Cancer can be expensive, and not all costs are covered by the healthcare system. Major out-of-pocket expenses can include drugs, medical equipment, transportation, hotels, meals, parking, vehicle repairs, fuel, home care, and child care. The financial burden can be compounded when a patient or a caregiver cannot work. Fortunately, help is available.
To find financial assistance, your first stop should be the oncology social worker at your cancer centre. He or she can put you in touch with local, provincial, and federal government resources.
If you are working, find out what benefits you can access through your employer, such as sick days, a leave of absence, and disability benefits. Also find out about your workplace or independent drug and health care insurance plans.
In Quebec, the Quebec Pensions Plan provides monthly benefits when a contributor becomes disabled or retires, or in the event of the contributor’s death, survivor benefits. For information, contact the Régime des rentes du Québec at 1-800-463-5185 or www.rrq.gouv.qc.ca.
The Employment Insurance sickness benefits program may provide temporary financial assistance during your treatment. You may be eligible for 15 weeks of coverage, and a caregiver may be eligible for 26 weeks of benefits. For more information and application forms, contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 or www.servicecanada.gc.ca.
Service Canada can also provide information about Canada Pension Plan disability benefits. Visit the website listed above or call 1-800-277-9914.
The federal government offers the following tax benefits: the Medical Expense Tax Credit, the Refundable Medical Expense Supplement, and the Disability Tax Credit. For information, contact the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-8281 or visit www.cra-arc.gc.ca.
Eligible First Nations and Inuit can get medical and dental coverage from Health Canada. For more information, contact Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch or by phone at 1-800-665-8507.
For those who qualify, provincial governments cover the cost of drugs listed on the provincial formulary, as well as home care and medical devices such as lymphedema garments. The provinces also offer income support programs for people in financial need.
The Kelly Shires Breast Cancer Foundation offers financial assistance to women facing a recent breast cancer diagnosis. You may be eligible to receive up to $1,000 per application and you can apply three times a year. There is a lifetime cap of $12,000 that cannot be given in a lump sum payment. For more information or to complete an application form, call 1-877-436-6467 or visit www.kellyshiresfoundation.org.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund also offers short-term financial assistance to breast cancer patients who are facing financial difficulties while they are undergoing treatment. For more information or to complete an application form visit www.breastcancersupportfund.ca
The Canadian Red Cross operates a Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP). This program provides medical equipment including wheelchairs and walkers, and operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon Territory. For information, visit www.redcross.ca.
Hope Air arranges free flights for Canadians who are in financial need and must travel to receive healthcare. They give access to air travel through three flight programs: The Commercial Airline Donation Program, the Flight Purchase Program and the Volunteer Pilot Program. Call 1-877-346-4673 or visit www.hopeair.ca for information.
Wellspring’s Money Matters program provides individual, professional case management on the financial impacts from cancer, and provides information on all available income replacement, and drug reimbursement programs. Wellspring has centres in Ontario and in Calgary, Alberta. For details, visit www.wellspring.ca.
Some cancer centres in Canada offer access to Patient Navigators who are able to assist you and guide you through the physical and emotional challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis. They also can help you find access to the treatments you need. Click here to download a list of Patient Navigation programs by province. Please note that some provinces and territories do not yet have cancer or breast cancer navigation programs in place. In lieu of a navigation program, we have provided you with information about oncology social workers at the cancer centres in your province.
Consult your cancer centre for additional support options in your community.
The Canadian Cancer Society has a database that can be used to find local support services in your area. You can access it below: