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February 20, 2023

Answering 6 common questions about healthcare in Canada for new permanent residents (2023)

This is an introduction to healthcare in Canada for new Canadian permanent residents.

Permanent residents (PR) who have just arrived in Canada have access to the same healthcare services as citizens who were born and raised in this nation.

These are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Canadian healthcare posed by newcomers.

Is healthcare in Canada free?
Funding for healthcare in this nation comes from the yearly taxes paid by all Canadian citizens and PRs. Some medicines (e.g., prescription pills) and therapies will incur out-of-pocket costs.

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The Canadian government clarifies online that while healthcare is publicly supported in Canada, “medications [from a drugstore] are not free. Often, [public health insurance] does not cover medications, so you may be responsible for their cost. You could possibly qualify for coverage with another insurance or medication programme.”

The application process for a health card varies by location, and there is no standardised application procedure utilised throughout Canada’s provinces and territories. To receive a health card in Ontario, for instance, an applicant must visit a Service Ontario office in person. In the meantime, Alberta permits applicants for health cards to submit their applications in person or by mail. Likewise, provincial/territorial processing dates for health cards differ.

Go here to read more about applying for a Canadian health card, including application specifics for each province and territory.

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When do I qualify for public health insurance?
A health card in Canada grants the bearer access to public health insurance in their province of residence as well as coverage for eligible health services. Typically, they include primary and emergency care services, such as those provided by hospitals.

In certain circumstances, eligibility for public health insurance in Canada may not occur immediately after obtaining permanent resident status. Several provinces and territories compel applicants for public health insurance to wait up to three months before receiving benefits.

Listed below are the wait periods for public health insurance coverage in every province and territory:

British Columbia (BC): Two months plus the balance of the first month after establishing residency in the province.

Alberta (AB): 3 months

Ontario (ON): No waiting period

Prince Edward Island (PEI): 3 months

Quebec (QC): Up to 3 months

Manitoba (MB): Up to 3 months

Saskatchewan (SK): 3 months

New Brunswick (NB): 3 months

Nova Scotia (NS): 3 months

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL): No waiting period

Nunavut (NU): 3 months

Northwest Territories (NWT): 3 months

Yukon (YU): 3 months

What about individual health insurance? Do I need the two?

Private health insurance may be advantageous in addition to public healthcare for a variety of reasons.

The Canadian public health insurance system imposes a waiting time, which is the primary reason why private health insurance is advantageous. During the waiting time, private health insurance would cover a person’s healthcare costs. In addition, private health insurance would enable insured individuals to be covered for requirements not often covered by public insurance. They include dental care and consultations to certain medical experts like a chiropodist (foot).

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Should I get a primary care physician, and how do I locate one?
Family doctors, also known as general practitioners or family physicians, are the primary care physicians that many Canadians consult when they need medical treatment. While there are walk-in clinics and hospitals (for urgent care) that anyone may visit for medical needs, many Canadians prefer to see their family doctor because of appointment scheduling and continuity of treatment. In other words, family physicians assist patients to avoid standing in lines by making appointments in advance and by delivering consistent treatment since the patient sees the same doctor at each session.

Locating a family doctor in Canada may be difficult due to the fact that family physicians often decide for themselves whether or not to take new patients at any particular moment. Recommendations from friends and relatives or assistance from a settlement services provider are excellent beginning points for locating a family physician.

Often, an internet search for family physicians in a local region (using a postal code) will also provide results for other family physicians in close proximity to the person’s residence. In most cases, an examination of the website for a certain family clinic will show whether or not a particular doctor is taking new patients. New Canadian PRs may expedite the process of locating a family doctor by calling the clinic and inquiring about the doctor’s availability, followed by an in-person meeting.

The following sites may assist new Canadian permanent residents find a primary care physician in their province or territory:

BC: BC College of Family Physicians

AB: Alberta Health Services

ON: Government of Ontario

PEI: Government of PEI

QC: Government of Quebec

MB: Government of Manitoba

SK: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan

NB: New Brunswick Medical Society

NS: Nova Scotia Health

NL: Find A Doctor NL

NU: Government of Nunavut

NWT: List on RateMDs.com

YU: Government of Yukon

In the event that internet research yields no results, phoning clinics and enquiring about a family physician may be a realistic alternative.

What can I expect if I must see a doctor or hospital in an emergency? What documentation am I need to bring? Can I simply stroll in?
A person who is facing a medical emergency must go to the emergency room of the closest hospital. It is essential that all patients bring their health cards and other forms of identification. An staff will lead the patient depending on the severity of their ailment upon entering the hospital, and the patient will finally be visited by a doctor.

Discover more about healthcare in each province/territories
Despite the fact that many parts of healthcare are uniform throughout the nation, healthcare systems tend to differ by province or territory. The federal government offers a website with links to each regional ministry of health for a breakdown of healthcare programmes and specifics in each province and territory in Canada.

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