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Financial & Healthcare Coverage Information

   Reviewed: January, 2014

You may need to stop working, you might not have healthcare coverage or be able to afford a symptom medication. These and other concerns can create distress and uncertainty, leaving you wondering what to do next.

The information you find here may be helpful in determining what is right for you and help answer some of your questions.


NEW UPDATED! Financial Information for Cancer Patients 2015 pdfFinancial Booklet

Resource Guide for Chinese Speaking Cancer Patients pdfChinese Resource Guide

Watch These New Videos:
 Financial Information for Cancer Patients is now available in video clips. Each video seen below provides a summary of important service information.  

Introduction  (1:41)  Introduction to Financial Video's
I Need to Stop Working  (12:48)  I Need to Stop Working Video

Who covers the Costs of Healthcare Services (3:03)  Who covers the cost of healthcare services video   Accommodation, Transportation & Homecare (5:35)  Accommodation, transportation and homecare video
Chinese Version (4:23)  Chinese version of video's


1. What Health Coverage & Services are Available in B.C.?

    2. What Other Options Might Help with Medical Costs?

    3. What Help is Available for Non-medical Costs?

    4. I Can't Work Now, What Are Some Options? 


    1. What health coverage and services are available in BC?

    Health Insurance BC

    Health Insurance BC administers the Medical Services Plan and PharmaCare programs on behalf of the BC government. The following are bits of information. To find out more about programs and services offered please visit their website. 

        Medical Services Plan offers medical coverage to all qualifying residents of BC. Coverage is subject to an application and the payment of any required premiums and deductibles. Benefits include medically required services such as approved cancer treatment, physician visits, surgeon’s services, hospital stays and palliative benefits program (appropriate referrals are required).

        Regular Premium Assistance:

    Persons eligible for Premium Assistance are those with low incomes; who are Canadian citizens or landed Immigrants and; who have lived in Canada for the last 12 months.  Applications are income tested and based on net income from the previous year, among other criteria.  Applications are available upon request from Health Insurance BC or online. If you are eligible for Premium Assistance, your PharmaCare deductible may change to give 100% reimbursement for prescription drugs after deductible.

        Temporary Premium Assistance:

    Temporary Premium Assistance is available to persons who find that their financial situation has changed, they are facing unexpected financial hardship and, do not qualify for Regular Premium Assistance based on their previous year's income. An Income Review is available to assess the changes in your financial situation.


    PharmaCare covers approved medications and medical supplies including prostheses and orthotics. However, some drugs are not covered or are designated a Special Authority Drug. If you are concerned about cost please consult your physician, pharmacist or other appropriate healthcare professional. See their website Patient Information Sheets for more detailed information about coverage.

        BC Palliative Care Benefits Program:

    BC Palliative Care Benefits Program provides assistance with medications and services for those who are approved and registered as requiring palliative care.

        Fair PharmaCare:

    All BC residents must register separately from MSP for Fair PharmaCare coverage. Partial reimbursement (up to 70%) above an annual deductible is available for registered individuals. Benefits include: designated medications, designated permanent prosthetic appliances. Register or check your registration status. For more detailed information contact Health Insurance BC.

    Toll free: 1.800.663.7100         Lower Mainland: 604.683.7151

        Special Authority Drugs:

    There are certain drugs that may be covered or partially covered by Special Authority from your cancer doctor. Ask your cancer care team about these drugs. Or refer to PharmaCare under Health Insurance BC website for details about how your doctor can apply for Special Authority for a medication.


    First Nations Health Benefits:

    If you are a First Nations, Inuit or Aboriginal person, you may be eligible for help with medical expenses. Contact your band Community Health office.

    You may also contact Health Canada, First Nations Branch at 1.800.317.7878  to clarify whether a drug is covered, but you need the (DIN) Drug Information Number from the prescription.

    For exceptional drugs, your pharmacist can contact the First Nations Drug Exception Centre (Ottawa) at 1.800.580.0950 to discuss what drugs are covered.

        Non-Insured Health Benefits:

    Non-insured Health Benefits support status First Nations and Inuit people to reach overall health that is comparable to other Canadians. They provide coverage for a limited range of healthcare goods and services when they are not insured elsewhere. 

    Interim Federal Health Program provides limited temporary coverage of health-care costs to protected persons who are not eligible for provincial or territorial health insurance plans and where a claim cannot be made under private health insurance. Inclusion criteria includes:  re-settled refugees, refugee claimants, certain persons detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other specified groups.


    2. What other options might help with medical costs?

    Extended Medical Benefits & Employer Benefits

    If you have an extended health plan it may cover some expenses such as ambulance, medication, equipment or home oxygen costs as well as other benefits. Check with your employer or human resources department.  Ask your employer about optional benefits that may be available at your work, such as Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability, Sick Leave, and Vacation Days.

    Some medical expenses may be claimed as a tax deduction, (e.g. prescription, accommodation and travel costs). Disability tax credits are also available for those eligible. Check with your tax office or go online to access forms or information from Canada Revenue Agency. 

    Financial Assistance Programs For Medical Costs 

    The Canadian Cancer Societies Financial Support Drug Program (FSDP) enables eligible applicants who are receiving active cancer treatment and are in financial need to purchase symptom control medications at a subsidized rate. You can apply online or by calling the Cancer Information Service at1-888-939-3333 (toll free). Also help is available for out of area travel and accomodation and other programs refer to their website.

    As a recipient or member of various government programs, clubs or associations (e.g. Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation, First Nations Bands, Veterans Affairs Canada) you may qualify for financial support for disability or illness.

    Veterans Affairs Canada  provides a disability benefit and other benefits for qualifing military, RCMP and veterans and their families. Please refer to their website for further information.


    Tax Deductions for Medical Expenses

    Some medical expenses may be claimed as a tax deduction, (e.g. prescription, accommodation and travel costs). Disability tax credits are also available for those eligible. Check with your tax office or go online to access forms or information from Canada Revenue Agency.

    Worksafe BC

    Sometimes exposure to a work related substance may be a part of your cancer diagnosis. If you have a claim or suspect your cancer is work related contact Worksafe BC . There is information about types of cancer and exposure on their website.   


    Contact your insurance company about insurance policies. It may be possible to have your premiums waived without affecting the policy. Some life insurance policies may allow terminally ill persons to withdraw monies while living. If you have insurance concerns or problems contact OmbudService for Life.

        Life, Mortgage,Vehicle and Credit Card:

    Check with the lending institution to explore their services and how flexible they are with deferring payments.

    Medical Supplies & Services

        Dressings & Stoma Covers:
    The Order of the Eastern Star provides dressings, including stoma covers, for persons with cancer at no cost. Patients can get these dressings at the BC Cancer Agency cancer centres (ask a staff member) or through home care nursing or their family physicians. There is a request form for physicians to complete.

        Ostomy Supplies & Prosthetic Appliances:
    Check with PharmaCare and your extended health benefit plan regarding eligibility for reimbursement. Prosthetic appliances must be permanent and designated and requires a prescription from your doctor. 

        Breast Prostheses: 

    You can be fitted and obtain breast prosthesis one to three months after your surgery, and/or following your radiation therapy.  Discuss this with your doctor and ask for a prescription for the prosthesis and brassieres as they are considered to be prescription items. 

         Take a look at Resources for After your mastectomy or lumpectomy.pdf 2012  

        Nutritional Supplements (e.g. Boost, Ensure):

    Coverage may be available through your Extended Health Benefit Plan. If you are recieving Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation benefits, ask your worker about any supplemental funding that may be available to you.

        Wigs & Headcoverings:

    Donated wigs & hats may be available, at no cost, through the Canadian Cancer Society. Call Toll Free: 1.888.939.3333. 

    Donated wigs and head coverings may also be available at your local cancer centre ask at your Cancer Centre's Information Service or Patient & Family Counselling Service.

    If you wish to purchase a wig, check with your extended health benefit plan for reimbursement. (A prescription from your physician will help document your claim).  We also encourage you to contact local hairdressers and wig salons if you wish to purchase a wig. Check the yellow pages of your telephone directory.
    3. What help is available for non-medical costs?

    Here is a list of several recommended websites for financial assistance programs.(pdf)  that are available, as well as a complete list of the programs offered by the Canadian Cancer Society. The programs indicated are for both adults and children.  Each program has their own criteria so refer to their program for details and application process.

    Credit Counselling Canada is a national association of non-profit credit counselling agencies who provide education and guidance in money management, credit counselling and debt repayments.                                                                                                                                                          Top

    4. I can't work now, what are some options?

    Employment Insurance

        Sickness Benefits: 

    Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits are for qualified individuals who are unable to work for medical reasons and have insurable hours. Benefits are paid to a maximum of 15 weeks. For those who need assistance but do not have anyone to help please contact  your local Patient  & Family Counselling Services at your Cancer Centre.  Apply online or at your nearest Service Canada office.
    You will require your records of employment and a medical certificate or doctor’s letter confirming medical status.  Service Canada contact information:  Toll free: 1.800.206.7218
         Compassionate Care Benefits:

    Compassionate Care benefits are available through Employment Insurance (EI) and they are offered to people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks (six months). A maximum of six weeks of compassionate care benefits may be paid to eligible people.  Contact Service Canada for further information.

    Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation benefits are for people who have little or no means of paying their living expenses. Benefits may include monthly support, shelter allowance, medical and prescription cost, travel costs and accommodation cost for medical treatment. For qualifying criteria contact MSD.

    Apply through the Ministry of Social Development & Social Development online application.  If you are in hospital or unable to apply online contact any MSD office for assistance. Or get in touch with your Patient & Family Counselling Services. Your monthly family income, assets, job readiness or disability level and urgency of need would be determined for your eligibility of assistance. In addition to regular social assistance, there are two other programs you may be eligible for:

        Person with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMD):

    Person must have received social assistance for 12 out of the last 15 months. Have severe multiple personal barriers to employment. Have a medical condition that has lasted for at least 1 year, and is likely to continue or reoccur  frequently for at least 2 years.

        Persons with Disabilities (PWD):

    Includes persons with prolonged disability (deemed by practitioner/physician and assessor). The disability must be severe, i.e. difficulties with activities, day to day life affected. The recipient needs to be on regular income assistance beforehand to be eligible.

    Ministry of Social Development & Social Information:
    • Enquiry BC: 604.660.2421
    • Victoria: 250.387.6121
    • Toll free: 1.866.866.0800
    • Website:


    Canada Pension Plan Disability is for those individuals who are between the ages of 18 and 65 and have enough Canada Pension Plan contributions at the time disability occurs. The disability must be a physical or mental impairment that is both severe and prolonged simultaneously. Severe means that you are unable to regularly carry out any gainful employment and prolonged means that the disability is likely to be of a longer duration or is likely to result in death.

    Children could be eligible for a disabled contributor's child's benefit if you receive a disability benefit. They must be under the age of 18, or aged 18-25 in full-time attendance at school. Refer to Service Canada website for details. Application is available online or at a Service Canada location nearest you.

    NEW! CPP Disability - Terminal Illness Application - streamlines and speeds up the application process.  Please contact Service Canada for more information.

    Canada Pension Plan Disability
    Service Canada
    1260 Government Street
    Victoria, BC V8W 3M4
    Toll free: 1.800.277.9914

    Veterans Affairs Canada

    is a federal government office that provides services and benefits for active and retired members of Canadian Forces and RCMP and their dependents. Refer to their website for details of benefits and programs.

    Bureau of Pension Advocates
    206 - 816 Government Street
    Victoria, BC V8W 1W9
    Toll Free: 1.877.228.2250
    Fax: 250.363.3802

    Retirement Pension Plans

    You may feel that retirement is the best option for you. Please refer to Service Canada for Canada Pension Plan application and information as well as other information that might apply to you regarding programs like Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement  .


    For other topics refer to Practical Support or Emotional Support

    This section is created and edited by BCCA, Psychosocial Oncology