Written by Robin Taub
Monday, October 1st, 2018
Last summer, my daughter went to a friend's cottage to celebrate Canada Day, where she had an accident and finished out the weekend in the emergency room with a broken ankle. While I'm grateful for Canada's medical system and the hospital that took such good care of her, I was surprised by how much this little mishap cost.
The hospital took X-rays of both her foot and her ankle ($42.38), put her in a fiberglass cast ($150.00) and gave her a set of crutches ($35.00). When the cast finally came off a month later, the doctor recommended an ankle stirrup (brace) for a few weeks, at a cost of $85.00.
OHIP, the Ontario Health Insurance Program, only covered $40.51 (the amounts charged and covered may be different in the province where you live.) My daughter was a full-time university student at the time, so luckily she was still covered under our private health insurance plan, which we have through my husband's business.
Initially, the pain was severe and the fracture clinic prescribed pain medication. When I filled the prescription, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no charge. In Ontario, children and young adults under 25 get free prescription drugs, but that may not be the case in your province.
My daughter and I had planned a trip to New York to celebrate her graduation from university. Suddenly, travel was out of the question, and we had to cancel the trip. We booked her flights using points but it still cost $170 in fees and taxes and my flight cost $390. I applied to the airline for a full refund, but they turned me down. Instead, I got a credit for my flights, but would be charged a change fee of $100 for each flight when I re-booked. Because I'd booked the travel on my credit card, I had trip cancellation insurance and made a claim to recoup these costs.
After the cast came off, she needed physiotherapy, which cost $72 for each 30-minute appointment. It's not covered by OHIP, (please check your provincial health care program) so once again we had to make a claim through our private insurance, which covers up to $500 per year.
If you don't have private health insurance, or if it doesn't cover all of your medical expenses, you can claim medical expenses on your personal tax return. You can claim them for yourself, your spouse (or common-law partner) and minor children for any 12-month period that ends in the current tax year. The tax credit you can claim is the amount of medical expenses that are greater than 3% of your net income, or $2,302 (in 2018), whichever is lower.
Be Prepared for Anything
Life is unpredictable and accidents happen. We used a credit card to pay for all of the medical expenses at the hospital and then waited for our insurance claim to come through. If you don't have private insurance, then you may have to dip into your savings or borrow money to cover these unforeseen expenses. That's why it's prudent to have an emergency fund.
Although a broken ankle is painful and inconvenient, it was temporary and healed fairly quickly. It could have been worse. Unfortunately, family members do get sick or become disabled. Medical and disability insurance are important ways to protect both your family and your finances.