Because Canadians can access provincial government health programs for medical care, they may believe that they are fully covered in the case of a critical medical condition. However, while it’s true that Canadians receive some of the best medical care in the world, a serious medical diagnosis has a life-altering impact, and alongside the healthcare, concerns come a series of significant lifestyle concerns: what happens to my income if my condition prevents me from working; and what do I do about all the non-healthcare costs that come with a medical diagnosis?
Fortunately, the first lifestyle concern – replacement income – is often addressed by disability coverage through an employer or private plans (read about GroupHEALTH’s short-term and long-term disability offerings here).
It’s the second concern – handling the financial impact of a critical medical diagnosis – that makes Critical Illness coverage is so important. Because primary healthcare is available, many Canadians wonder if they really need to purchase Critical Illness insurance. To understand the answer to that question, it’s important to understand the nature of a critical illness.

What is a Critical Illness?

Critical illnesses are those illnesses that have a profound effect on our day to day lives. Critical illnesses, although unfortunate, are generally treatable and their survival rates are increasing thanks to advances in modern medicine. However, critical illness treatments can come with long recovery times and substantial costs that can drastically affect financial security and lifestyle choices.

For insurance purposes what constitutes a critical illness is defined in the policy, but some common examples include cancers, heart attacks and strokes, Multiple Sclerosis, and major organ failure.

The Risk is Real – and Profound

These conditions occur enough in Canada that Canadians should be aware of the risks. For example, the Canadian Cancer Society data indicates that cancer is diagnosed every three minutes in Canada. The Heart and Stroke Foundation reminds us that in Canada strokes occur every 10 minutes, and heart attacks occur every 8 minutes.

When you add up just these three serious conditions, Canadians experience up to 312,000 instances of critical illness diagnoses annually.

And, because they occur so frequently it’s fair to say that most Canadians know someone who has experienced these conditions. They’ve seen the huge impact these diagnoses can have on day to day life: the way loved ones are cared for; the travel, secondary care and accommodations necessary for treatment; the effect on even routine household activities, and the often overlooked stresses of paying the bills.

That’s Where Critical Illness Insurance Helps

Critical illness coverage offers a lump-sum, tax-free payment when the covered illness is diagnosed. These funds help Canadians in two ways: first, they provide funds necessary to preserve the quality of life.

Second, they provide plan members with the funds necessary to consider treatment options. Because the funds come with very few conditions, recipients can allocate the funds to where they need it most.

If a critical illness was to affect you or a member of your family, Critical Illness coverage helps your family cope with what can often by significant and unexpected financial repercussions. For example, the lump-sum payment can help you renovate your home to make it more accessible or cover the costs of childcare that arise because of your condition.

Additionally, Critical Illness insurance gives you the flexibility to consider other medical treatments and medications, even those that may not be covered by government plans. It lets you choose the kind of healthcare you want.

How is Critical Illness Insurance Different from Disability or Life Insurance?

Critical illness insurance pays a lump-sum tax-free benefit when you or your dependents are diagnosed with a life-changing critical illness, under a variety of conditions. In contrast, disability insurance generally covers only lost employment income due to an accident or illness until you are ready to return to work. Life Insurance is paid to beneficiaries when a covered individual loses their life. In effect, Critical Illness insurance bridges the gap between Disability and Life Insurance.

Choosing Critical Illness Coverage

Types and limits of Critical Illness insurance coverage can vary. Employers can choose the amounts and limits of coverage. Of course, one of the most important factors is the list of conditions or illnesses covered.

For GroupHEALTH’s client’s critical illness coverage is often built into our popular “Accident and Serious Illness (sometimes called “ASI”) coverage. This packages what is commonly known as “Accidental Death and Dismemberment” coverage with Critical Illness coverage, to ensure that plan members have comprehensive coverage in the case of a serious medical incident. Read more here.

Plus, GroupHEALTH plan members can often “top up” the critical illness coverage offered through their employer’s plans to ensure that their family has even deeper protection. Known as “optional CI” (because employees can choose to take it or not), this coverage is usually low-cost.

Find Out More

Life can be unpredictable, but with Critical Illness coverage, you can ensure that you and your family are prepared to handle a critical illness diagnosis for yourself or your family. To find out more, or to speak to an expert advisor, contact GroupHEALTH.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to describe actual coverage terms and conditions. Always consult your benefits booklet for information about your coverage.

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