April 13, 2022
By  Jillian Stinson

Read time: 4 minutes

When someone’s diagnosed with a serious illness, they often struggle with fear and pain – both physically and mentally. Good thing government health insurance means they don’t have to worry about medical bills, too, right? Not exactly.

Believing that government health insurance covers everything is a common assumption people make about dealing with a serious illness. But if you take a closer look, the realities may surprise you.

There’s no question that a serious illness can change your life. But, if you’re prepared for the possibility, you can spend: 

  • less of your energy worrying about paying the bills, and  
  • more energy on getting better.

What does your provincial health plan cover?

Under the federal Canada Health Act, provincial and territorial governments must provide residents with basic medical and emergency services. This often includes:

  • visits to doctors and specialists, and
  • basic hospital costs for medically necessary procedures. 

What does your provincial health plan not cover?

There are common types of treatments and services that aren’t covered at all by provincial healthcare. Or, in some cases, these treatments may only receive a small amount of coverage. These include:

  • Alternative treatments and experimental drugs
  • Travel and accommodation for treatments away from home
  • Adaptations to home or vehicle to accommodate your condition
  • Home nursing care
  • Wigs and special makeup
  • New clothing needed due to weight loss or gain
  • Hospital beds or other equipment for home
  • Physiotherapy (may be partially covered in your province or territory)
  • Treatments and surgeries outside Canada

What are the costs for caring for someone with a serious illness or injury?

Providing adequate care for someone isn’t easy. It often requires a lot of time, energy and money. Let’s say you became seriously ill or hurt. You may need help with everyday tasks as you recover, such as:

  • Dressing and bathing yourself
  • Styling your hair, putting on makeup
  • Driving
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Preparing meals, doing housework and laundry
  • Gardening, lawn care and snow removal
  • Tending to children, and driving them to and from school and activities

You may have a loved one to help you with such tasks. Or, you may have to hire a caregiver for help, which can be costly. Either way, it’s not a fun scenario to think about. But the good news is there are options and resources that can help. 

What are your options to help pay for the cost of a serious illness?

1. Check if you have enough insurance coverage at work

Do you have long-term disability and/or supplemental health insurance at work? 

Most group disability insurance plans through an employer will pay about 60 to 70% of your income. But you’ll still have to pay 100% of your monthly expenses. Remember, your expenses may be higher while you’re recovering from an illness or injury. 

Find out exactly what your insurance covers, and for how much. You can then assess whether you need to increase your coverage.

When you’re planning, factor in your personal situation. For example, do you have a partner to help care for you if you become sick or injured? They may need to take a leave of absence from work to care for you. In which case, you’ll have to consider the possibility that your household income could be further reduced.

Are you leaving your job with Sun Life benefits? 
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2. Get more health insurance if you need it 

When it comes to additional coverage, there are 4 types of health insurance to explore:

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3. Ask for help from non-profits

Non-profit national, provincial and local groups can: 

  • offer hands-on and online help, and 
  • connect you with a support group.  

Here are a few resources to keep in mind:


Need help figuring out what’s right for you?

An advisor can explain your options and help build insurance into your plan.

This article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation, or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.