The Canadian healthcare system allows citizens to get access to free healthcare services in various aspects. It is based on the principle that healthcare ‘should be based on need and not on the ability to pay’. Citizens can get equitable access to various physician and hospital services without worrying about expensive medical bills. To access these free services, you need to apply for a health card. This card is essential to utilise the services and keep a record of your doctor visits. 

If you’re new to Canada, here are some important points to note about the free healthcare system.

Healthcare Funding in Canada

Healthcare Funding in Canada

You must be wondering about who pays for the medical facilities in Canada if healthcare is free. Canadian healthcare funding is taken care of through tax-funded insurance plans. Public healthcare, including hospital visits and medical treatment, is paid using tax money. If you’re a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, you can apply for health insurance. 

When and How to Apply for Free Healthcare?

When and How to Apply for Free Healthcare

The first thing to do as soon as you get settled in Canada is to apply for free healthcare coverage. This cannot be done while you’re outside Canada and before arriving. You can grab an application form from the doctor’s office, a hospital pharmacy or a settlement service agency, or look up ‘medical clinics near me’ to find the nearest centre. Apart from this, you can also apply online. 

How Long is The Waiting Period?

Regarding the Canadian health insurance policy, there is a waiting period after applying for a health card. Depending on your location, you might have to wait for a few weeks or up to three months. The waiting period for permanent residents in certain areas is mentioned below: 

Province  Waiting Period
Manitoba Coverage starts from the first day of the third month after arrival 
British Columbia  Coverage starts three months after the date of arrival
Northwest Territories Coverage starts when the application has been approved 
New Brunswick  Coverage begins after the submission of the application form
Quebec The waiting period can last up to three months
Yukon  Coverage starts after a period of three months 
Saskatchewan  Coverage starts after six to eight weeks of application submission 

It is advisable to purchase private insurance while waiting for Canadian health insurance, to cover all the unexpected medical costs. This will ensure protection for you and your family until you get the health card. 

Will You Require Private Health Insurance?

Will You Require Private Health Insurance

Citizens and permanent residents enjoy access to basic healthcare facilities in Canada. However, not everything is covered under the policy. This is why it is important to think about certain aspects while planning for private health insurance in Canada. These are discussed below: 

    • The type of coverage you might need while waiting for government insurance: This depends on your province and the waiting period. 
    • Consider the healthcare needs of your family: If there are any family members with health issues, make sure to cover the costs with the help of private insurance.
    • If you have family members who need extensive health care, you might have to apply for supplemental health insurance. 

Employees can also utilise the health care benefits provided by their respective employers. This is something to look out for if you’re an immigrant in Canada. These packages cover most of your dental costs, medications and other services which are not covered under your public program. 

Provincial and Territorial Healthcare Programs Coverage

It is important to note that each province has a free healthcare program with different coverage. Make sure to look up the benefits offered under your provincial healthcare program. 

Canada’s free healthcare system, in general, mostly covers: 

    • The appointments with your family doctor
    • Visits to the emergency room
    • Necessary surgeries 
    • The visiting fee of walk-in clinics and other healthcare providers
    • Laboratory and diagnostic services 

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What Is Not Covered By The Public Healthcare System?

What Is Not Covered By The Public Healthcare System 

The medical aspects that are not covered under the Provincial and territorial healthcare programs include the following: 

    • Dental services
    • Most prescription drugs
    • Eye examination and eyewear, glasses and contact lenses
    • Appliances and products like a hearing aid, crutches and wheelchair
    • Ambulance service
    • Visits to certain healthcare providers like physiotherapists and chiropractors

Discuss all these factors with your family and decide whether or not you need additional healthcare insurance.

Losing Your Health Card

It is important to carry your health card everywhere; you can keep it in your wallet or somewhere safe. During emergencies, the hospital will treat you without a card first, but if you want the government to pay for your medical bills, you’ll have to show the card at the end. In case you have lost your health card, make sure to contact the provincial health ministry to get your card replaced. A small amount of replacement fee might be applicable. 

Apply for a Health Card with The Right Documents

Certain documents are needed to prove your identity and citizenship while applying for a health card. You will have to carry the following: 

    • Birth certificate
    • PR card or confirmation of permanent residence
    • Passport

It is advised to contact your territorial health care centre to confirm the documents you need. These documents are essential to apply for free healthcare in Canada.

How to Find a Family Doctor? 

How to Find a Family Doctor 

The free healthcare system asks for a General Practitioner or a family doctor as the first contact in order to enjoy the benefits of healthcare in Canada. This is often difficult because of the shortage of medical professionals. Follow the steps below to make the process easier: 

    • Check with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, as they often have a list of doctors available. 
    • Ask a family member or friend if their doctor is open to accepting more patients. 
  • Why Do I Need A Family Doctor? 

It is essential to find a family doctor because this will be the first contact that the healthcare system will ask for. 

    • The type of healthcare specialists you should pay a visit to. 
    • What kind of diagnostic tests need to be done, and where to make an appointment?
    • Prescribe medications for your need. 

For normal visits or checkups, you can make an appointment with your family doctor and get treated. For emergencies, make sure to visit the emergency room at the nearest hospital in the area. 

Things to Remember About Travelling with Prescription Medication

You can travel with your prescribed medication anywhere in Canada. However, make sure to follow these instructions: 

    • Carry a 90-day supply of prescribed medication wherever you are going. 
    • Keep the medicines in the original hospital or pharmacy packaging. 
    • Keep the original label in case you are asked to show what the medicine contains and about the product in general.
    • Keep a note of the expiration date. 

Free Healthcare in Provinces and Territories in Canada

To access public healthcare in Canada, click on the specific province and check how to apply for a government health card. 

Provinces  Healthcare Provider
Alberta Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan 
British Columbia  Medical Services Plan 
Manitoba  Health, Seniors and Active Living
New Brunswick  New Brunswick Medicare
Newfoundland and Labrador  Medical Care Plan
Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance
Ontario Ontario Health Insurance Program 
Prince Edward Island  Health PEI
Quebec Quebec Health Insurance Plan
Saskatchewan  eHealth Saskatchewan 
Territories Healthcare Provider
Northwest Territories  Health and Social Services 
Nunavut Nunavut Health Care Plan
Yukon  Yukon Health Insurance Plan

To Sum it Up 

Once you’ve resided in Canada, you will receive an envelope with applications for the Permanent Residence Card and the Health Coverage Card. You can also look up ‘medical clinics near me’ to find the closest healthcare clinic and grab a form. Make sure to choose a private insurance service while waiting for your healthcare application to get approved. Once you’re aware of Canada’s free healthcare system, you and your family will remain protected financially and medically under the healthcare system.

You May Also Read :

How To Renew Health Card Renewal in Ontario Health Card Renewal in Ontario
Guide To Ontario Health Card Ontario Health Card
All About Ontario Health Insurance Plan Ontario Health Insurance Plan
Understand Dental Insurance Ontario Dental Insurance Ontario

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

What are some common healthcare services that are not covered by Canada's healthcare system?

The Canada Healthcare System does not cover certain services like home care, prescription drugs, dental care and long-term medical care. The services vary in each province and are only applicable to permanent residents and citizens.

How do I find a doctor or healthcare provider in Canada?

There are various ways to find a doctor in Canada. You can visit a walk-in clinic, ask a friend, family member or neighbour for a recommendation, or contact the community health centre in your area.

What should I do if I need medical attention outside of regular office hours?

If you or someone else needs medical attention outside of regular office hours, you can avail of after-hours healthcare options like pharmacies and medical clinics.

How do I access emergency medical services in Canada?

If there is a medical emergency, you should visit the local emergency department or call 911. The visits to emergency rooms in Canada are covered under the healthcare system.

What are my rights as a patient in Canada's healthcare system?

There are multiple rights that a Canadian citizen has while getting treated under the healthcare system. Some of these include the right to be fully informed about treatment options and the right to pain and symptom management.

How can I protect my personal health information in Canada's healthcare system?

In Canada, healthcare protection against unauthorised use and disclosure is ensured through the Personal Health Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.