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Healthcare in Canada

Updated: May 17th, 2023

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.


Healthcare is a critical part of human survival. Therefore, access to comprehensive, quality healthcare services is essential for promoting and maintaining health and well-being, disease prevention and management, and preventing or reducing disability or premature death. So when planning a move to a new country, it is one of the top factors to look into. It is important to research whether the country has a proper healthcare system, the state of the healthcare system and whether you'll be able to access it as a newcomer. As far as healthcare in Canada goes, the country has a unique system in place. Let's take a look at the healthcare system in Canada.

The Healthcare System in Canada: Medicare

Canada has one of the top healthcare systems in the world. Funded by taxes collected, this universal healthcare system, referred to as Medicare, takes care of the health and well-being of Canadian citizens and Canadian Permanent Residents. Each province and territory has a health plan covering various services and products. This grants all Canadian residents reasonable access to medical treatment without paying.

Healthcare duties are divided between provincial and territorial governments and the federal government. The provincial and territorial governments must manage, organize and deliver health care services while the Federal government plays its role, which will be discussed further below.

Healthcare and the Canadian Government

The Canadian Constitution lays out the facilitation of the healthcare system in Canada. The responsibilities are split between the country's federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Canada's provincial and territorial governments carry the most weight in terms of the delivery of healthcare and additional services. The country's federal government also plays a role in ensuring the healthcare needs of certain groups are taken care of.

Public healthcare in Canada is made possible with general revenue raised through federal, provincial, and territorial taxation, which includes personal and corporate taxes, sales taxes, payroll levies, and other revenue. Provinces can also charge residents a health premium to add to publicly funded health care services. They are, however, not allowed to restrict access to health services if a resident does not pay the premium.

There is more to health than the healthcare system. The responsibility for public health, including sanitation, infectious diseases, and related education, is divided between the three government orders: federal, provincial/territorial, and local or municipal.

The Canada Health Act and the Federal Government

Canada's Federal Government also plays a role in the country's healthcare system. This includes laying down national principles for the system under the Canada Health Act, funding provinces and territories, and several other functions, and funding and serving certain groups of people. Groups included are:

  • Refugees
  • First Nations people on reserves
  • The Inuit
  • Serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Qualifying veterans
  • Prison inmates

The Canada Health Act sets the requirements for health insurance plans that each province and territory must meet to qualify for full federal cash transfers for healthcare purposes.

Canadian Provinces and territories must grant access to hospital and doctors' services to those eligible for public healthcare. The Act is against additional patient billing and fees.

Canada Health Act and Provincial and Territorial Government

Provincial and territorial health care insurance plans must align with Canada Health Act standards. This will release their funding under the Canada Health Transfer.

They will be evaluated on their:

  • Standards of public administration
  • Standards of comprehensiveness
  • Standards of universality
  • Standards of portability
  • Standards of accessibility

Learn more about healthcare in Canada via the country's Provincial and territorial ministries of health below:

  • Alberta: Under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP), you’ll be covered for hospital and doctor visits, certain dental procedures and mental healthcare
  • British Columbia: Under the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), you’ll be covered for Doctors’ consultations, necessary eye tests, dental surgery and other services such as X-rays
  • Manitoba: Manitoba Health covers doctors’ services, Surgeries and anesthetic services, X-rays, laboratory services required by doctors, eye exams, spectacles for senior citizens
  • New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador: Medicare provides coverage for doctors’ and hospital services, maternity cover, laboratory and X-ray services, and certain therapy such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and radiotherapy
  • Northwest Territories: you’ll get coverage for a wide range healthcare needs, such as necessary surgery. maternity care, eye care, etc.
  • Nova Scotia: The province’s Medical Services Insurance (MSI) covers Doctors’ visits, limited dental care, basic eyecare, specialist care and some in- and out patient services.
  • Nunavut: The Nunavut Health Care Plan covers doctors’ visits, vital surgery, maternity care, eye care, etc.
  • Ontario: The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers doctors’ consultations, clinic visits, tests, etc.
  • Prince Edward Island: Cover in this province includes Doctors’ visits, hospital services home care, Palliative care, dental services, etc. < /li>
  • Quebec: Reassurance maladie du Quebec (RAMQ) covers medical tests, surgery, mammograms, vasectomies, etc.
  • Saskatchewan: The province covers doctors' consultations, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, immunization, limited dental services, etc.
  • Yukon: Here you’ll get coverage for doctors’ consultations, maternity care, limited dental care, a basic hospital stay, etc.

Healthcare Delivery in Canada

Primary Healthcare Services

Your first point of call when sick in Canada is the Canadian healthcare system's primary healthcare services. This is where you contact your doctor and get referred for further treatment if needed.

You'll receive a thorough examination, medical treatment, basic emergency services, referrals to hospitals and specialists, maternity care, and even end-of-life care. care; primary mental health care; palliative and end-of-life care.

Secondary Healthcare Services

You'll move on to secondary healthcare when referred to a specialist at a Canadian hospital or another facility. In Canada, you can also receive secondary healthcare services at home or another facility. This type of referral must be made by a doctor, a hospital, or a community agency, but a patient or family can also make it.


eHealth has advanced in the last few years, especially with the onset of the Covi-19 pandemic. Electronic health technologies, therefore, now also play a role in the innovation, sustainability, and efficiency of Canada's healthcare system. It improves accessibility to medical services, the safety of patients, as well as medical collaborations where needed.

Supplementary Healthcare Services in Canada

Canada's provinces and territories have extra coverage available to certain individuals. Senior citizens, children, and those with a low income are eligible for this additional cover. This covers healthcare services that only sometimes get covered. Supplementary benefit cover include:

  • prescription drugs
  • dental care
  • Eyecare
  • Prostheses, wheelchairs, and other appliances or equipment
  • Healthcare services

How Does Healthcare Work in Canada For Newcomers

To access healthcare in Canada as a newcomer, you'll have to submit an application for a health card from the province or territory you've settled in. Then, when you seek medical care from a doctor or health professional, you will be asked to show your health card as proof of registration.


Certain provinces may have waiting periods of up to 3 months before your public health insurance kicks in.

Doctors Visits

It is common for Canadians to have a family doctor whom they consult when they need medical assistance. A family doctor provides basic healthcare. This would include:

  • Treating illnesses
  • Providing medical
  • Medical tests, such as blood tests, pap smears, blood pressure readings, etc.

What Does Medicare Not Cover?

Medicare does not cover all your healthcare needs. It doesn't cover:

  • Medications you get at a pharmacy
  • Dental Care
  • Eyecare, such as spectacles and contact lenses
  • Ambulance services

Medical Surveillance

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada will send you a Medical Surveillance Notice if you suffer from a severe illness. This states that your local health authority will make contact to find out about your condition and ensure that you're registered to access the Canadian Health System.

Medical surveillance is a measure to protect you, your floured ones, and the public. It ensures that:

  • You are registered on the healthcare database for your area
  • Your condition is monitored by the relevant healthcare providers
  • You get the care needed to manage your condition

Note: If you don't adhere to this process, it could affect your citizenship application.

Healthcare in Canada For Non-residents

As mentioned above, only citizens and Canadian Permanent Residents can access universal healthcare. So if you are a non-resident, you'll have to ensure you have private insurance for healthcare in Canada until you qualify for public healthcare in Canada.

Make sure you have travel insurance and medical cover or an international medical insurance plan before moving to Canada. Non-residents in Canada can expect to pay anything from 5,000 CAD per day for a day in a hospital.

Canada’s Healthcare Workforce

Canada’s healthcare workforce consists of a wide range of occupations that provide medical care to patients across the country. Healthcare occupations include:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Dietitians
  • Occupational, and physical therapists
  • Orderlies
  • Optometrists
  • Paramedics
  • Personal support assistants
  • Midwives
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Social Workers

Canada’s healthcare workers can be regulated via professional colleges or other bodies for certain professions. They can also be non-regulated, belong to a union, be self-employed or work as a volunteer.

Many doctors work in either their own practices or a group practice. You’ll also find doctors at community health centers, hospital-based practices, primary health facilities or at hospitals.

Nurses work mainly in hospitals but can also be found at community healthcare facilities, or providing home care.

Dentists in Canada mainly have their own practices. Their services are not covered under the public healthcare system, unless in-hospital dental surgery is required.

Get the Healthcare You Need in Canada

Whether you've got Canadian permanent residency or are a non-resident or temporary foreign worker, you'll still have access to the best healthcare in Canada. The only difference is that residents can get public healthcare, and non-residents need private health insurance.

With universal healthcare a significant benefit of gaining Canadian PR, it's worth exploring one of the many paths to becoming a permanent resident.


Do Refugees Get Healthcare Cover in Canada?

Canada's Overseas Interim Federal Health Program provides temporary coverage of healthcare benefits to protected persons. This includes resettled refugees, refugee claimants, and other groups.

Do Temporary Foreign Workers Get Access to Public Healthcare In Canada?

According to the IRCC, temporary foreign workers will get healthcare under the health insurance system of the province or territory you work in. But it will take time to kick in. Your employer will assist in setting this up for you.

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