OTTAWA, Ont. March 23, 2016/ Troy Media/ – As Canadians we like to take pride in our publicly funded healthcare system, but the truth is many of us – especially those with or caring for someone with disabilities or chronic conditions – pay out of pocket for a wide range of essential health services.
Studies show that Canadians pay as much as 30 per cent of health needs privately, despite the publicly-funded nature of the system.
Health costs that most Canadians bear privately include prescription glasses, dental care and most medications. None of these are include in the Canada Health Act, which guarantees essential physician and hospital services only.
And those are just the obvious out-of-pocket health costs. There are many hidden costs, too, related to specific therapies, devices, or social and educational services and supports.
Thankfully, many of these are permitted expenses under the Canada Revenue Agency and can quality for the medical tax credit. A few eligible expenses might even surprise you:
- Travel: If you or your dependent travelled more than 40 km from home for medical services, and the equivalent services were not available near you, you may be able to deduct these costs – even for costs incurred outside of Canada. The expenses of a necessary travel companion (attendant) could also be eligible.
- Training and respite: If you need to learn how to care for a dependent with a physical or mental impairment, the costs of training for you or a relative are eligible. Those requiring respite or attendant care, full or part-time, can include expenses for food preparation, housekeeping, laundry services and transportation whether they are provided in a private facility or in your home.
- School and tutoring: All personnel, equipment and facility costs associated with a school for those with a physical or mental impairment are deductible. Similarly, the costs of a tutor for those with a learning disability or an impairment of mental functions is an eligible expense.
- Talking textbooks, reading services, symbol boards: A student with a perceptual disability in secondary school may be eligible to have talking textbooks included as medical expenses, as are reading services for those who are blind or have a severe learning disability. Also included are devices for those with a speech disorder or impairment.
- Service animals: The cost of a specially-trained animal to help someone who is blind, deaf, has severe and prolonged physical impairment, autism, epilepsy or diabetes may be eligible – but only from recognized providers. This includes the cost of the animal and their care and maintenance, such as food and veterinarian care, plus training.
- Therapy and therapy plan: The costs of creating a personal therapy plan and the therapy for someone with a mental or physical impairment are eligible.
- Diapers: Diapers or disposable briefs for someone who is incontinent can be included.
- Medical marijuana: It’s eligible if you are authorized to use it for medical purposes and purchase it from a designated producer.
- Gluten-free products: The difference in cost between non-gluten-free and gluten-free products is deductible –if you have celiac disease.
- Construction and renovation: Some costs to renovate your home are covered for those with severe and prolonged mobility impairment or other the health.
Unfortunately, one major cost is not covered: over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements, even if prescribed by a doctor (except vitamin B12 for pernicious anaemia).
The full list of eligible medical expenses is on the Canada Revenue website.
But beware: most of the eligible expenses listed above require a prescription and/or certification in writing from a medical practitioner, and some are only for specific conditions.
A few medical expenses also require eligibility under the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), which you have to apply for before you do your taxes.
The DTC is overdue for an overhaul – it’s complex, bureaucratic and fewer than half of Canadians who are eligible bother to claim it, which is a shame. But the tax relief can be substantial with possible other benefits, such as eligibility for the Registered Disability Savings Plan and other provincial credits kicking in. So it’s well worth looking into for those with, or caring for someone with a long-term disability or chronic condition.
Kathleen O’Grady is the Managing Editor of EvidenceNetwork.ca and a Research Associate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, Montreal. She has two young sons, one with autism. You can follow her on Twitter @kathleenogrady.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.
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