How to Pay for Expensive Medical Treatments

person checking blood pressure
| 5 min read Financial Assistance

It’s become a sadly familiar tale. We pay private insurers outrageously high premiums for years, thinking we’ll have access to health care if the worst should happen. But when we actually need care, we’re shocked to find out how little our plans actually cover.

If you can’t access or afford expensive medical treatments, it doesn’t mean you have some personal failing—it’s a systemic problem. Medical expenses are one of the top causes of bankruptcy in Canada. Worse, many Canadians forego lifesaving treatments and procedures because they can’t afford them.

No matter how well you understand the source of the problem, it’s still up to you to figure out how to pay for the medical treatments you need. GoFundMe can help—people turn to our crowdfunding platform to raise funds for medical expenses every day. And unlike other crowdfunding sites, we have a 0% platform fee. GoFundMe is free—and changing the way the world gives.

The perils of for-profit medical care

You may have already made the unfortunate discovery that any given medical treatment varies greatly in price—not based on differences in quality of treatment, but on who’s paying (or not paying, as the case may be). Lab tests, medications, hospital stays—all of these are subject to dramatically different pricing from one patient, and one provider, to the next (see price negotiating tips below). Treatment costs can also vary widely depending on where you live.

One result of this lack of transparency is that you often can’t know the full cost of treatment until you reach the end of the process. While private insurance policies cap annual out-of-pocket spending, that cap is often shockingly high. Statistically speaking, very few—nearly half of all Canadians have no emergency funds. 

Medical costs can be burden enough; we haven’t discussed the cost of lost income, childcare, transportation, and all the other related expenses that go into making a full recovery from an acute injury, much less adjusting your life to a chronic medical condition.

Finding a way to handle expensive medical costs

Negotiating lower prices

As with any marketplace item, you can negotiate the price of treatments, hospital stays, and more. Ideally, you could turn to someone who was an expert in such pricing for help negotiating your bill.

Many hospitals and doctors offer a discount if you pay cash and/or up front. If nothing else, finding out the cash price for a visit or procedure might reveal truer pricing and lead to a negotiated reduction in your bill, even if you don’t pay cash.

Payment plans are another way to spread the cost out over time and improve your cash flow. Remember, you can deduct some medical expenses from your tax bill (depending on factors including percentage of income spent on medical care in a given year), and a payment plan can potentially give you a deduction in more than one year.

Crowdfunding for financial and emotional support

GoFundMe is a free crowdfunding platform used by millions of people facing some of life’s biggest challenges—including expensive medical treatments. Because GoFundMe is powered by donors™, we have a 0% platform fee so you get to keep more of the money you raise. People have raised over $5 billion on our site, and we’re the first and only crowdfunding platform with a donor protection guarantee.

Beyond financial support, our giving community can help you find the emotional and social support you need right now. Our fundraising pages are designed to help you easily share your story on Facebook and other social networks, and receive words of encouragement from friends and family. Ultimately, your supporters become part of your story—that’s the real beauty of crowdfunding.

Whether your medical fundraiser is for yourself or a loved one, start your free crowdfunding fundraiser here. Use our medical crowdfunding step-by-step guide for a successful fundraiser.

Nationwide Support

Beyond negotiating and crowdfunding, other resources may be available to you. Here’s a list of medical resources from Canadian Cancer Society:

  • Employment Insurance (EI) provides sickness benefits to people who cannot work because of sickness, injury or quarantine.
  • Caregiving benefits are EI benefits for people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to someone who is critically ill or injured or who requires end-of-life care.
  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers tax deductions for some medical expenses that are not covered by insurance policies or other programs. Deductions and credits are also available for people with disabilities and their caregivers. For more information, call 1-800-959-8281 or visit CRA.
  • The following seniors programs are continuing:
  • The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides temporary income support of $500 a week for 16 weeks for those who have stopped working due to COVID-19.
  • The Goods and Services Tax Credit has been doubled.
  • Canada Child Benefit payments have been increased by $300 per child for the 2019-20 benefit year.
  • Seniors are entitled to a one-time, tax-free payment of $300 if they receive Old Age Security pension and an additional $200 if they qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). If seniors qualify for both programs, they can get $500. Individuals do not need to apply – they will get the payment by direct deposit or cheque.

You can do this

We know the situation may seem insurmountable, but every day we see people use medical fundraising successfully—receiving both financial and emotional support from friends, family, strangers, and members of our worldwide community. GoFundMe can help you raise funds to cover expensive medical treatments and costs. Start your free medical fundraiser todaySometimes traveling to other countries for treatment will lower costs; for more information, read Medical Tourism and How to Fund It.

Start a medical fundraiser