# Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Immigrant Health Insurance
Canada is a country that encourages and relies upon immigration. Some immigrants are refugees that are fleeing persecution or just looking for a better life, while others immigrate in order to be united with family members that are already Canadian citizens. In fact, without immigration Canada’s population would be in decline.

Canada’s healthcare system is a major draw to potential immigrants. However, what many immigrants do not know is that they are not immediately eligible for healthcare!

Canadian Healthcare System Background

Canada's healthcare system is based on the Canada Health Act, adopted in 1984.

Healthcare is implemented on a provincial basis (in Canada we have provinces, the equivalent of states in the U.S.A.), with each province receiving partial funding from the federal government. In order for the provinces to receive federal funding they must meet all requirements spelled out in the Canada Health Act.

Generally speaking provincial healthcare plans cover:
  • Emergency medical treatment (e.g. emergency room visits).
  • Doctor consultations.
  • Surgery where there is a threat to life.
  • Health services that are medically necessary and administered by a physician.
Important costs not usually covered by provincial healthcare plans are:
  • Prescription drugs
  • Routine dental services (e.g. examinations, fillings, minor extractions, etc.)
  • Ambulance costs
  • Visioncare (eyeglasses, exams, etc.)
  • Paramedical services such as naturopaths, chiropractors and massage therapy
  • Out-of-province medical coverage (may be partial coverage that is province-specific)
For a summary description of provincial healthcare plans please use the Provincial Plan links available at the bottom of this web page.

Waiting Period after Arrival

All provincial healthcare plans have a three (3) month waiting period before an immigrant is eligible to receive healthcare from that province. Alberta is a special case, whereby 1 month of residence is granted upon the first day of the month following the arrival month. For example, if an immigrant arrives in Alberta July 20th then come August 1st they are considered to have been in Canada for a full month.

It is important that immigrants to Canada file for provincial healthcare coverage as soon as they get to the province they will be calling home. When applying for a health insurance card note that identification will be required (e.g. passport or confirmation of permanent residence).

To apply for a health insurance card you can go in person to a provincial government office (unique per province, in Ontario this would be a "Service Ontario" office) or apply online using the provincial government web site (see links below):

Visitor to Canada Insurance

Canadian immigrants are strongly advised to purchase a visitor to Canada insurance plan for their first three months here. Visitor to Canada insurance plans offer coverage for emergency medical, hospital, ambulance and emergency dental expenses.

Note that visitor to Canada insurance is not full health insurance coverage, rather it is similar in nature to travel insurance plans.

Private Health Insurance and Provincial Healthcare

There are many things not covered by provincial healthcare plans such as prescription drugs, routine dental services and visioncare to name a few.

Some Canadians receive private health insurance from their employer (know as employee benefits, or group insurance). Individual health insurance (also called personal, or family, health insurance) is available to Canadians who do not have employee benefits coverage.

If you are considering buying individual health insurance one of the best things you can do is talk with a health insurance broker. You can look around for reputable brokers online, and/or you can call us toll-free at 1-800-474-4474 for a no pressure consultation.

Alternatively you can shop for a personal health insurance plan online. HealthQuotes.ca has a unique quoting engine that offers instant quotes from several major Canadian insurance companies. Quotes are free and unlimited.

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