Healthcare In Canada

Canada’s healthcare system has similarities to both the United States of America and to the UK, with a combination of publicly funded and private healthcare options.

Whilst Canada and the US healthcare systems are considered to be good, quite surprisingly, neither rank in the WHO’s top 25 healthcare systems in the world. Canada comes in at 30th place and the USA following behind at 37th, whilst the UK comes in at 19th place.

So, if you’re looking to emigrate to Canada, take a look at our guide covering the ins and outs of Canada’s healthcare system.

Canada’s healthcare system

Whilst Canada has a publicly funded healthcare system, there are no provisions for medication, meaning all medications must be paid for by the patient.

Many Canadians have a family doctor (also known as a GP) for basic healthcare, including blood tests, prescription medication and check-ups etc.

If you require a specialist, then your GP will also be able to refer you. The easiest way to find a GP for you and your family is either by contacting a community health centre in your area to see what surgeries are taking on new patients or to ask someone you know in the area if they recommend surgery.

If you don’t have a doctor but require medical attention, then there are also numerous walk-in clinics that you can visit without an appointment.

Public Health card

Public Health Insurance in Canada

The public healthcare system in Canada, known as Canadian Medicare, is available to permanent residents and Canadian citizens, which means that the majority of healthcare services are paid for through tax. It is essentially a Canadian version of the NHS.

Once you apply for this insurance, you’ll be issued an individual health card, which you will need to take with you and show to your doctor when receiving public healthcare services.

There can be a long wait time of up to six months for your public health insurance application to be processed, so it is highly recommended that during this time you consider applying for private health insurance. Data indicates that around 2.9% of Canadians are awaiting treatment currently.

Although healthcare in Canada offers emergency medical services, there may be some restrictions on your entitlements to this depending on your immigration status.

Therefore, if you find yourself in an emergency and you are unsure of your immigration status, it is safer to make your own travel arrangements to the nearest hospital.

Overall, Canadians are very supportive of Canada’s healthcare system and rate it highly. Canadian Medicare covers the following:

  • Emergency hospital treatment
  • Majority of primary and secondary care
  • Maternity services (both prenatal and postnatal care)

Canadian Medicare does not cover the following services:

  • Prescription medicine
  • Ambulance services (except in the Yukon Territory)
  • Dental care
  • Eye care
  • Hearing aids
  • Physiotherapy
  • Limb prostheses
  • Psychologist care
  • Chiropractors
  • Tests required for official documents

When applying for your health insurance, it’s important to note that each province and territory in Canada has its own health insurance plans, so you should be sure to examine what your plan will cover.

Provinces and Territory Health Insurance Plans

Canada consists of the following provinces and territories, each with their own health insurance plans:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Nouveau,
  • Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

It’s also important to know that Canada is the only country with a universal healthcare system that does not include prescription medication cover.

Over 60% of prescription medication is paid for privately. Each provincial government controls the costs of prescriptions by negotiating with suppliers.

A study conducted in 2015 from Angus Reid Institute found that almost 25% of Canadian households are unable to pay for the medication they require, as it’s also revealed that Canadians come in third place for paying the highest medications costs in the world, with Switzerland and the US just ahead.

In 2017, 1.7 million Canadian residents failed to pick up their medication due to the significant costs involved. As a result, if you are someone who requires regular medication, then it can be more cost-efficient to take out private medical insurance to help cover the costs.

Private Health Insurance in Canada

Although Canada’s public healthcare system is rated well, you may wish to consider private health insurance for the previously mentioned services that the Canadian government does not pay for in full. In Canada, around 66% of residents have private medical insurance to help cover the costs such as medication and ambulance cover.

Private health insurance may be offered to you by your employer as part of a benefits package. If your company doesn’t offer this then you can purchase insurance packages from private insurance providers, who offer a variety of packages for different prices. You can find insurance providers across the internet and on comparison websites.

If you’re considering emigrating to Canada, then please take a look at our free emigration guides