The Canadian health care system: What you need to know
Are you thinking of moving to Canada or are you about to? Here's what a newcomer should know about the Canadian health care system.
Are you thinking of moving to Canada or are you about to? Here’s what a newcomer should know about the Canadian health care system.
Canada has a universal health care system, available to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, since the health insurance plans of each province and territory apply the principles of Canada’s universal system differently, services vary considerably from one place to another.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
How to enrol in public health insurance?
To receive healthcare in Canada, you must first apply for a health card in your province or territory of residence (conditions of eligibility may apply). You will need your card for all medical consultations.
In some provinces, depending on the rules in place, it could take up to three months after applying before you are covered under the public health insurance plan. This is called the waiting period. It may therefore be wise to purchase a temporary private insurance plan while you and your dependents are not being covered.
How to find a family doctor?
Many Canadians have a family doctor whom they consult when they require care. A family doctor, also known as a general practitioner (GP), monitors your health, provides a wide range of minor treatments and advises you on how to stay healthy. Your doctor will also refer you to a specialist when necessary.
While not all Canadians have a family doctor, many prefer to, since this allows them to consistently consult the same person.
This page from the Government of Canada can help you find a family doctor.
What coverage does public health care include and exclude?
Public health care includes:
- Most health care services; that is to say, those that are considered essential, such as medical consultations and surgery
- Emergency medical treatment, which is provided even if one does not have a health card (some restrictions may apply, depending on your immigration status)
Public health care excludes:
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter medication
- Vision care
- Ambulance transport
- Long-term care
- Emergency care abroad
- Services provided by specialists such as message therapists, physiotherapists, psychotherapists and chiropractors
It is necessary to be well-informed. Here are the details of health care services covered in each province:
What about medication?
Medication is one of the most frequent healthcare expenses. While medication is not covered under Canada’s universal health care system, each provincial and territorial government offers a prescription drug insurance plan for eligible groups.
In fact, most provinces offer specific programs to population groups that may require enhanced coverage because of elevated medication costs. These groups include seniors, social assistance recipients and people who are ill or whose health condition is associated with high medication costs. In some provinces, prescription drug insurance is mandatory. Here are the prescription drug insurance plans in effect in each province:
What about private insurance?
Health care needs are diverse. To have peace of mind, many opt for a private insurance plan as a supplement to their public plan. Private plans can be individual or group, such as those offered by your employer.
Since the costs and terms of insurance covering your health care and medication vary significantly from one insurer to another, it is important to thoroughly review your options.
As a newcomer, referring to an advisor to help go over your options often proves to be an excellent decision. Like a family doctor, an advisor will take the time to provide you with personalized and dedicated service, offering you the choices best suited to your situation.