Healthcare in Canada is publicly funded, meaning the cost of health and medical expenses is shared by taxpayers. This single-payer system means that eligible users typically do not have to pay for most healthcare and hospital services in Canada.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as some foreign workers on work permits and some international students, may apply for public health insurance from their province or territory.
In some provinces, new permanent residents will have access to provincial health insurance coverage as soon as they arrive. In others, there is a waiting period of up to three months.
Private health insurance can cover your needs during this period. Visit Best Quote, or get a free quote here from Cigna, to see which policies may be available to you. Temporary residents, including workers and students, can review their options for travel insurance in Canada here (in some cases, it may be mandatory to take out an insurance policy before arriving in Canada).
Newcomers to Canada who are eligible for public coverage in their province of residence may also wish to purchase private health insurance for services not covered by provincial coverage for healthcare in Canada. Insurance can cover prescriptions, dental and optical services, and other forms of paramedical care (such as physical therapy or mental health services). Many (though not all) employers will also provide this kind of coverage as a term of your employment, though coverage may only be available if or when you complete a probationary period of employment.
Do you use prescription drugs and are wondering how to get them in Canada?
Healthcare in Canada outside your province of residence
Medical coverage in any Canadian province will give you access to basic health services in any other province across Canada.
For example, if you are covered by the province of Ontario and need to access emergency medical services when physically present in Manitoba, you may obtain those services.
However, it is important to keep in mind that this comes with some restrictions, and you may incur costs for some services, such as ambulance transportation, some emergency dental services, and the purchase of prescription drugs, if you receive them outside your province of residence. Knowing this is crucial to understanding healthcare in Canada. Health insurance for Canada provided in Alberta is known as the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP).
New permanent residents might be eligible for coverage on the date of their arrival in Alberta, so long as all validation requirements are met. You will need to register for coverage. You can do this by submitting AHCIP registration forms and providing proof of residency in Alberta, government-issued ID, and proof that you are legally entitled to be in Canada. Suitable documentation includes a utility bill or pay stub, a passport or driver’s license, and a permanent resident card or port of entry immigration document.
Coverage provided by AHCIP includes medically-required physician services, psychiatrist visits, medically required diagnostic services, and certain dental surgeries. Some additional coverage is available for people under 19 and over 65
If eligible, you should apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in British Columbia, as you may have to wait up to three months after your arrival date for MSP to start covering your health care costs. MSP coverage provides healthcare in Canada and includes services provided in British Columbia by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, necessary eye exams, x-rays, and some orthodontic services. Residents used to pay a monthly premium for MSP, but this fee was eliminated in 2020.
Permanent residents in Manitoba are eligible for Manitoba healthcare coverage, known as Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living, as soon as their permanent residence status is granted.
In order to receive your health card and be eligible for coverage, you will need to present a photocopy of your passport, along with all immigration documents provided to you, and a completed Manitoba Health Registration Form. Healthcare in Manitoba provides coverage for physicians’ services, surgeries, and x-ray and laboratory services when ordered by a physician.
Medical care in New Brunswick is provided by New Brunswick Medicare. Applications for coverage should be submitted to Medicare directly. This application will need to include an “Application for Registration – Medicare” form and copies of all Canadian immigration identification records, as well as an entry stamp on your passport. Once eligibility has been confirmed, you will receive a letter indicating your coverage start date.
New foundand and Labrador
The NWT Health Care Plan is the health insurer for residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT). These forms can be submitted online or mailed.
Nova Scotia residents receive health coverage through the Medical Services Insurance Program, or MSI. MSI provides first-day coverage to permanent residents moving to Nova Scotia. Those holding a valid work permit are also eligible for coverage, which will begin on the date of arrival in Nova Scotia or the date the work permit was issued (whichever is later). To register for a Health Card in Nova Scotia, you must call the MSI Registration and Enquiry Department.
- a completed Registration for Ontario Health Coverage (0265-82) form; and
- three separate, original identification documents:
- proof of your Canadian citizenship or OHIP-eligible immigration status (e.g. Canadian birth certificate, Permanent Resident Card),
- proof that you live in Ontario (e.g. Ontario driver’s licence, income tax assessment), and
- a document that supports your identity (e.g. a credit card, or a passport from any country).
Prince Edward Island
You will need to complete the registration form to apply – this is not available online, so you will need to call the Régie or visit a Régie office to obtain one. If you visit an office in-person, you can complete the form during the same visit so long as you have the necessary proof-of-identity documentation with you.
For permanent residents, this documentation includes originals of your permanent resident card (or other document issued by immigration authorities which proves permanent residency) and, in most cases, your Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). Proof of residence in Quebec can be demonstrated by providing a copy of a residential lease, deed of purchase for a residential property, or attestation from an employer.
Temporary workers, who can provide an immigration document showing their employer’s name and stating they may work in Quebec for at least six months, are also eligible for health care coverage in Quebec.
All medically necessary services, including both inpatient and outpatient services, are included with Saskatchewan Health Card coverage. Saskatchewan also provides some supplemental services, including dental services and prescription drugs, to recommended individuals.