Canada is known for providing some of the best health care in the world, and you can access free health care. If you’re moving to Canada, here are some important things to know about how to access free health care and the medical system. As a newcomer, knowing how to get free medical care when you’re sick, or have an accident can save you from worry and out of pocket expenses.
Applying for health care is one of the first steps you can take when you arrive.
In Canada, public health care is paid for through tax money. Basic health care services, like hospital visits and medical treatment are free. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance. This insurance can save you money and provide you and your family peace of mind when it comes to health care.
To access free health care, you need to apply for a provincial health card. Once you are approved, you will receive your provincial health card. The health card proves that you are covered by a provincial health care program. You will have to show your health card each time you visit a doctor or receive any medical care.
You can get an application form from:
You cannot apply for health care coverage before you arrive in Canada.
You should apply for health care coverage as soon as you land in Canada because there may be a waiting period before you are eligible to apply. So, apply right after you land to minimize your waiting!
You may have to wait up to three months to be eligible for a government health card. This waiting period applies to permanent residents in the following provinces:
To protect yourself during this waiting period, you can buy private insurance to cover you and your family from unexpected health care costs.
The free health care that Canadian citizens and permanent residents enjoy gives you access to basic medical services. But, not everything is covered. So, it’s important to think about:
2. The health care needs of you and your family (for example, do any family members have health issues that have costs that aren’t covered?)
3. Do you require supplemental (or extra) private insurance to meet your health care needs (for example, do any family members have extensive health care needs?)
If you’re employed, your employer may offer a health care benefits package. Many immigrants to Canada are unaware that this is something that many companies offer their employees. A benefits package will cover some, or all of the costs for dental, medications, and other services not covered by a government healthcare program.
Canadians in every province can purchase additional private health insurance to cover services not covered by a government health care program, or an employer’s health care benefits program.
Each provincial health care program may provide slightly different coverage, so find out what is covered in the province where you live. In general, government health care programs cover things such as:
Some examples of the hospital and medical services not covered by provincial health care programs include:
If you lose your health care card, contact the provincial health ministry to replace your card as soon as possible. You may have to pay a small replacement fee.
It’s a good idea to carry your health card in your wallet at all times in case of a medical emergency. In an emergency, hospitals will treat you without seeing your card first but, you will have to show your card later if you want the province to cover your hospital bills.
To apply for a provincial health card, you’ll require identification to prove your Canadian citizenship or eligible immigration status. So, you’ll need your:
It’s best to confirm what documents you’ll need with the provincial or territorial health care program where you plan to live.
Most Canadians have a family doctor or “GP” (general practitioner), so once you have coverage, you will want to find a GP. Your GP will be your first contact with the health care system.
To find a family doctor:
Your family doctor will:
If you have a medical emergency, go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. For non-emergencies, you can schedule an appointment with your family doctor to get treatment or a referral to a health care specialist.
You can bring a 90-day supply of any prescription medication that you currently taking to continue your treatment. However, you must:
2. Have the original label on the packaging to show what the health product is and what it contains
3. Have a valid expiration date (for example: within 90 days of your arrival).
When you know how to access health care, you and your family can rest easy knowing that you are protected both medically and financially when you arrive in Canada.
Click on the province or territory where you plan to live for more information about how to apply for a government health card.
Alberta: Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)
British Columbia: Medical Services Plan (MSP)
Manitoba: Health, Seniors and Active Living
New Brunswick: New Brunswick Medicare
Newfoundland and Labrador: Medical Care Plan (MCP)
Nova Scotia: Medical Services Insurance (MSI)
Ontario: Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP)
Prince Edward Island: Health PEI
Quebec: Québec Health Insurance Plan
Saskatchewan: eHealth Saskatchewan
Northwest Territories: Health and Social Services
Nunavut: Nunavut Health Care Plan
Yukon: Yukon Health Insurance Plan
The article originally appeared on Prepare for Canada.
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