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Insights & advice

What is a health insurance waiting period?

January 2023 – 15 min read

Key takeaways

  • A waiting period is a period of time beginning when your policy first comes into force. Certain expenses you may incur during this time aren’t eligible to be claimed

  • Waiting periods can be waived in certain situations

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What is a health insurance waiting period?

When your health insurance coverage starts, there may be a period of time when you aren’t able to use some (or all) of its benefits. This can apply to treatment for certain conditions or certain services, like dental care.

For example, let’s say your plan has a 30-day waiting period for dental coverage. If you went to the dentist on day 5 of your policy being in effect and tried to claim an expense that would ordinarily be eligible – like a cavity filling, perhaps – that claim would be denied.

If you incurred that exact same expense – meaning you had the actual filling done after the 30 days were up, not that you just waited to claim it - your claim would be eligible to be accepted.

A waiting period can sometimes also be called a “qualifying period.”

How long is a waiting period, usually?

It can vary, but anywhere between 30 days and 3 months is fairly standard.

Can you reduce your waiting period?

In some circumstances, you may be able to get a waiver of the waiting period. Canada Life’s personal insurance plans, for example, waive the 30-day waiting period for routine dental if you’ve had other dental coverage within the last 60 days. (Major dental coverage, however, usually can’t have the waiting period waived.)

What’s next?

  • If you’ve recently obtained health insurance coverage, make sure you’re aware of any waiting periods that apply

  • If you’re looking for personal health insurance, consider a plan that has no or minimal waiting periods, to let you take advantage of your coverage sooner.

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The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors. You should carefully review the details of your own coverage that are set out in your policy or certificate of insurance.