Why We Pay $6,000 for Private Clinic Memberships in Montreal

"There’s no wondering about our health—we can just call and ask.”

May 16, 2023

My family switched to private health care in 2019. My husband, Justin, has Type 1 diabetes and has to check his blood sugar multiple times a day. A new device had recently come out to make sugar monitoring easier. This was a life-changing advancement to treat diabetes, and we didn’t know how to get it. Our endocrinologist hadn’t even heard of it. We called a private clinic outside of Montreal, and my husband got the device within a couple of days. After that, we decided to continue with private health care. We each pay $1,800 per year for a membership to a private clinic, which includes one yearly physical and same-day doctors’ appointments on demand. There are fees for extra tests and services, too.

When our son, Hudson, was nine months old, he woke up in the night struggling to breathe with croup. We called 911 and an ambulance took him to the hospital. Staff were excellent, but they were clearly overworked, pulling long shifts and dealing with a packed ER. We were told an ENT specialist would follow up with us, but we never heard back. A couple of months later, Hudson was struggling to breathe again, and we were back in the ER. In the first year of his life, we were in the hospital three times. We were discharged without a treatment plan each time.

We found a private clinic that sees children. We now pay $600 a year for his membership, plus $100 for each same-day appointment. It’s worth every penny. I can call the office at the first sign of a flare-up and they write a prescription for a steroid that opens his airway and helps us avoid hospital stays. Last December, Hudson was sick again. I took him to the doctor and he ordered an X-ray right away, which showed that he had bacterial pneumonia. Within 12 hours he was on antibiotics and feeling better.

Altogether, we pay around $6,000 for private health care each year for our family. There’s no wondering about our health—we can just call and ask.

As told to Emily Latimer

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Maclean’s, alongside Christina Frangou’s investigation into the growing world of private health care in Canada.