You’ll also need a basic understanding of the Canadian healthcare system so that you and your family are properly covered when you arrive.
We have answers to many of the big questions newcomers often have about the Canadian healthcare system. Read on to find out how you can access healthcare as a newcomer, how much it costs, and what services the public system covers.
Universal healthcare is one of the many benefits people associate with moving to Canada. But you may be asking yourself, what is universal healthcare?
Basically, anyone who’s a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can apply for public health insurance. Taxpayer dollars fund the Canadian healthcare system, which covers approved medically necessary hospital and doctor services.
Each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories are in charge of defining what they consider to be a “medically necessary service,” and providing healthcare to their residents.
In other words, how you access healthcare and the specific services you’re entitled to will depend on where you live.
The federal government also plays a part. It helps fund provincial and territorial health care services and sets national health standards for the system through the Canada Health Act.
To access public health insurance in Canada, all you have to do is submit an application to your provincial or territorial government. Any Canadian citizen or permanent resident is able to apply.
Once you’re approved, you’ll receive your healthcare card in the mail. Any time you go to the doctor, visit the emergency room or have surgery, you’ll be asked to show your healthcare card.
Each province and territory decides its own minimum waiting period. This is the amount of time you have to wait before healthcare coverage is available to you.
In some provinces, you can get coverage as soon as you arrive in Canada. In others, you may have to wait up to three months. To be on the safe side, the Government of Canada recommends buying private health insurance so you’re properly covered during any waiting period.
|Province/ Territory||How to apply for health card||Waiting period for permanent residents' coverage||Ministry of health website|
|Alberta||Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)||Date residency is established||Alberta Health|
|British Columbia (BC)||BC Services Card||Up to three months||British Columbia|
|Manitoba||Manitoba Health Card||Up to three months||Manitoba Health|
|New Brunswick||New Brunswick Health||Once eligibility is established, a letter indicating the start date of coverage is issued||New Brunswick Health|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Care Plan (MCP)||Date of arrival||Newfoundland Labrador Health and Community Services|
|Northwest Territories (NWT)||NWT Health Care Plan||Up to three months||NWT Health and Social Services|
|Nova Scotia||Nova Scotia Health Card (MSI)||Typically received on date of arrival||Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness|
|Nunavut||Health Care Card||Up to three months||Nunavut Department of Health|
|Ontario||Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)||Up to three months||Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care|
|Prince Edward Island (PEI) ||PEI Health Card||May be eligible for first-day coverage||PEI Health and Wellness|
|Quebec||Quebec Health Insurance||Up to three months||Quebec Ministere de la Sante et des Services sociaux|
|Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan Health Cards||Applications usually processed within six to eight weeks after receiving application||Saskatchewan Health|
|Yukon||Yukon Health Care Card||After three months of residency||Yukon: Health and Social Services|
Many Canadians have a family doctor who treats them when they’re sick or when they need a blood or laboratory test. If you need to see a specialist, a family doctor can also give you a referral.
A benefit of having a family doctor is that they can get to know you, your family, and your medical history.
To find a family doctor, ask your friends or family if they can recommend someone who’s taking new patients. Each province and territory also has resources and tools to help you connect with a family doctor or other primary care providers:
Whether or not you can get free healthcare as a newcomer depends on your status and how long you’ve been in Canada. A basic requirement for health insurance coverage is that you have to live in a province or territory and be physically present at least 183 days out of the year.
Typically, Canada’s universal healthcare covers the following groups:
If you aren’t a citizen or a permanent resident, you need to work or study in Canada for at least six months before you can apply for healthcare.
In the meantime, if you get sick or hurt, the government won’t cover most medical treatments you get. To avoid costly medical bills, you should look into private health coverage before you come to Canada.
Note: If you’re in Canada under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET), you might be able to get public health care depending on the province or territory you’re living in. If your province or territory offers public healthcare under CUAET, you need to apply for a healthcare card.
With your healthcare card, most healthcare and emergency medical services are free of charge. For instance, in Ontario, if you have a medical reason to receive a service or treatment, OHIP covers the following services:
Public healthcare covers mental health treatments from a psychiatrist within a hospital. But if you want to go and speak with a private psychologist, this isn’t covered. You’ll need private health insurance or you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket with your own money.
Some employers, including Scotiabank, offer mental health coverage as part of their employee benefit package.
There are free mental health supports for people who are having a crisis, as well as for children, older adults, Indigenous peoples and other special groups.
Your province or territory may also offer “additional benefits” that target certain populations, including children, seniors and those on social assistance. These programs vary between provinces and territories.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, in Ontario, those 24 years and under who have OHIP coverage and aren’t covered by a private plan can get OHIP+. This program provides free access to more than 5,000 prescription drugs, including medicines like antibiotics and inhalers for asthma.
Many Canadians have private health insurance coverage through their employer or a private insurance company to help pay for services public healthcare doesn’t cover. Scotia Insurance® offers health and dental coverage to Scotia Group Customers or their spouse to help pay for things that aren’t covered by employers or provincial healthcare plans. Remember, without added insurance, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket.
Having access to a basic level of healthcare coverage is one of the amazing benefits of living in Canada. But this doesn’t mean the healthcare system is perfect. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to the Canadian healthcare system.
Public healthcare is a safety net for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Even though it isn’t perfect, you can find comfort as a newcomer in knowing that you and your family will be able to get the care you require, when you need it, without the burden of healthcare costs.
To help you prepare and save for an unexpected medical event or any type of emergency, book an appointment to speak to a Scotiabank advisor.
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