By Joe Demelo
Canadians are generally proud of their healthcare system and their relationship with their primary physician. But you don’t have to dig too deep to find concerns over the public system in areas such as wait times, access to treatment, scarcity of specialists and even access to a primary care physician. Throw in media attention, debates of funding formulas and stories of errors within the system and some of the bloom comes off the rose as the saying goes. In this context, an insurance product that is getting more attention is Medical Second Opinion Services. Although some insurance companies have the service already built into the extended healthcare benefit, often it is a product sold as an add-on to the existing employer sponsored program. The more commonly known Second Opinion Services are Best Doctors, Healthcare Navigator, McGill Second Opinion and Medical Second Opinion.
The service offers an insured individual access to an independent review of their medical file by a specialist in the field of a particular medical condition. More than just a “second look”, the review can assist in the confirmation of a diagnosis, suggest or affirm treatment protocol, and provide recommendations for further treatment and testing. As well as assisting the navigation of the healthcare system, there is the opportunity for the insured to seek input about treatment, testing that has been done or any other aspect of their health care for that condition. The true value of the service lies in having access to opinions from world class specialists who are the foremost experts in their field, at a time of a critical condition that may be a life threatening event. The benefit of the integrated and coordinated efforts may provide some clarity and comfort when assistance is needed most.
However, there are some things to be mindful just as with many other insurance products. Pre-existing limitations may apply or the plan may only cover certain medical conditions as prescribed in the coverage. Researching the coverage limits and details is always recommended. Given the scarcity of medical resources and the limitations and delays in the access of specialists, it may make sense to take a closer look at Second Opinion Services.