Unlike some other countries, where ostomy supplies are provided for free or at a very low-cost, Canadians usually have to pay out-of-pocket. This can lead to financial stress and anxiety, but there are several strategies that I’ve found to help keep costs to a minimum.
Disclaimer: While I have done my best to make sure that the information provided is accurate and up-to-date, things change, so always check with specific programs to be certain of the eligibility criteria and coverage amounts.
Each province and territory have their own program to help ostomates recuperate some of their expenses (some don’t offer any assistance!).
Unfortunately, not all programs are straight forward, but it will benefit you to contact your provincial health office for details.
The following list has been compiled from various sources, and while I’ve done my best to ensure they are up-to-date, these things have a tendency to change over time.LAST UPDATED April 3, 2016
There are special benefits for First Nations people and Inuit, which can be obtained through the Non-Insured Health Benefits program (NIHB). Information about that program can be found HERE.
Additionally, Veterans can receive up to 100% reimbursement after completing the appropriate forms. You can contact Veterans Affairs Canada for more information about medical supplies reimbursement HERE.
If you’ve paid out-of-pocket for any supplies, you could include them as a medical expense when filing for taxes. Please note that this doesn’t include products that have already been reimbursed by private insurance.
If you have private insurance, you can also claim the premiums when doing taxes.
Here’s information from the Canada Revenue Agency on how to submit medical expenses on your income tax forms:
If you are caring for someone with an ostomy appliance, you may be able to receive a caregivers tax credit too:
Disability Tax Credit
This one is tricky, but some ostomates may qualify for disability tax credit, and it’s worth getting your doctor to sign the necessary forms to submit to Revenue Canada. If you have IBD that been difficult to manage, despite having an ostomy, the chances of being approved are even better.
Information about the Disability Tax Credit can be found here:
If you are lucky enough to have medical insurance through an employer, then you can take advantage of their services to help cover the cost of supplies. If you don’t already have coverage, private insurance is something that I’d highly recommend looking into.
Unfortunately, not all private insurance companies will accept you after you’ve had your surgery since it falls under a “pre-existing condition”, but there are still companies which who can offer coverage.
I’m with Green Shield Canada and for under $70, they currently cover $1500, $2500 and $5000 (1st, 2nd and 3rd+ year) worth of ostomy supplies and signed me up after my surgery.
Patient Assistance Programs
Some charities offer temporary financial assistance to patients who are unable to afford supplies.
Colon Cancer Canada offers up to $1500 in assistance (up to $500 for ostomy supplies) to qualified patients who have a colon cancer diagnosis through their Wendy Bear Patient Assistance Program.
Request Product Samples
One thing that I always recommend to ostomates, especially new ones, is to ask for product samples from various suppliers. In your first year as an ostomate, you’ll likely be trying new supplies until you find one that you love. These freebies can help delay out-of-pocket expenses for a few months!
Consider this a great time to use supplies before your grants or insurance kicks in, and be sure not to settle for something unless it works best for you!
In my product reviews, I often mention whether you can get samples for a particular product and where. My stoma nurse gave me a list of manufacturers to contact after leaving the hospital post-surgery. All the major brands like Coloplast, Hollister and ConvaTec will send you samples upon request, but there are many other companies who offer free samples.
You’d be surprised at the gems you can find through these websites. I’ve been able to get free/low-cost supplies through Kijiji, but there are a few things to remember if you go this route:
- Your insurance will likely not reimburse you for products purchased through these sites, so these will be out-of-pocket.
- Sometimes the stuff you find are passed their expiry date; be sure to ask about the “freshness” of these products before you commit to anything.
- Some of the stuff might be used. Liquids, powders, pastes, and sprays are often sold after being used a few times and are no longer needed; avoid these products unless it’s guaranteed that they haven’t been used.
- Use caution when going to visit a stranger to pick up these supplies. If you can meet in a public place, that would be your safest bet.
Find Discount Suppliers
Your local medical supply store may not be the cheapest place to buy products from. I get most of my supplies online because of the low prices and quick delivery. You’d be surprised at how quickly $10-20 off a box of wafers or pouches can really add up!
Here are a few discount suppliers you can find online:
Some medical supply stores offer discounts to the members of local Ostomy Canada chapter members. You can usually find out which ones do through your local chapter’s newsletter. It’s always a good idea to find or ask about discounts before you place an order.
If you are part of a local ostomy group, you might be able to connect with other members who have unused supplies they can give you for free or at a low price. This might not guarantee a steady flow of supplies, but it could help in situations where you might be in a pinch.
Practical Advice When Using Supplies.
While government assistance, being a savvy shopper and tax credits can help, there’s a lot of practical things you can do to help minimize your expenses.
- Only use supplies that you need to. Are barrier rings really necessary for your situation? Do you really need to use barrier wipes? Are you able to get an extra day out of your wafer without compromising your skin’s health?
- Consider using a one-piece appliance instead of two-piece systems, which tend to be more expensive. There are differences between the two systems, so THIS guide will come in handy.
- If you don’t need a convex wafer, don’t use one! They are far more expensive than flat wafers!
- Use certain products, like pouch deodorant, only during certain circumstances, like when going out in public.
- Consider using pouch liners if you have a colostomy.
- Reuse your two-piece pouch. I’ve heard of many ostomates who rotate between two pouches and they clean their soiled one, and let it dry before using it again on the next appliance change. I’ve tried doing this a few times, but because I use filters on my pouches, this makes the filters useless, and I’ve had more leaks through the wafer coupling compared to when I use fresh pouches with each change.