# Wednesday, 04 October 2017
                 
Foreign Workers and Healthcare
In Canada foreign workers can be hired by Canadian employers if there are not enough qualified permanent residents to handle the workload. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in Canada at any one time.

But what happens if a foreign worker gets sick or injured and needs medical care? Are their medical costs covered? The answer depends on how long the worker has been in Canada as well as the province they are working in.

Read on to find out more about foreign workers, healthcare coverage and the role of private medical insurance such as visitor to Canada insurance plans.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Overview

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (or TFWP) determines whether or not a non-Canadian can work in Canada.

Oftentimes an employer must first get an LMO (Labour Market Opinion) that states they tried to get a Canadian citizen for the position before hiring a foreign worker.  Not all positions require this, though, and some sectors are exempt from this requirement (e.g. jobs that are exempt due to trade agreements such as NAFTA).

Most of the time the positions that need to be filled are limited in their duration. In some situations, however, a temporary worker may be able to transition to permanent residence and get Canadian citizenship.

For more information about the TFWP see the federal government web site.

Overview of Provincial Healthcare Programs

Healthcare in Canada is administered at the provincial government level, with each province (and territory) having its own distinctive healthcare program for its residents.

There is one common denominator between all these programs, however. In order to qualify for federal government funding each provincial healthcare plan must adhere to the rules and regulations as set out in the federal Canada Health Act.

This act states that all healthcare programs must "protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers." In addition, it also distinguishes between "medically necessary" services as opposed to elective healthcare services. (Although there is still some leeway at the provincial level concerning what is medically necessary).

For more information see our article entitled "How Does Canadian Healthcare Work?". For provincial healthcare coverage summaries see the links at the bottom of this page in the "Provincial Plans" section.

Foreign Workers and Healthcare Eligibility

A foreign worker in Canada who has a valid Work Permit will be eligible to receive provincial healthcare coverage from the province they are working in.

Eligibility is determined by the length of time they have been working in Canada along with their province of employment.

In most provinces a worker will be eligible for that province’s healthcare program after working in the province anywhere from 6 months to a year. This is a generalization, though. In some cases, healthcare coverage is available as soon as the job commences.

Family members that are listed on the Work Permit should also be able to qualify for healthcare coverage.

See the "Provincial Healthcare Plans and Foreign Worker Eligibility" section at the bottom of this article for more province-specific healthcare details.

Provincial Healthcare Coverage and Private Health Insurance

It is important to know that provincial healthcare plans often differ when it comes to coverage amounts (for example, the amount of coverage for ambulance fees). There are also differences when it comes to defining whether or not a service is medically necessary.

Having said this, the following are services that usually covered by provincial healthcare plans:
  • Hospital stays (all doctor services along with all supplies including any drugs administered within the medical facility).
  • Physician services that are medically required (e.g. visit to the doctor for an ailment).
  • Medically required laboratory and diagnostic services.
  • Some drug coverage if 65 or older (province specific).
  • Some vision care coverage if 65 or older (province specific).
  • Accidental dental costs resulting from a fall.
Costs that are usually not covered by provincial healthcare plans include:
  • Prescription drug costs (although there are usually specialty coverage programs such as those for the elderly and low-income families).
  • Most vision care costs (e.g. glasses, eye exams, etc.).
  • Routine dental care such as fillings, scalings, extractions and major restorative services.
  • Ambulance transportation (unless you are being transported from one medical facility to another).
  • Hearing aids.
Many Canadians fill these gaps in healthcare coverage via private health insurance plans. Private health insurance is either sponsored by your employer (called employee benefits), or it can be purchased on an individual/family basis (called individual health insurance). For more information see Employee Benefits vs Individual Health Insurance Plans.

Role of Visitor to Canada Insurance Plans

Visitor to Canada insurance offers visitors to Canada medical coverage in case of an emergency caused by sickness or accident.

This coverage is for medical emergencies ONLY, and covers things such as hospital stays or visits to a physician’s clinic.

Visitor insurance is very important for many foreign workers since it offers emergency medical protection for those workers who are not receiving provincial healthcare coverage.

A foreign worker can be in Canada yet not be receiving provincial healthcare coverage in the following situations:
  • Arrived and working in Canada, but not here long enough for coverage to start (most provinces have a waiting period)
  • Before renewal of an expired work permit (a very common occurrence)
  • After the work permit expires and before departure back to home
Please note that visitor plans ARE NOT health and dental insurance. Health insurance plans usually have routine dental and vision care coverage, while visitor to Canada insurance plans do not offer this type of routine services coverage.

Typical visitor to Canada insurance plans cover costs such as:
  • Emergency medical services
  • Emergency ambulance transportation
  • Accidental dental
  • Repatriation costs
  • Return of deceased
  • Subsistence allowances

Provincial Healthcare Plans and Foreign Worker Eligibility

The following lists the foreign worker healthcare eligibility requirements of each Canadian province and territory:

Alberta (AHCIP):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 6 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • no waiting period, can apply immediately
  • listed family members also qualify

British Columbia (Health Insurance BC):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 6 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • waiting period of the balance of the month in which residence is established plus two months
  • listed family members also qualify

Manitoba (Manitoba Health):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 12 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • no waiting period, can apply immediately
  • listed family members also qualify
  • eligible for coverage the date the work permit was issued

New Brunswick (Medicare):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 12 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • can apply after a 3-month mandatory waiting period

Newfoundland and Labrador (Medical Care Plan):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 12 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)

Northwest Territories (NWT Health):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 12 months employment in territory
  • maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)

Nova Scotia (MSI):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 1 year employment in province
  • maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • no waiting period, can apply immediately
  • listed family members also qualify

Ontario (OHIP):

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 6 months employment in province
  • must maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)
  • no waiting period, can apply immediately
  • listed family members also qualify

PEI Health:

  • must have a valid work permit for a minimum of 6 months employment in province
  • maintain primary residence in the province (cannot routinely travel back to home country)

Saskatchewan Health:

  • online information regarding foreign workers and healthcare eligibility unavailable, contact the government of Saskatchewan for more

Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan:

  • the employer must pay for temporary health insurance coverage (visitor to Canada insurance) for your first three months of employment
  • after that you will be covered by Yukon Health Care Insurance (no cost to you)

Conclusion

We hope you found this post about Canadian foreign workers, healthcare and visitor to Canada insurance helpful.

If you have any questions please contact us, free of charge. As experienced Canadians insurance brokers it is our mandate to help you get the right insurance coverage!
 

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