Health: $4,8 Billion Saved by Private Insurers in Canada During Pandemic

$4,782,021,440 the estimated amount of savings on payouts realized by the Canada health private insurance companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Canadian citizens mostly postponed their medical appointments to avoid exposure to the virus.

Saving on healthcare payouts realized by private insurers during the 3-months pandemic period studied

With the fight against Covid-19 and restriction measures put in place, Canadian citizens mostly postponed their medical appointments and health expenses to a later date between mid-March and mid-June 2020. Their purpose : avoid exposure to the virus and release the pressure on hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. Private health medical insurers were therefore much less solicited during that period. Yet, premiums were not reduced.

71% decline in private health insurance payouts

From mid-March and the Covid pandemic growing strong in Canada, the Canadians healthcare habits were completely changed - until the situation got better in most Provinces around mid-June. While medical appointments felt 32% for general practitioners and 73% for specialists, optical and dental cares plummeted more than 90% during the whole studied period.

Fewer consultations meant fewer health care reimbursements to be made by private insurers, which decreased by 71% over the studied period. As a result, the reduction in private health insurers payouts between the 15th of March and the 15th of June 2020 compared to a "normal" year are estimated a $4,8 billion sum over those 3 particular months when the pandemic was at its highest level.

drop in health specialist appointments

...compared with the same period in 2018

decrease in optical care

...during the studied period compared with the same 2018 period

overall reduction in medical appointments

...observed compared to the 2018 same period

Spectacular drop in dental and vision refunds

When analyzing the healthcare categories which have dropped the most during the pandemic, it appears that dental care and paramedical & vision are the ones for which private health insurers have registered the most spectacular falls, 93 and 95% in payouts respectively - during the 3 months period we studied compared to the same period in 2018.

In terms of money, dental care is where savings on payouts are the greatest (almost $2 billion). It is followed by drugs ($1,4 billion). It has been also notice a huge fall in hospital-related payouts (- 75%), and in a smaller measure health travel payouts (53%).

CategoryDropSavings on payouts
93%1 976,250 000$
Paramedical & vision
Savings made by private health insurers in Canada between mid-March and mid-June 2020 per category

Health insurance payouts in 2018 vs. 2020 per province

Here below is a chart comparing the private health insurance payouts made in 2018 in the most-populated provinces during a 3-months versus the actual estimated payouts that have been made during the 3-months pandemic period that we studied. It shows that Ontario is the Canadian province where health insurance payouts savings have been the highest, reaching more than $1,8 billion. Then follow Quebec (1,1 billion), British Columbia (632 million) and Alberta (553 million).

It appears in this chart that health insurance payouts to be made to the Canadian customers dramatically dropped during the period we decided to focus on, due to the fact that much citizens did postpone their appointments during the pandemic.

Which response to expect from the private health insurance industry?

Insurance companies are now under pressure regarding their premiums from March to June, since only a minority of customers was able to access private healthcare services during that period. Indeed, given the context, the Canadian Life & Health Insurers Association released a statement on March 13th, at the very beginning of the pandemic, saying that the organization and its members are "committed to supporting employers and individual Canadians who are taking steps to protect themselves and contain and control the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus".

However, as of mid-September, no Canadian health insurance company has decided a refund for its policyholders. Instead, some providers - such as Sun Life or AXA - have accelerated the digitalization of their health services, to make them accessible in time of pandemic. That does not fully compensate the money that was spent by customers and enterprises in premiums on a moment where healthcare services were not fully accessible.


Antoine Fruchard, insurance expert and CEO at

The lockdown had many consequences on the Canadian citizens' healthcare routine. With the virus circulating outside, many preferred to postpone their pending medical needs in order to avoid being exposed to contagion. Besides, others felt the need not to overload the Canadian medical system in a moment when the private and public healthcare capacities were at a critical point. That has logically led to a major fall in payouts to be realized by private health insurers to their policyholders. However, no clear answer has been provided by the life & health insurance industry. I think it will be interesting to see in the coming months the strategies decided by the big companies, and how they will make a gesture towards their customers."

For a version in French / Pour une version en Français, click here /cliquez ici.

Our methodology and vision

This study has been built upon public statistics released by the CHLIA (Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association). Starting from those numbers, we have established statistical assumptions that we then validated with our insurance partners. That is how we manage to produce trustworthy data that is meant to be the most accurate possible. Through the studies we release, we aim at animating the actuality of insurance in Canada, bringing into the debate some objective and valuable information for the Canadian customers.

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