Types of Debt

Medical Debt

While healthcare in Canada is predominantly covered by Canada’s universal health care system there are some medical costs people need to cover themselves. These healthcare costs include things such as dental care and prescription drugs.


How medical debt can affect your life

Health problems are hard to deal with in their own right, however, they can cause a chain reaction with other elements of your everyday life. This can impact your life in many ways.

Personal finances

If you are sick or injured, more often than not you may have to stay off work for a period of time. If this is a lengthy period, most employers will reduce your income. This can often cause issues trying to pay not only the medical bills you owe for the health services you needed but also the essential bills needed to run your home.

According to Bankruptcy Canada, medical problems are one of the common reasons for bankruptcy for this reason. This can often cause an almost domino effect and people max out their credit cards, take out loans and overdrafts just to get by. Illness can take a lot from a person, but the after-effects are often what consumes people.

Mental health

Dealing with health problems can have an impact on mental health. Physical health and mental health are often considered separately, but according to the Mental Health Organization charity, both are more often than not a direct result of each other.

Your health can sometimes feel like a punishment and adding in high bills for the help you need can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. If you fall into the vicious cycle of using other forms of credit to help you get by, this can often result in making conditions worse.


If you’re ill or caring for a loved one who is unwell, health care costs are often at the bottom of the priority list.

However, ignoring the cost of medical debts can not only lead to financial hardship but also impact your relationships.

Certain illnesses make it difficult to be personally responsible for yourself, and so the burden of your medical debts may fall on a family member or significant other. This can put an enormous amount of stress on them and result in relationships breaking down because it becomes too much for you both to handle.

Warning signs of medical financial hardship

Being sick or injured can often steal focus for most people, but if you have medical bills piling up then the signs below will probably sound familiar to those who are struggling:

  • Using further credit avenues such as credit cards, loans and overdrafts to get by
  • Sidestepping the topic and avoiding having a conversation about your struggles
  • Experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety over paying the bill
  • Missing payments on other priority bills to ensure you have enough for the bill payments
It’s very easy to emotionally support someone you know in a dire medical situation, but most will not think about the struggles of paying for it. Below are some signs you may recognize if someone you know is struggling to keep up with their health care costs:

  • A palpable shift in a relationship
  • Seeming stressed and/or anxious for no obvious reason
  • Avoiding the topic and showing signs of irritation if it is brought up
  • Frequently using their credit cards or overdraft
If you are uncertain what to do next, there are companies available to you who may be able to negotiate a solution on your behalf.

How to apply for public health insurance

In some provinces, it can take up to three months before you can get government health insurance. You should contact the ministry of health in our province or territory to find out how long you’ll need to wait. You will then be issued a health insurance card each time you require medical services.

You should have private health insurance In place to cover your healthcare needs during this waiting period to help you avoid high medical costs.

Dealing with medical bill problems

When you’re ill or are caring for a friend or family member undergoing treatment the last thing you’ll want to think about is medical expenses.

It can be easy to stick your head in the sand and ignore the bill but unfortunately, like all debt, it isn’t something that will go away.

While government health insurance plans give access to basic healthcare, you may also need private insurance to pay for certain services.

So it’s unsurprising that figures show the average Canadian household spends $2,000 on health care costs and $4,000 on private health insurance plans to cover the cost of medical care.

You should consider extended plans to help cover the cost of health-related expenses such as:

  • prescription medications
  • dental care
  • physiotherapy
  • ambulance services
  • prescription eyeglasses
Your employer may also provide extra coverage as part of employer-sponsored health insurance to help you avoid financial hardship.

Other types of debt

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