Moving to Canada? Everything you need to know about Canada’s health care system | CIC News (2024)

Moving to Canada? Everything you need to know about Canada’s health care system | CIC News (1)

Canada is an exciting country known for its multicultural society, breath-taking landscapes, and publicly-funded health care.

That said, moving to Canada can come with its fair share of challenges, such as navigating the country’s health care system, which can be daunting for many newcomers. To help you get to grips with how the system works, including how to apply for a health card and access urgent care, here’s the essential information you need:

Unpacking Canada’s free health care system

As a permanent resident or landed immigrant, you can apply to access publicly-funded Medicare health services. Through Medicare, basic medical services like doctor visits, hospital stays, and diagnostic tests are provided for free or at a fraction of the cost. However, because these services are primarily funded and delivered by each provincial government, the specifics of coverage and delivery may vary slightly from province to province. Therefore, you should check with the province of your intended residence, work, or study to determine available services.

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In general, Medicare doesn’t cover services and items like dental care, vision care, and prescription drugs, and without suitable private health insurance, you may have to pay for them out of your pocket. So, stay informed about what’s covered and what isn’t, and consider your options carefully.

Transitioning to Canada: Applying for a health card

To access Medicare services in Canada, you’ll first need to apply for a Canadian health card. Applying for a health card, or provincial health card as it’s also known, is usually free. The application process differs depending on the province, but all require supporting documents, including proof of residency and immigration status and a government-issued ID. It’s worth keeping in mind that some provinces may have a waiting period of up to three months before you can receive care.

Once your application is verified, you can use your card to access medical care covered by the government. You’ll need to present your card whenever you visit a doctor or hospital to confirm your eligibility.

Finding a family doctor for you and your loved ones

Family doctors, or General Practitioners (GPs), provide essential primary health care services and serve as valuable guides through the Canadian health care system. They can help you understand your options for care, make informed decisions, and provide referrals to specialists when necessary. You can find a family doctor by registering with the provincial health care system, asking for recommendations from friends or colleagues, or using online resources such as the Canadian Association’s Doctor Finder tool.

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Urgent care in Canada: How to get help when you need it

Canada offers free emergency medical treatment regardless of immigration status, and you don’t need a health card. However, going to the nearest hospital in case of an emergency is recommended, as some walk-in clinics may charge fees if you’re not a resident of that province or territory. If you can’t get to a hospital, dialing 911 will connect you with police, ambulance, and fire services, no matter where you are in the country. The cost of ambulance services in Canada is usually partially covered by each province, with patients responsible for a lower co-pay amount.

What makes a private health insurance plan a smart move

Private health insurance, held by about two-thirds of Canadians, can offer a wider range of services and benefits, shorter wait times, and a broader network of health care providers. Furthermore, it’s important to note that some provinces in Canada may only provide health coverage to their residents. This means you may not be covered if you require medical attention or have an accident outside your home region.

Although private health plans are often acquired as an employment benefit, it’s wise to be aware of their potential limitations and explore alternative coverage options.

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Why choose an international plan from Cigna Healthcare?

An international health plan from Cigna Healthcare provides fast access to quality care whenever and wherever you need it – from 24/7 phone and online GP appointments and mental well-being support to hospital treatment, including cancer care. And because Cigna Healthcare understands that everyone’s needs are different, they offer a range of add-ons covering outpatient treatment, dental and vision care, and prescriptions to tailor your health plan so it’s right for you.

Whether you’re moving to Canada to work or live, a Cigna Healthcare plan ensures you have everything you need to stay healthy and happy – without worrying about unpredictable medical expenses.

Start building your plan today, Get a Free Quote!

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Moving to Canada? Everything you need to know about Canada’s health care system | CIC News (2024)


What are some of the current issues in the Canadian health care system? ›

Wait times at emergency rooms often stretch into days rather than hours, surgeries and other necessary procedures are being delayed, and finding a family doctor just keeps getting more difficult. Doctors and nurses, many of whom are suffering from pandemic-related burnout and some low-grade PTSD, are retiring early.

Can an American move to Canada and get free healthcare? ›

Foreigners will receive emergency care, but non-urgent medical treatment won't be covered. To make sure you won't have to pay for all of your medical expenses, you should sign up for an international health insurance plan.

What are the good things about Canada's healthcare system? ›

Because of the Canada Health Act, one of the more notable advantages of the system is that it ensures equal healthcare access through social assistance. Canadians can benefit from health services and comprehensive care, including preventive measures, medical treatments, and prescription drugs.

What is the biggest problem in healthcare in Canada? ›

CharacteristicPercentage of respondents
Not enough staff63%
Access to treatment/long waiting times47%
Ageing population29%
8 more rows
Sep 28, 2023

What is the biggest health concern in Canada? ›

Major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) and diabetes are the cause of 65% of all deaths in Canada each year and are the leading causes of death globally.

Is it worth moving from USA to Canada? ›

According to the Global Peace Index, Canada is considered the sixth safest country in the world. Canada has a crime rate that is about one-third that of the United States, which ranked 122 in safe countries.

Is it hard to move to Canada as a US citizen? ›

You have to apply for landed immigrant status. It's not easy. Yes, an American citizen can move to Canada permanently, but the process is generally complex. The most common pathways include family sponsorship, employment, or express entry for skilled workers.

Why Canadian healthcare is better than US? ›

Costs are lower, more services are provided, financial barriers do not exist, and health status as measured by mortality rates is superior. Canadians and Germans have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than do U.S. residents.

What is not a benefit of living in Canada? ›

Cost of Living: Canada has a high cost of living, particularly in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Housing, transportation, and food costs can be expensive. Weather: Canada has long and harsh winters, with snow and ice covering much of the country for several months each year.

Can you use Medicare in Canada? ›

In most situations, Medicare won't pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Can I get Medicare if I move to Canada? ›

Remember, you can have Medicare while you live abroad, but it will usually not cover the care you receive. Most people qualify for premium-free Part A, meaning you will pay nothing for coverage. If you must pay a premium for Part A, be aware of the high monthly cost for maintaining Part A coverage.

Is healthcare better in USA or Canada? ›

Canada fares better than the United States with regard to coverage, cost, and health outcomes. While overall access is better in Canada, patients are sometimes required to endure longer wait times than in the United States.

How is healthcare in Canada different from us? ›

In discussions of health care reform, the Canadian system is often held up as a possible model for the U.S. The two countries' health care systems are very different-Canada has a single-payer, mostly publicly-funded system, while the U.S. has a multi-payer, heavily private system-but the countries appear to be ...

Is Canada health care free? ›

The health system is funded mainly by provincial or territorial general tax revenue with some federal transfers and is free at the point of delivery for citizens. There is no cost-sharing for inpatient or outpatient care and prescription drug prices vary but are still inexpensive.

Why is health care an issue in Canada? ›

The reason for the primary care crisis is connected to the supply of physicians and other health professionals per capita, the hours worked, and patients cared for. On average, there are 140 Primary Care Providers (PCPs) per 100,000 Canadians, approximately half of whom are registered nurses or nurse practitioners.

Why is Canada having a healthcare crisis? ›

Emergency departments across the country are overwhelmed with patients waiting many hours to receive care due to a mix of factors including staffing shortages, overcrowding and a surge of viruses at this time of year.

Why is there a healthcare shortage in Canada? ›

The reasons for physician shortages are multifold, including a history of training fewer Canadian physicians than the population requires, high hurdles for international medical graduates (IMGs) to access training, credentialling and licensure, and a lack of mobility of physicians across Canada.

What is one criticism of Canada's national health care system? ›

Yet major challenges such as access to non-medicare services, wait times for specialist and elective surgical care, and fragmented and poorly coordinated care will continue to preoccupy governments in pursuit of improved health system performance.

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