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Gaps in Healthcare Costs

healthcare costs

While the principles of the Canada Health Act remain sound, the last 30 years have seen a six-fold increase in healthcare costs. To help anticipate the result of future health events, the following outlines some key considerations relating to the services that we all may need down the road.

Disability protection: Suffering a disability can dramatically impact our income, quality of life and lifespan. The risk of suffering a disability are greater than most of us realize and increases as we age. Statistics Canada reported that 15% of Canadians suffered a disability in 2014. For adults, the most common disabilities relate to pain, loss of mobility and agility. Many people have insufficient or no disability coverage, which for them could result in serious financial issues should they become disabled.

Home care: Home care includes a wide range of services provided in the home and community that can address prevention, health care, palliative care, rehabilitation and social support for both clients and caregivers. Individuals of all ages have access to personal support services following surgery, or for extended periods (chronic illness), or for palliative care delivered in their own homes that supplements care provided by family or other community services. Over 105,000 Albertans received home care services in 2014. These services can be costly, and may not all be covered.

Long Term Care: There are about 200 long-term care (LTC) facilities that provide accommodation and health services in Alberta. These may be for profit or not-for-profit, or run by Alberta Health Services. Residents pay a fee for accommodation and to cover the costs of services such as meals, housekeeping and building maintenance. Healthcare in LTC facilities is provided through Alberta Health Services.

Palliative care: Is intended to improve both the quality of life and the quality of death for patients and their families by addressing physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs. Advance care planning is needed. There is often a particular emphasis on pain relief. In a recent survey about 25% of respondents thought government paid for palliative services and 70% worried they didn’t have enough money to pay for their own care.

Prescription drugs: Access to prescription medicines is an important part of staying healthy, curing illness and preventing more serious harm. Canadians spend more on prescription drugs than any other health cost except hospitals and physicians. Drug coverage may be available through different sources, but one should expect to pay at least some of the cost.

Travel emergency health: Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan pays little and sometimes nothing for health services needed when traveling outside of Canada. Travel medical coverage plans provide reimbursement for medically necessary emergency services when you are out of your resident province or outside Canada. The policy includes such things as a hospital stay, outpatient and physician services and assistance resulting from emergency treatment until one can safely travel home. Annual plans can be purchased or enough coverage to cover individual trips or the number of days you plan to be away. There are limits to coverage and exclusions for pre-existing conditions including pregnancy. The limitations and exclusions may vary dramatically between individual and group plans, so one needs to read the fine print carefully.

So the take away from all of this is for Canadians to realize that, serious health issues can result in big healthcare costs that can produce financial problems, because not all healthcare costs are covered by national or provincial plans. Take the time to review your existing health and disability coverage with a licensed financial advisor to plug any gaps in that coverage.
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