- The Canadian government has announced a $200 billion investment in healthcare over the next decade to address shortages and improve the system.
- The budget proposes a national dental plan for uninsured Canadians, a suicide prevention hotline, sexual and reproductive health fund renewal, and physical activity initiative.
- Permanent residents in Canada are eligible for free healthcare in their province of residence, but certain services may not be covered.
Healthcare is primarily the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments in Canada. However, due to labor shortages and lack of funding before the COVID-19 pandemic (which only intensified the situation), the federal government is now under pressure to allocate more funding to the healthcare system. Canada’s aging population is also putting additional strain on the system. According to the 2021 census, there are 861,395 people over the age of 85 living in Canada, and an additional 2.1 million between the ages of 75 and 85. While this trend has increased the demand for skilled immigrants in the healthcare sector, it also highlights the need for additional support for healthcare in Canada.
Healthcare Spending Prioritized in Budget 2023
In early February 2023, the Canadian government announced that it would be spending nearly $200 billion over the next ten years for healthcare in Canada, in addition to existing commitments. Budget 2023 provides further details on where this money will be spent.
National Dental Plan for Uninsured Canadians
In an agreement between the Liberal government and the New Democratic Party (NDP), a national dental plan for uninsured Canadians was proposed. The budget proposes $13 billion over five years, and $4.4 billion ongoing, to implement the Canadian Dental Care Plan.
Dental care has never been covered under provincial healthcare programs in Canada and is often out of reach for low-income individuals. According to the Canadian Dental Association, on a per capita basis, total spending on dental services per Canadian was estimated at $378.60 per year.
The new plan will provide dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with an annual family income under $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000. The plan is set to begin rolling out in 2023. However, eligibility details for permanent and temporary residents have not yet been announced, nor has a start date.
Canada Dental Benefit for Children of Uninsured Parents
The Canada Dental Benefit has been in place since 2021 and provides eligible parents or guardians with direct, up-front, tax-free payments to cover the cost of dental care for their children under 12. This program has been beneficial to children of uninsured parents who would otherwise not have access to dental care.
Additional Healthcare Spending Measures
Several other measures were proposed as part of the Budget’s healthcare plan. $158.4 million will be allocated over three years to support the implementation and operation of 988, a hotline for suicide prevention and support during a mental health crisis. This hotline would begin operation on November 30, 2023.
The Canada Community Health Survey from December 2022 reported that 1.5% of immigrants and 3% of the Canadian-born population reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past year.
The Budget also proposed $36 million over three years to renew the Sexual and Reproductive Health Fund. This fund supports community-based organizations that help make access to abortion, as well as other sexual and reproductive health care information and services, more accessible for vulnerable populations, including newcomers. Abortion is legal in Canada, and all women have the right to choose regardless of their immigration status.
The Budget contains a proposal for $10 million over two years towards ParticipACTION’s Let’s Get Moving Initiative. This initiative will support national programming aimed at increasing daily physical activity.
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Healthcare for Permanent and Temporary Residents in Canada
All permanent residents in Canada are eligible for free healthcare in their province of residence. This covers most day-to-day medical expenses as well as emergency medicine. However, provincial healthcare systems usually do not cover eye care or glasses, dental care, prescription medicines, or ambulance services.
In some provinces, there may be a wait of several months to access non-emergency medical services, such as specialist appointments or elective surgeries. Temporary residents, including international students, and temporary foreign workers, including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) immigrants and visitors are not eligible for provincial healthcare coverage. They must have private health insurance to cover any medical costs while in Canada.
Impact of the Additional Healthcare Spending
The Canadian government’s decision to spend an additional $200 billion on healthcare over the next ten years is expected to have a significant impact on the healthcare system. The new funding will address several areas where the system was previously lacking, including dental care, suicide prevention, and physical activity promotion.
The national dental plan for uninsured Canadians will significantly improve access to dental care for low-income individuals and families. The Canada Dental Benefit for children of uninsured parents has already had a positive impact on children’s oral health since its inception in 2021.
The funding for suicide prevention and mental health support is also crucial, given the increasing rates of mental health issues, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 988 hotline will provide a vital service for those in crisis, and the additional funding for community-based organizations supporting sexual and reproductive health care services will be critical for vulnerable populations, including newcomers.
The Let’s Get Moving Initiative will also promote physical activity, which has significant health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The Canadian government’s decision to spend an additional $200 billion on healthcare over the next decade demonstrates its commitment to improving the country’s healthcare system. The focus on areas such as dental care, mental health, and physical activity promotion is particularly noteworthy. These initiatives are likely to have a positive impact on the health of Canadians and improve access to healthcare services for vulnerable populations. While there may be challenges in implementing these measures, the overall outlook for the future of healthcare in Canada is positive.