Healthcare & Healthcare Insurance

Canada’s Universal Health-Care System

Canada’s health insurance system is designed to ensure that all residents of Canada have access to health care. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance. When you have public health insurance, you do not pay directly for most health-care services. Instead, all Canadians share in paying for them through taxes. When you use public health-care services, you must show your health insurance card to the hospital or medical clinic.

Instead of having a single national plan, Canada’s health-care program is made up of provincial and territorial health insurance plans. All of these plans share certain common features and standards. However, there are differences, so it is important to know what medical services and procedures yourprovince or territory covers because it may not be the same in other areas.

All provinces and territories, no matter where you live or where you might be travelling in Canada, will provide emergency medical services free of cost, even if you have not yet obtained a government health card. Restrictions may apply to some newcomers depending on your immigration status which you can verify this here. In an emergency situation, go to the nearest hospital. If you go to a walk-in clinic in a province or territory where you are not a resident, you might be charged a fee.


Private Health Insurance

Government health insurance plans provide access to medically necessary services. However, you may need private insurance – often called supplementary health insurance or extended benefits – to pay for health needs that government plans do not fully cover. The most common types of supplementary health insurance plans are extended health plans. These cover expenses such as prescription medications, dental care, physiotherapy, ambulance services and prescription eyeglasses. Most provinces and territories do not cover the costs of these items, but some may cover a portion of the expenses. If you work, you may receive supplementary coverage for these health needs from the company or organization you work for.

You will also need private health insurance if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. You may need to provide proof of this upon arrival in Canada, so if you are on a temporary work visa, Working Holiday visa etc. it’s often best to have health insurance in place before you come to Canada.


Getting a Health Card

To access health care in Canada, you will need a health insurance card provided by your province or territory of residence. You must present this card each time you access medical services. For information on how to obtain a health insurance card, visit our Important Documents section.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.

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