How to get the most out of private health insurance in Canada

Published on September 15, 2023

Tips and best practices to help stretch your healthcare dollars

With the annual rate of inflation in Canada running hot , everything seems to be costing more these days. And when every dollar counts, you may be wondering whether private health and dental insurance is the best use for your money. Let’s take a look.

The value of private health insurance

In Canada, government health plans cover most major health expenses. But there’s a lot they may not cover, like certain prescriptions, eyeglasses or contacts, dental care, paramedical services such as massages, chiropractor and more.

That’s where private health and dental insurance comes in. And in many cases, it will more than pay for itself. Here’s an example that shows the cost of private health insurance in Ontario, based on one of our Manulife CoverMe® Health and Dental plans.

Manulife Flexcare® ComboPlusTM Starter Health and Dental Plan

Annual premium (what you pay): ($1,163)
Annual coverage
Reimbursed to you:
Prescription drugs Up to $5252
Basic dental Up to $400
Vision Up to $150 (every 2 yrs)
Mental health & counselling Up to $650
Chiropractor Up to $500
Massage therapist Up to $500
Physiotherapist Up to $250
Total: $2,9753

The numbers tell the story. If you use up all of your health insurance benefits, you could get back $2,975 in value for the select benefits listed here, which is more than what you pay in premiums per year.

This example shows only a glimpse of all the benefits that the Manulife Flexcare ComboPlus Starter plan offers.

Of course, private health insurers offer many kinds of plans with different benefits to help protect you in different ways. Here are some tips to help you find affordable private health insurance and maximize the value of its benefits.

Choose the plan that’s right for you

When you’re shopping for private health and dental insurance in Canada, look for coverage that fits your needs. Private health insurers are not all the same. If you’re an older individual, you may want a provider that focuses on private health insurance for seniors that includes more coverage amounts for benefits that tend to senior’s needs. If you are living with diabetes, heart disease or other medical conditions, you’ll want a provider that offers private health insurance for pre-existing conditions.

Manulife CoverMe health and dental insurance plans come in a wide range of options to meet the needs of diverse customers, including seniors and people with pre-existing conditions.

Get a quote to see how much it costs


Shop around for healthcare providers

To get the most from your coverage, shop around for lower-cost services. For example, if your plan includes $500 for massage therapy annually, you’ll get more treatments from a therapist who charges $100 a session than one who charges $130.

You can save at pharmacies, too, by comparing dispensing fees. In southern Ontario, for example, dispensing fees range from a low of $4.49 to a high of $12.99. To reduce medication costs even more, consider choosing generic over name-brand drugs and getting the maximum amount (usually a three-month supply) with each refill.

Be tax-savvy

Medical expenses, including the premiums to buy private health insurance in Canada, qualify for the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Other eligible expenses include hearing aids, walkers, eyeglasses, service animals and a whole lot more. For a complete list, visit the Canada Revenue Agency.

If you are self-employed, you may be able to deduct health insurance premiums from your business income.4 If you are offering health benefits to your employees, you can generally deduct the cost of providing the plan as a business expense for tax purposes as well. But keep in mind that employer contributions to the plan are not a taxable benefit to your employees except in the province of Quebec.

Practise preventive care

An ounce of prevention really can be worth a pound of cure. So take full advantage of the regular dental checkups and cleanings covered by your plan to help prevent cavities and avoid costly fillings.

Tip: When you purchase any Manulife CoverMe Flexcare or FollowMe health and dental plan, you can add Manulife Vitality for just $5 a month. Manulife Vitality is a health and wellness program that rewards you for making healthy choices, like having regular checkups. It’s another great way to get the most from private health insurance in Canada.

Continue health coverage if you leave your job

Leaving a job where you have a group benefits plan means leaving your health and dental insurance, too. If you’re retiring or ending your benefits through your employer’s group plan, you may be able to switch to individual coverage from select insurance providers without going through medical underwriting

Manulife FollowMe™ picks up when group benefits end. And when you apply within 90 days of the end of your group coverage, your acceptance is guaranteed meaning you’ll be covered even if you have pre-existing medical conditions.

 Get a quote to see how much it costs


Frequently asked questions about private health insurance

How much does private health insurance in Ontario cost?

The cost of private health insurance depends on a number of factors, including your age, sex, type and amount of coverage and where you live. It can be more affordable than you might think. For example, a 25-year-old female in Ontario could get coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision and travel for less than $100 a month with the Manulife CoverMe ComboPlus™ Starter Plan. Visit Manulife CoverMe to compare plans and get a personalized, no-obligation quote.

What does private health insurance cover?

Private health insurance plans provide coverage for products and services that aren’t covered by a government health plan. These typically include ambulance and EMT services, prescription drugs, dental care, vision care, paramedical services (massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, etc.), mental health and therapy, in-home nursing care, hospital accommodation and emergency medical travel care. Specific items covered and the amount of coverage will vary depending on the plan.


1 Based on Single coverage for ComboPlus™ Starter Plan for a 40-year-old female Ontario resident

2 Prescription drugs only include generic prescription drugs and the following are excluded: Smoking cessation drugs, Birth control drugs, Fertility drugs, Erectile dysfunction drugs, Over-the-counter drugs, Drugs that don't require a prescription.

3 The total benefits illustrated here is based on the assumption that the customer would use up all the benefits listed above.

4 As a self-employed individual, you may be able to deduct health insurance premiums from your business income instead of claiming it as personal medical expense for the purpose of the medical expense tax credit., Eligible Medical Expenses, 2021