Newcomers to Canada often have questions about the country’s healthcare system. In this guide, we will provide valuable insights into the Canadian healthcare system and the services available to newcomers.
Whether you’re relocating to Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, or any other province, understanding the healthcare landscape is essential for your well-being.
Provincial and Territorial Health Care Coverage:
One of the unique aspects of Canadian healthcare is that it is managed at the provincial and territorial levels, leading to variations in coverage.
Here’s a breakdown of healthcare coverage in selected provinces:
Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) covers medically necessary services and certain dental and oral surgical health procedures.
Coverage includes physician services, psychiatric visits, diagnostic services, oral surgery, and more.
Also includes bariatric surgery for eligible individuals and transgender surgery-related procedures.
British Columbia (BC):
British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) offers coverage for medically necessary physician services and some dental and eye care.
Covers physician visits, eye exams, dental surgery in hospitals, and certain orthodontic services.
May also provide coverage for acupuncture, chiropractic services, and more for eligible low-income individuals.
Manitoba Health’s Insured Benefits Branch covers physician services, surgery, vision care, and more.
Services include physician visits, surgery, anesthesia, laboratory tests, chiropractic care, dental surgery, and hospital care. Ambulance fees are also covered.
New Brunswick (NB):
The provincial Medicare plan in New Brunswick covers drug coverage, physician and hospital fees, and medically required services.
Coverage includes drug plans under the New Brunswick Drug Plan, physician and hospital services, in-hospital dental services, and standard hospital accommodation.
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL):
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Medical Care Plan covers physician visits, surgical procedures, maternity care, and more.
Services include visits to physicians, surgical procedures with anesthesia, pre- and post-operative care, and in-hospital therapies.
Also covers hospital accommodation, nursing services, and diagnostic procedures.
Northwest Territories (NWT):
The NWT Healthcare Plan includes physician diagnosis and treatment, surgical care, ophthalmologist services, and more.
Coverage encompasses physician care, surgery, obstetrical care, nursing services, and in-hospital treatments.
Also includes radiotherapy, physiotherapy, and detoxification services.
Nova Scotia (NS):
Public healthcare in Nova Scotia covers addiction treatment, physician services, hospital care, and more.
Services include physician visits, continuing care, optometry services, ambulance fees, and in-hospital dental surgeries. Mental health services are also provided.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) offers coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and laboratory testing.
Covers medical and surgical abortions, in-hospital dental surgeries, optometry services, podiatry, and ambulance services.
Also provides travel cost coverage for northern Ontario residents.
Quebec’s public health insurance plan, administered by RAMQ, covers general practitioner and specialist physician services.
Includes medical examinations, consultations, diagnostic procedures, and therapeutic procedures.
Also covers medications, vasectomy, and various tests and services.
Each province’s website lists the physical locations’ addresses and the paperwork needed for your application.
Eligibility and Wait Times:
Eligibility for public health insurance in Canada extends to all citizens and newcomers. However, waiting periods vary by province:
- Alberta: 3 months
- British Columbia: 2 months (plus the remainder of the first month)
- Manitoba: Up to 3 months
- New Brunswick: 3 months
- Newfoundland and Labrador: No waiting period
- Northwest Territories: 3 months
- Nova Scotia: 3 months
- Ontario: No waiting period
- Quebec: Up to 3 months
Finding Medical Services:
Accessing medical services in Canada is straightforward. Government websites in each province and territory provide information on local healthcare providers. Conducting a simple online search using your postal code can also help you locate nearby medical services.
Getting a Family Doctor:
Having a family doctor, also known as a general practitioner, is crucial for continuity of care. Finding one can be challenging, but recommendations from friends, family, or settlement service providers can be valuable.
Many provinces offer online resources to search for available family doctors in your area.
FAQs About Healthcare For Newcomers in Canada
How to Get Immediate Medical Attention in Canada?
- In case of a medical emergency, visit the nearest hospital’s emergency department.
- Bring your health card and personal ID with you.
- Upon arrival, hospital staff will assess the severity of your condition and direct you accordingly.
- You will eventually be seen by a doctor or medical professional.
Does Canadian Health Insurance Cover Prescription Drugs?
Generally, prescription drugs provided at Canadian hospitals are covered at no cost to patients due to the Canada Health Act. Coverage for prescription medications and pharmacy services varies by province and territory.
Publicly funded drug plans determine eligibility criteria and covered drugs. Conditions for coverage can be based on factors like age, income, medical condition, and prescription origin.
What Is Not Covered by Canadian Healthcare?
Canadian public healthcare typically does not cover services such as dental care, vision care, and podiatry. Coverage for these services may vary by province or territory.
Is Mental Health Included in Healthcare in Canada?
Mental health is an essential part of overall healthcare in Canada. Canadians are encouraged to take care of their mental health by addressing issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Newcomers can access a wide range of mental health services, including through doctors, hospitals, crisis hotlines, and local organizations.
Settlement service providers are valuable resources for newcomers seeking mental health support. Various national and local organizations focus on mental health, making it accessible to all.
Can You Get Private Healthcare in Canada?
Private health insurance can be beneficial for newcomers to Canada for several reasons.
Private insurance can provide coverage during the waiting period for public health benefits, ensuring continuous healthcare access.
It covers services not typically included in public insurance, such as dental work, prescription medications, and specialized medical consultations.
Private health insurance offers flexibility and additional peace of mind regarding healthcare needs.
How to Get Free Healthcare Services in Canada
In Canada, all residents can get healthcare services for free. You can do this in a couple of ways:
- Call or Visit a Free Clinic: There are special clinics where you can go or call to get medical help without paying anything.
- Call a Health Advice Line: In every part of Canada, there’s a phone number you can call for health advice. These numbers are answered by trained nurses every day, even on holidays.
- Dial 811: You can also call 811 to talk to a healthcare provider. The name for this service might be different depending on where you live, like Health Connect Ontario or Health Links in Manitoba.
These phone services are here to help you figure out if you need to see a doctor or if you can handle the situation on your own. They won’t diagnose you or give you prescriptions.
If they say you should see a doctor and you don’t have insurance, you can contact Community Health Centres (CHCs). Most CHCs accept provincial insurance, but they can also help you if you’re waiting for coverage.
In an emergency, like when you need immediate medical help, you can go to the hospital’s emergency room or dial 911. Calling 911 is always free.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about wearing a medical necklace or bracelet, especially if you have serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, or allergies to medications. This can help in case of an emergency.