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Healthcare in Canada

Updated: January 11th, 2022

Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Thinking of immigrating to Ontario? Learn all about the Ontario Health Insurance Plan or OHIP. What it covers. How to qualify for the OHIP and even the steps on how to apply for the insurance plan and when it will cover you.


British Columbia Health Plan

Healthcare is important, which is why British Columbia has the Medical Service Plan or MSP. Discover how to qualify for public healthcare in BC with our easy step by step instructions. When to use your medical card and more!


Alberta Health Plan

When you live in Alberta, the Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan or AHCIP is a vital part of your wellbeing. Find out how to apply for AHCIP, what the insurance plan covers to what documents you need to apply with.


Extended Health Coverage Plans

Extended healthcare in Canada covers what public healthcare doesn't. Learn all the benefits of extended health care and what it covers and even how to apply for extra healthcare as an international student living in Canada. Some provinces do not cover international students.


The purpose of the excellent Canadian healthcare system is really to improve the overall health of all who calls Canada home. For this reason, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can access free public healthcare at all times. In fact, even some foreign workers with valid work permits and international students may apply for free public health insurance in Canada. 

Public healthcare coverage varies from province to province, however, most medical care deemed necessary by the Federal government of Canada is covered at no cost to its citizens. There are however some exclusions, such as prescription drugs, as well as dental, mental health, and optometry, unless deemed medically necessary.

Programs That Reduce Costs

There are programs that work towards preventing injuries and teaching citizens about health issues. The programs are funded by the government of Canada and are created to help reduce healthcare costs and to teach people how to take control of their health before they turn into more serious problems. There are programs for seniors, those with disabilities, awareness campaigns for back injuries, and many others. These programs are designed to help people in Canada stay healthier because they are educated about health-related issues.

Special Care For Retired Veterans

The healthcare of veterans is well looked after in Canada and they receive the care that they need in their later lives when they may retire to care homes or seniors centers.

The Canadian government not only treats injuries sustained in the service of their country but veterans get whatever care that they need. What's more, all veterans who are injured, disabled, and retired are admitted to lifelong financial support and care under the Canadian health care system. This long-term care includes medical care facilities and comfortable accommodations at nursing homes all over Canada. 

Do Non-Citizens or Permanent Residents Get Free Healthcare in Canada?

On the other hand, Canada’s “universal” healthcare system is a little less universal when it comes to non-citizens or non-permanent residents. However, temporary foreign workers and international students who hold valid permits may be eligible for healthcare coverage. Usually, workers must be employed full-time by an employer and students must be enrolled in full-time studies for a period of 12-month to qualify.

The Canada Health Act states that all insured persons are entitled to the insured benefits offered within that province. “Insured persons” are lawful residents who have lived in the province for three months and live there for at least 183 days a year. Tourists, visitors, and “transients” are excluded.

Those who obtain permanent residency in Canada may have a waiting period of 3-months before they can access free healthcare - it all depends on the provincial government in which they reside. 

Basics of the Canadian Health Care System

What is Covered Under the Canadian Health Care System?

Almost all essential basic care is covered, including primary care physicians, specialists, and hospital services.

What is Not Covered?

This varies depending on the province but usually does not cover dental or vision. Cosmetic surgery and some forms of elective surgery are not considered essential. Pharmaceutical benefits are only available to the elderly, disabled, or low-income earners.

How to Apply For Public Health Insurance in Canada

Apply for a health insurance card as soon as you arrive in Canada. Forms can be found at doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and immigrant organizations. Documents required are identification and confirmation of permanent resident status. Some provinces (Ontario, B.C., Quebec, and New Brunswick) have a three-month waiting period for coverage.

As mentioned earlier, Canadians do not pay directly for healthcare services but pay through government taxes (except in B.C., where you pay a monthly premium). When traveling outside of your territory or province, you may need to purchase private health insurance to have the same medical services covered. Newcomers also need to purchase private health insurance to cover themselves during the three-month waiting period.

In some provinces, private supplemental plans can be purchased to help pay for things like dental work, eye care, and other treatments not included under basic care. Some employers also subsidize extended healthcare plans as an employee benefit.

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