The Healthcare System of Canada

The Healthcare System of Canada

Samuel Francis Gills Published:
November 18, 2022

While relocating to Canada, there are many considerations to be made. You need to locate a job, a residence, and decide which school your children will attend. To ensure that you and your family are fully insured when you arrive, you will also need a basic awareness of the Canadian healthcare system.

Many important questions that immigrants have frequently asked regarding the Canadian healthcare system have answers. Continue reading to learn more on how to get healthcare as an immigrant along with its cost and what services are provided by the public system.


What is the operation of Canada’s healthcare system?

Firstly, anyone who is a citizen or lawful permanent resident of Canada is eligible for public health insurance. The Canadian healthcare system, which pays for authorized medically essential hospital and doctor treatments, is financed by tax revenue. The responsibility of defining what constitutes a medically required service and delivering healthcare to its citizens falls to each of Canada’s provinces and territories.

Depending on where you reside, you will be able to determine how you receive healthcare and the specific treatments to which you are entitled. The federal government which is involved through the Canada Health Act, establishes national health standards for the system and aids in funding provincial and territorial health care services.


How to obtain healthcare as a foreigner in Canada?

Candidates need to apply to their province or territory government to obtain public health insurance in Canada, anyone who is a Canadian citizen or lawful permanent resident may also apply.

Candidates will receive their healthcare card through mail once they have been authorized, they will be required to present their healthcare card when they visit a doctor, check into an emergency room, or undergo surgery.


In Canada, how long does it take to obtain health insurance?

There is no set minimum waiting period as each province and territory sets its own. The candidates must wait for that particular period before receiving healthcare coverage. The tables below give you a summary of this information, depending on where you live (or intend to live) in Canada.

  Alberta British Columbia (BC) Manitoba New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Northwest Territories (NWT) Nova Scotia
How to apply for health card Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) BC Services Card Manitoba Health Card New Brunswick Health Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Care Plan (MCP) NWT Health Care Plan Nova Scotia Health Card (MSI)
Waiting period for permanent residents’ coverage Date residency is established Up to three months Up to three months Once eligibility is established, a letter indicating the start date of coverage is issued Date of arrival Up to three months Typically received on date of arrival
Ministry of health website Alberta Health British Columbia Manitoba Health New Brunswick Health Newfoundland Labrador Health and Community Services NWT Health and Social Services Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness


  Nunavut Ontario Prince Edward Island (PEI) Quebec Saskatchewan Yukon
How to apply for health card Health Care Card Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) PEI Health Card Quebec Health Insurance Saskatchewan Health Cards   Yukon Health Care Card
Waiting period for permanent residents’ coverage Up to three months Up to three months May be eligible for first-day coverage  Up to three months Applications usually processed within six to eight weeks after receiving application After three months of residency
Ministry of health website Nunavut Department of Health Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care PEI Health and Wellness Quebec Ministere de la Sante et des Services sociaux Saskatchewan Health  Yukon: Health and Social Services


Who in Canada is qualified for free healthcare?

Depending on your status and the length of time you have been in Canada, you may be eligible for free healthcare as a new immigrantLiving in a province or territory and being physically present for at least 183 days a year are prerequisites for health insurance coverage.

The following categories are typically covered by Canada’s universal healthcare system:

Before candidates may apply for healthcare, they must have worked or studied in Canada for at least six months, if they are not a citizen or permanent resident. Meanwhile, most medical treatments for candidates who are sick or harmed will not be covered by the government. Before coming to Canada, they should research private health insurance to avoid such high medical costs.


Importance of finding a family doctor

Most Canadians have a family doctor they visit when they are ill, when they require a blood or laboratory test, etc. A family physician might also refer a specialist if required. Having a family doctor allows them to get to know you, your family, and your medical history, which is of an advantage.


What medical services are covered in Canada?

Most healthcare and emergency medical treatments are free with candidates’ healthcare cards. For instance, in Ontario, OHIP covers the following services if you have a medical need for a service or treatment:

  • Visits to the family physician
  • Stopping by walk-in clinics and other medical facilities
  • Attendance at emergency rooms
  • Procedures and diagnostic tests

Public health insurance covers a psychiatrist’s hospital-based mental health services. However, this is not covered if the candidate wants to visit and consult with a private psychologist. Candidates without a  private health insurance, will have to pay for their medical expenses out of pocket.

Mental health support is freely  available for those experiencing a crisis, as well as for kids, senior citizens or PR, Indigenous peoples, and other specialized groups.

Additionally, the candidate’s province or territory might provide benefits for elders, children, and anyone receiving social assistance. However, these schemes differ between provinces and territories.


What medical services are not provided in Canadian Healthcare

Health services that are not covered by the publicly financed healthcare system include independent living, dental care, prescription medicines, hearing, and vision care, and independent living (home care).


Contact us to know if you qualify to migrate to Canada. Check out Owlspriority Immigration’s Canada Settlement Resources to learn about finding employment in Canada, making your initial days stress-free, etc.

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