Healthcare in Canada is delivered through the provincial and territorial systems of publicly funded health care, informally called Medicare. It is guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act of 1984, and is universal. Universal access to publicly funded health services is often considered by Canadians as a "fundamental value that ensures national health care insurance for everyone wherever they live in the country.
That is to be said, health care in Canada is primarily funded and administered by each province and territory. There are 13 in total in Canada. This ensures that regional concerns can be prioritized. A large northern territory like Yukon will have different health concerns compared to a small southern province like Prince Edward Island. However, guidelines and standards are set by the federal government. They ensure that a consistent level of care exists across the country. Canadian Medicare provides coverage for approximately 70 percent of Canadians' healthcare needs, and the remaining 30 percent is paid for through the private sector. The 30 percent typically relates to services not covered or only partially covered by Medicare, such as prescription drugs, dentistry and optometry. Approximately 65 to 75 percent of Canadians have some form of supplementary health insurance related to the aforementioned reasons; many receive it through their employers or use secondary social service programs related to extended coverage for families receiving social assistance or vulnerable demographics, such as seniors, minors, and those with disabilities.
The most significant of those guidelines is the 1984 Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act affirms five founding principles.
• Public administration on a non-profit basis by a public authority;
• Comprehensiveness – provincial health plans must ensure all services that are medically necessary;
• Universality – a guarantee that all residents in Canada must have access to public healthcare and insured services on uniform terms and conditions;
• Portability – residents must be covered while temporarily absent from their province of residence or from Canada; and
• Accessibility – insured persons must have reasonable and uniform access to insured health services, free of financial or other barriers.
Is Canadian HealthCare Free?
It all sounds rather dry and bureaucratic. Yet the result is one of the highest standards of healthcare in the world. It is paid for through taxation and public funds and available to all Canadians at no out of pocket cost. Everything from midwifery, rehabilitation, surgery, and pediatrics is included.
While the principles of Canadian health care are much admired, they’re designed only for Canadians and permanent residents. Tourists or other short-term visitors to Canada have to pay out of pocket for medical care. For Canadians, the primary requirement for coverage is residency status. In Ontario, for instance, applicants must reside in their province for 153 of the previous 183 days. Thus, if you’re a Canadian experiencing expat life in another country, you aren’t automatically eligible for health care coverage until quite some time after your return.
In general, health care across Canada is publically funded and privately delivered. Canadians can choose any primary caregiver they want. Their visits are billed directly to the government. Specialist visits are arranged by primary caregivers. They take place both in private offices and public facilities like hospitals and clinics. Hospitals are nearly always not-for-profit, though non-essential services like cosmetic surgery are provided in private, for-profit centers.
Canadian municipalities administer their own public health care programs and campaigns. This includes everything from vaccination awareness campaigns, childhood recreation programs, needle exchange centers for safer drug use, and breastfeeding drop-in centers. Programs can vary significantly from one city to the next. They reflect local concerns, city council spending priorities, and changing demographics. Municipal public health programs generally aren’t taken into account when Canadians discuss their health care system. They are thought of more as municipal services but they still make important contributions to Canadians’ health and quality of life.
International citizens living in Canada are not eligible for local coverage, at least initially. Once you have established residency you may apply to be covered under a local plan. However, that plan may be limited in that you will only be covered locally (not outside of Canada). Most Canadians buy private medical insurance to provide access to private hospitals or hospitals in the United States. As an international citizen in Canada, we recommend you consider a Global Health Insurance Plan to cover you in Canada and Worldwide.
Chances are, if you turn on the news in Canada, you’ll see a story related to health care. The Canadian system has many challenges, despite its excellent reputation. One of those problems is the inequality of care between urban and rural areas. Another is the lack of resources for Indigenous Canadians. Still another set of challenges is set in administrative problems, from long wait times in hospitals to a lack of specialists in certain regions. Supplemental private health care insurance is depended upon to make up a lack of public coverage for dental care and pharmaceutical care.