Are You Covered? How Does Healthcare in Canada Work?

Canada is world renowned for its universal healthcare system, not only because of its exceptional quality but because it’s free. But is healthcare in Canada really completely free or just how much does it cover?

What most people who are planning to move to Canada don’t realise is that Canada’s healthcare system is free but only covers certain aspects of your healthcare needs. Canada’s universal healthcare system is available to all it’s citizens and permanent residents, however the type of cover that you receive differs slightly as an foreign expat.

The truth is that the type of health cover that you will receive when you immigrate to Canada depends on your residency status and the medical condition or procedure.

If you are not a resident, you will have to pay for certain medication and medical services and will therefore have to have some money saved up just in case.

Let’s take a closer look at just how much Canada covers and how to ensure that both you and your family will be covered in the event of a medical emergency when you immigrate to Canada.

What Kind of Healthcare Does Canada Have?

pills and medication Canada healthcare

One of the most important questions that expats who plan to move to Canada ask is whether or not they will be eligible to receive free public healthcare when they arrive.

Medicare, Canada’s taxpayer funded public healthcare system, will cover most of your basic or essential health and medical needs but only if you have a government health card. In order to get a health card you have to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

You will need to show this card when you go to hospital or medical clinics to receive public health services. For example, this would cover services such as doctor and hospital visits. The medical plans vary from province to province and territory but most hospitals will cover you in the event of an emergency even without a health card. Clinics however may charge if you are not living there. It is therefore important to check what medical expenses will be covered by province or territory you will be living in

It is also important to note that you may not be covered immediately when you arrive in Canada. There is generally a waiting period of up to 3 months which mean that you may need to take out private health care until your government healthcare kicks in. Most Canadians also take out private medical health plans to cover what the government healthcare plan doesn’t. You’ll find that there are many private healthcare plans that are quite affordable, especially if you are living and working in Canada. These plans will cover will generally cover cost of:

  • prescription medications;
  • dental care;
  • physiotherapy;
  • ambulance services; and
  • prescription eyeglasses.

Most companies will also offer their employees extra coverage as part of their work benefits.

blue and silver stetoscope Canada healthcare

Types of Healthcare in Canada

Canada has 7 main types of healthcare insurance.

1. Personal Health Insurance

This covers everything that Canadian universal health care doesn’t, including specialized doctor’s visits, prescriptions medication, dental work and physiotherapy.

2. Group Health Insurance

This is the coverage that your employer provides. This will allow you to get the same personal health insurance coverage at a discounted rate and sometimes also covers life insurance.

3. Disability Insurance

This will cover you if you cannot work due to disability, whether it’s temporary or permanent. You will receive a percentage of your salary every month for a specified period of time. This is also available as an add on benefit for personal or group health care insurance.

4. Critical Illness Insurance

If you have been diagnosed with and survived a critical illness, you could receive a lump sum payout from your insurance company.

5. Long term Care Insurance

This covers cost for long term care in nursing homes or home support for those over 60 years old.

6. Travel Medical Insurance

This will cover any medical costs incurred outside of Canada, allowing you to travel with freedom and not have to worry about getting medical help should you have an accident while abroad.

7. Pet Health Insurance

That’s right! Canadians simply adore their furry friends and consider their pets as family members. That is why there are so many fantastic health insurance options available to help put your mind at ease that you furbaby will be in good hands.

Now that you know what types of medical coverage Canada has to offer, let’s take a look at what you’ll be covered for once you move to Canada, by each Canadian province or territory.

How Much Does the Average Canadian Pay For Healthcare?

white piggy bank and doctor in lab coat Canada healthcare

As mentioned previously, most general healthcare and emergency services are covered by the Canadian government healthcare system. As the Medi Health is funded by taxpayers the average Canadian pays around $6,000 CAD per for public healthcare.

As far as private healthcare schemes go, according to National Health reports, at least 30% of medical costs are covered by medical insurance or paid out of pocket. About 65% of Canadian have some form of extended healthcare insuranceYou can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to about $920 per year per person for private health care depending on your plan and will increase with the number of members added.

As mentioned before, each province has its own health care coverage. Have a look at a general breakdown of the healthcare that each province provides:

Medical Coverage by Province and Territory
Province/TerritoryHealth Coverage
  • medically necessary doctor's services

  • some dental and oral health services

  • psychiatric visits

  • medically necessary diagnostic services including laboratory and radiological procedures

  • oral and maxillofacial surgery services

  • bariatric surgery

  • nursing services

  • hospital stays and meals

  • medications administered during hospital stays

  • use of the operating and care room, radiotherapy, physiotherapy, and anesthetic facilities

  • inter-facility transfer by ambulance

  • routine surgical equipment and supplies.
British Columbia
  • midwives’ and doctors’ services

  • dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital

  • medically necessary eye examinations

  • some orthodontic services

  • diagnostic services including X-rays.
  • medically necessary doctors’ services; surgery and anesthesia

  • X-ray and laboratory services ordered by a doctor and performed in an approved facility

  • routine eye exams every two years for residents under 19 or over 64

  • eye exams considered medically necessary

  • seven chiropractor visits per year

  • specific dental procedures

  • eyeglasses for seniors

  • standard hospital stays and meals

  • nursing services

  • medication administered in hospital

  • operating room, anesthetics, and surgical supplies

  • occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech therapy

  • dietetic counseling; and personal home care.
New Brunswick
  • doctors’ and hospital services; specific surgical dental procedures if it is medically necessary

  • standard hospital stays and meals

  • nursing service

  • drugs administered during hospital stay

  • operating, delivery room, and anesthetic facilities

  • necessary laboratory and X-ray services; therapies including physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy, audiology, and radiotherapy

  • routine surgical supplies.
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • visits to the doctor’s office or hospital

  • surgical, diagnostic, and therapeutic procedures, including anesthesia

  • pre- and post-operative care

  • maternity care

  • radiology interpretive services

  • specific surgical-dental procedures which are medically necessary
Northwest Territories
  • medically necessary surgery

  • obstetrical care

  • eye exams, treatment, and procedures

  • dental services if related to jaw injuries or disease

  • standard hospital stays and meals

  • nursing services

  • diagnostic services including X-rays and laboratory work, medication administered in a hospital

  • radiotherapy treatment, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy; detoxification services

  • use of operating room

  • anesthetics

  • medical equipment
Nova Scotia
  • doctors’ services

  • some dental and optometric services

  • doctor referred specialist visits

  • certain hospital in-patient and out-patient services
  • doctors’ services

  • surgery when necessary

  • obstetrical care

  • eye exams, treatments, and procedures

  • standard Intensive Care Unit

  • nursing services

  • laboratory, X-ray, and diagnostic procedure

  • medicine administered in a hospital

  • use of operating room, case room, anesthetic facilities, and necessary equipment and supplies

  • radiotherapy treatment, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy
  • appointments with family doctors

  • visits to walk-in clinics and other healthcare providers

  • medical tests

  • surgeries.
Prince Edward Island
  • doctor and in-hospital services

  • home care

  • palliative care

  • long-term care

  • addiction services

  • mental health services

  • drug programs through PEI Pharmacare

  • primary care services (dental public health services, chronic disease prevention and management, public health nursing, diabetes program, community nutrition, cancer screening programs, speech-language pathology services, etc.)
  • surgeries

  • anesthetic agents

  • cortisone

  • medical exams

  • ophthalmic drops

  • diagnostic mammography

  • urine and blood glucose tests

  • vasectomies
  • doctors’ services

  • physiotherapy and occupational therapy

  • immunization services

  • sexually transmitted infections (STI) treatment

  • HIV testing

  • treatment for drug and alcohol abuse

  • mental health services

  • problem gambling services

  • certain dental, optical, podiatry services

  • prescription drugs, and medical supplies and appliances

  • screening mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 69
  • doctors’ services

  • care during pregnancy

  • specific dental-surgical procedures performed in an approved hospital

  • standard hospital stay and meals

  • nursing services

  • laboratory, radiological, and diagnostic procedures

  • medicine administered in a hospital

  • use of operating room, care room, and anesthetic facilities including supplies and equipment

  • radiotherapy and physiotherapy services

How Can I Immigrate to Canada?

Canadian flag blowing over city immigrate to Canada

Canada has various ways for you and your family to move to Canada. Two of the most popular ways includes:

The Express Entry System

The Express Entry System which manages 3 of the federal economic immigration programs for highly skilled workers looking to move to Canada in as little as 6 months. You will need to create an Express Entry profile which will include information about your age, education, work experience, language proficiency and ability to adapt to life in Canada. Your Profile will then be entered into Express Entry draws where you will be ranked according to the points-based system known as the CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System). If successful you will receive an ITA (Invitation to Apply) for permanent residence in canada.

The Provincial Nominee Program

The Provincial Nominee Program which is aimed at helping highly or semi-skilled people immigrate to Canada if the don’t qualify to apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system. To apply through this program you will need a valid job offer and at least 1 year of continuous work experience relating to the job you have applied for. The best part about this program is that many of the provinces have express entry linked streams which allows them to select your profile and offer you the chance to apply for a provincial nomination which is worth 600 CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) points.

How We Can Help You Immigrate to Canada

immigrant family shaking hands with RCIC immigrate to Canada

To ensure that you give yourself and your loved ones the best chances of success, you may want to consider getting the help of an experienced and government trusted immigration consultant.

Navigating the Canadian immigration system can be a bit tedious, with a copious amount of forms and documents to complete and strict submission dates, we wouldn’t blame you if you felt apathetic about getting started on your application. But that's what we’re here for. At Canadian Visa, we take the stress and hassle out of planning to relocate abroad. Our accredited RCICs (Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants) are ready to evaluate your eligibility, review all documentation and submit all documentation on your behalf. Using an RCIC not only gives you the best possible chance of receiving an ITA but will make the entire process simple and stress-free.

We handle the paperwork while you find your new home in Canada. Experience the best that life has to offer by simply completing our online form and we’ll take care of the rest. It's just that simple.