Healthcare in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know
Published October 25, 2023.
Canada has so much to offer immigrants. Beautiful landscapes, excellent quality of life and a diverse culture are just some of the many things that the country has to offer. Another benefit of life in Canada is the incredible healthcare system. In this blog, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions that newcomers ask about accessing healthcare in Canada.
Is healthcare free in Canada?
Canada’s healthcare system is publicly funded and newcomers can access it for free once they complete the following steps:
- Apply for a provincial health card: Every province has its own system for processing and issuing health cards. Newcomers must submit an application to the provincial government that they reside in to get a health card. Applications must be processed in person. The government website will have addresses to various locations where the application can be submitted. In general, new applicants will need to bring proof of residency, government-issued ID and other documents that confirm their immigration status in Canada. Once the application is approved, the health card is sent out by mail. This card must be shown when visiting a hospital or a doctor’s office.
- Understand what coverage you are entitled to: The Canadian government does provide free emergency medical services and these services can be utilized without a government health card. In an emergency situation, it is important to visit the nearest hospital. Walk-in clinics may charge a fee to those who are not a resident of a Canadian province or territory. Provincial insurance only covers basic medical services. For example, prescription medication, dental care and physiotherapy are not covered under provincial insurance and will have to be paid out-of-pocket or billed under a private insurance plan. Many employers offer healthcare benefits to their staff so it is worth finding out if this is something that your employer offers.
- Get a family doctor: A family doctor is the first point of contact whenever medical care or advice is needed in Canada. They can offer basic care or make a referral to a specialist, if required. Newcomers can find a family doctor by asking friends or colleagues. Another way of selecting a family doctor is to contact an immigrant-focused organization for a list of local family doctors or check provincial websites for a list of family doctors.
Why do people use private healthcare in Canada?
The public healthcare in Canada does not cover every medical cost that can arise, for example, prescriptions, dental and vision coverage. This is why many Canadians opt for a private healthcare plan. Accessing the public healthcare system can mean long wait times for surgeries or other medical care. In an emergency, many Canadians may choose to get seen by a doctor in the private healthcare system so their health issue is resolved quicker.
Healthcare is always available when needed
Newcomers to Canada, regardless of their immigration status can get access to free health advice by phone. Registered nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In any of Canada’s provinces and territories, dialling 811 will get access to a healthcare professional. These health lines are not able to diagnose illness or hand out prescriptions but they can offer advice and support to anyone with a health issue.
Community health centres and walk-in clinics are located across the country for anyone needing urgent care. Most CHCs accept provincial insurance but they are a great option for anyone in a medical emergency without provincial coverage. All calls made to 911 are free. In an emergency situation, call 911 or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital.
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