automatically reject pre-existing conditions.
Look at the number of policyholders a company has. Larger numbers mean the risk is spread among more people. Financial health is important too.
All companies being equal, look at the customer service options. Do you prefer all online services or a more personal approach? Is there a live telephone operator or an endless automated answer tree?
Every insurance company has a claim-paying process. Does the company have a reputation for easy claims payment or a list of lodged complaints?
What Benefits Are Important?
A group or individual plan can have benefits ranging from a barebones dental and vision plan to plans that include life insurance, disability coverage, prescriptions and more. Some plans even include coverage for acupuncture or homeopathic remedies.
Most important for many people is coverage for pre-existing conditions or coverage for seniors. If you do not already have insurance through your employment or union, finding a new policy can be difficult.
Check Premiums and Deductibles
Once you narrow down the benefits you need and want, look at the costs. An important thing answered by our comp[arison tool is "Are the premiums comparable for the benefit level against other companies?"
Premiums are important to consider. They are not the only factor. A very low premium might offer poor coverage, for example. Or the insurer is new to the market and lacks experience.
Look at deductibles too. The deductible amount is the part of the health expense you are responsible for paying when you file a claim. Lower deductibles can mean higher premiums, and the inverse is true also.
Watch Out for Policy Lifetime and Annual Limits
All health policies limit their maximum dollar payout on an annual and lifetime basis. For example, Plan A might set a limit of $1000 a year for wheelchairs while Plan B pays a maximum of $2,500 a year for medical devices such as glasses, hearing aids or wheelchairs.
After the plan has paid for medical devices up to the annual limit, you are responsible for the additional costs. If you are managing a chronic illness, choose higher limits of coverage, even if the premium is higher.
Select a plan with annual maximum limits that meet your needs.
Co-Payment or Co-Insurance
In some health policies, you are responsible for a portion of your healthcare costs after your deductible is paid. For example, if you have 80/20 co-insurance after you pay your deductible, a medical procedure is 80 percent covered by insurance.
You pay 20 percent of the bill. Another form of the same idea is that you have a fixed co-payment. For example, you might have a $25 co-payment for birth control pills. Every prescription you fill costs $25, with your insurance company picking up the rest.
Where to Get Answers
You could get on the telephone and start asking questions. An old-fashioned checklist for comparison purposes is always an option. Unfortunately, collecting information from several different insurance brokers eats up lots of time.
Even if you narrow down your search to just a few companies, you might find that they have several policies each. It's slow-going to compare coverage. In fact, you might find yourself digging for straight answers.
Some insurance brokers can quote several different lines of insurance. This will speed up your hunt. However, some insurance companies only use sales agents who only quote one line of insurance. Comparisons of company stability, prices and policies are up to you.
You can skip the tedious telephoning by using our insurance guide online. Enter your information and qualified agents and brokers can give you recommendations almost instantly. Just click on the "Get a Quote" button at the top of any page to start the process.
Bonus Question to Ask
Find out if the insurer gives discounts supplemental policies if they already cover the employer's group policies. There may be discounts offered for certain groups or bundles with other types of insurance.
If Quotes Are Out of Reach
Most companies have an outreach program to assist people in paying their supplementary insurance premiums. These programs can help you pay your premium if an emergency or financial burden prevents you from access to insurance.
There are a few other factors under your control, as well. Many policies base their life and health insurance premiums on certain factors. Modify your behaviour to reduce costs.
Smoking Increases Loss Risks
Smokers should expect to pay more for health insurance. Tobacco use increases the chances of an insurance payout for serious lung issues, cancers and heart disease.
Even secondhand smoke affects pregnancies and children. Quit smoking to prevent premium increases.
High BMI Raises Premiums
People who are overweight or obese pay higher health insurance premiums. A high Body Mass Index relates to diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Often there is joint pain, fertility issues, high blood pressure and more.
Severely low BMI undergoes scrutiny too. Underweight people are also prone to claims for broken bones, immunity issues and poor dental health.
Age, Gender and Dependents
These factors are not under your direct control. However, they are definitely used to determine your benefits class and premium costs. If you are covering your children, remember to accurately record their ages for the best quote.
Collect Your Information and Contact Insurers Today
When you are ready to find health insurance in Canada, make sure that the agent, broker or sales entity is licensed in your province first. Make your list of benefits that are "must-haves" and "wants".
If you are currently covered by an employer-provided health plan, look into discounted supplementary insurance plans with your employer first. Bundling additional policies with an employer-provided policy can be cost-effective.
For certain types of health insurance, you cannot choose private coverage outside of your employer-offered plan if offered. Even if private coverage is the same or better, you cannot choose private coverage over your employer-offered plan.
If you are self-employed, near retirement, or part of a special immigration class, your insurance needs are complicated. Consult with an experienced advisor in addition to an online quote.
Ready to Get Started?
You can compare health insurance in Canada online immediately. Our easy-to-use quote system matches you to the most qualified brokers and agents in your area. We compare only the best and largest companies to get you the most affordable choices.
The number of available policy options varies. However, comparing premiums, annual limits, co-pays and geographical scope is one simple website visit.
Narrow down your supplementary health plan providers by location, budget and service level. Government plans cover only medically necessary procedures. Supplementary insurance helps you avoid large expenses for treatments and procedures not covered.
Contact us to start your health insurance cost comparison today!