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Financial Assistance

When you need to stop working and are having trouble affording the medical and non-medical costs that come with having cancer.
Medical costs
There are programs are available if you need financial assistance. They can help with healthcare coverage and medical costs. 
Check out our Financial Information for People with Cancer booklet or click the "+" signs below for more information.

When you need healthcare coverage

Health Insurance BC administers the Medical Services Plan and PharmaCare programs on behalf of the BC government.T o find out more about programs and services offered please visit their website. 

The 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).

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. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-663-7100 or 604-683-7151 in the Lower Mainland.

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.
If you are a First Nations person with status and live in BC you may be eligible for help with medical costs. Go to First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) or call 1-855-550-5454.

Individuals who receive health benefits by way of a First Nations organization pursuant to self government agreements, land claim agreements or contribution arrangements are not eligible for coverage under the FNHA.

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.

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 the Canada Revenue Agency.

If you are receiving government income assistance or disability benefits your healthcare benefits will be covered. To find out what additional benefits you may qualify for, contact the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction at toll-free 1-866-866-0800.


Programs to help with medical costs

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 your prosthesis as they are considered to be prescription items. Some of the cost of prostheses may be covered by Health Insurance BC and/or private insurance plans. For more information on resources for after a mastectomy or lumpectomy, click here.


Patients seeking financial assistance for supportive care medications can contact their closest regional BC Cancer Patient and Family Counselling department


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


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 the Canada Revenue Agency.


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


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 the WorkSafe BC website

Non-medical costs
A variety of programs are available, for those who require financial assistance, to help with cancer-related work stoppages and non-medical costs. Click the "+" sign(s) below for more information.

Income programs when you need to stop working

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. To contact Service Canada, call toll-free 1-800-206-7218.


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. Contact Service Canada for further information.


The Family Caregiver Benefit for Adults allows eligible caregivers to receive up to 15 weeks of financial assistance to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured adult. Caregivers must be family members or someone who is considered to be like family by the person needing care or support.

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 

You may feel that retirement is the best option for you. Please refer to Service Canada for the 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.

Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) 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. The Terminal Illness Application streamlines and speeds up the application process if you have a terminal illness.

Canada Pension Plan Disability
Service Canada
1260 Government Street
Victoria, BC V8W 3M4
Toll free: 1-800-277-9914

Programs to help with non-medical costs

As a recipient or member of various groups, organizations, clubs or associations (for example: First Nations Bands or extended benefits) you may qualify for financial support for disability or illness.

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. 

#400 - 88 Sixth Street
New Westminster, BC V3L 5B3
Toll-Free: 1-888-527-8999 ext. #1292 
Fax: 604-527-8008

Talk to your insurance broker or lending institution about their policies. It may be possible to have your premiums waived without affecting the policy or deferring payments. Some life insurance policies may allow terminally ill persons to withdraw monies while living. If you have insurance concerns or problems, please contact OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance.


Non-profit societies may have funding programs that can help with the added costs associated with having cancer. Read the criteria for each program carefully to see if you qualify. Download the Financial Support Programs handout for more information.

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

Supplements, wigs & head covering costs

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


The Canadian Cancer Society has a free wig service for people in Canada that cannot afford to buy a wig. 

Fill out their online form. If you need help with the form, call toll-free 1-888-939-3333. 


Find a handout

Handouts are created by the Provincial Psychosocial Oncology Program to address the practical and financial concerns of cancer patients and their families. Find handouts for:
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