How to find the best health insurance for you
Feb. 2021 – 15 min read
There is no “1 size fits all” individual health insurance plan.
Consider your needs when you’re shopping for coverage, including age, health and dependants.
Get a quote before you buy to find out what different plans could cost you.
Figure out what coverage you already have
Before you buy extra coverage, make sure those health needs aren’t already covered by insurance you already have. This could include:
Provincial or territorial health insurance
If you’re eligible, government healthcare covers many common medical services and supplies. What’s covered can vary depending on your age, income, and where you live, so be sure to check out the specifics for your province or territory.
A workplace benefits plan
Take stock of your specific situation
Are you getting older, and anticipating future health needs as you age? Do you have kids that might need braces? Are you self-employed and do a physical job that means you may frequently need to see a chiropractor? The specifics of your current – and future – situation play a major part in selecting the right plan for you and your family.
If you’re retiring, consider:
- A plan that has higher coverage for prescription drugs
- A plan with coverage for medical supplies like hearing aids and mobility devices
- A plan with home care options like home health aides
- A plan that allows you to add emergency travel medical insurance
- A plan that covers pre-existing medical conditions
If you’ve got a family, consider:
- A plan that covers services not included in your kids’ government health care, like speech therapy or mental health services
- A plan that helps cover any glasses or contact lenses they might need, even if their eye doctor visits are covered by their government plan
- A plan with dental coverage
If you’re a freelancer or a contractor:
- A plan that includes paramedical services like massage therapy or chiropractor, especially if your job is physical or you’re hunched over a computer all day
- A plan with accidental death and dismemberment insurance, particularly if you have a partner or dependants who rely on your income
- A plan that could cover you if your health changes in the future, even if you’re young and healthy now
Decide which coverage you need
Individual health insurance plans can offer different levels of coverage and may allow you to exclude or include coverage for specific services or supplies and select between different coverage amounts within that decision.
When you’re choosing a plan, consider:
Do you need dental coverage?
Dental coverage can include routine dental check ups and cleaning, but can also help cover major dental expenses like crowns.
Do you need vision coverage?
This coverage can include eye exams for adults, but may also extend to the cost of frames and contacts or laser eye surgery.
Do you need prescription drug coverage?
While government healthcare covers medication you need when you’re in hospital, many Canadians have to pay-out-of-pocket for prescription drugs you may need to treat an illness or manage chronic conditions. FYI: Some plans will cover pre-existing conditions but others may not.
Do you need coverage for paramedical services?
Depending on the plan, this coverage could help cover the cost of mental health services like psychologists or social workers, massage therapy, physiotherapy and specialists like naturopaths or speech therapists.
Do you want to add any extras?
Many plans give you the option to add some optional coverage, at an additional cost, to your plan. This could include:
Emergency travel medical insurance
Hospital accommodation, which can upgrade you to a private or semi-private room
Hospital cash, which can cover expenses like parking or childcare while you’re admitted
Accidental death and dismemberment insurance
Major dental coverage, which can cover needs like crowns or dentures
Supplemental vs continuing coverage
There are 2 kinds of individual health insurance: Supplemental and continuing insurance.
Supplemental refers to plans for people who don’t currently have any non-government coverage at all, while continuing insurance is for people who are currently with (or have just left) another insurance plan, often workplace benefits.
These distinctions matter because continuing a workplace benefits plan may allow you to keep your coverage for pre-existing conditions, while supplemental insurance may exclude those conditions from coverage.
Underwriting is how an insurer determines your monthly premiums or if you’ll have any exclusions on your plan. Underwriting is a risk assessment exercise – basically, how likely is it that they will have to pay out for the coverage you’re purchasing – so things like pre-existing conditions and your age will be a factor in how much your individual health insurance costs.
Apply for coverage
In many cases, you will be able to buy your private health insurance online or by calling to speak with a company’s sales representatives. Most private health insurance plans require you to apply first, meaning someone from the company’s team will take a look at your application before approving you for coverage.
This could involve a medical exam, although some plans – including Canada Life’s Freedom to Choose health and dental insurance – do not require a medical exam for coverage. However, you may have to answer some medical questions for underwriting purposes. While you may not be denied coverage entirely, you may be offered a different plan (potential with a pre-existing condition excluded) or at a higher monthly premium than you may have been initially quoted.
While this sounds complicated, applying for health and dental insurance online is often quick and easy – answer some questions, fill out some personal information, choose your preferred billing method – and might just end up being way less of a hassle than you think.