Healthcare in Canada for newcomers and workers

Healthcare in Canada is excellent as most people already know and the system is aimed at improving the overall health conditions of all those who refer to Canada as their home.

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For this singular reason, both Canadian citizens and permanent residents can access public healthcare at all times and the best part is for free.

Factually speaking, even eligible foreign workers with a work permit that is valid and foreign students can also access the free public health insurance in Canada. 

In this article, we are going to be outlining everything you need to know about the healthcare system in Canada as a newcomer.

How the Canadian health care system works

Canada as a country has a health care system that is publicly funded, this means that a certain percentage of the taxes paid by citizens is put aside to fund the healthcare system, thereby removing the burden of paying individually for health services rendered to each individual.

It is important to note that there have been lots of reforms made over the past four decades to accommodate the evolving nature of healthcare services and the Canadian government has shown commitment to continuously do so in response to changes in medicine.

At this very moment, there’s universal health care coverage for all medically essential health care services provided on the basis of need, instead of the capacity to pay.

The Canadian public healthcare coverage differs from one province to another, but, most of the medical care considered essential by the Federal government of Canada is covered at no extra cost to its citizens.

But there are few exceptions like prescription drugs, dental and mental health, and optometry except considered medically essential.

It is very important to state that because every one of the 10 Canadian provinces and three territories funds their statewide health insurance programs, it is solely up to them to choose what services to cover.

The functions of the territorial and provincial governments in health care include the following:

  • They administer their own health insurance plans.
  • They plan and fund healthcare in hospitals and other health related facilities.
  • Regulation of services provided by both doctors and other health professionals.
  • The planning and execution of health promotion and public health initiatives.
  • Finally, the negotiation of fee schedules with health professionals.

Programs that reduce costs

In Canada, lots of programs are aimed at solving several social issues while others are aimed at preventing injuries and educating its citizens about various health issues.

These types of programs are usually funded by the government of Canada and were introduced specifically to help reduce the growing costs of healthcare while also teaching people how to effectively manage their health before minor situations turn into more serious problems.

Such programs are many and for different classes of people, for example, there is one such program for seniors, another for those with disabilities, even one such program is aimed at a special awareness campaign for back injuries, and many others.

The use of these programs is to help everyone in Canada stay healthier simply cause they are well informed about health-related issues.

As the popular saying goes, Knowledge is power, and that power isn’t only limited to old-timers alone, depending on your province of stay, you as a newcomer in Canada can also utilize these programs.

Special care for retired veterans

Although this might not be for you as a newcomer, Canadian veterans are well looked after in Canada, they receive all the care they need as regards healthcare after their retirement to care homes or senior centres.

Being a veteran in Canada means the Canadian government would not only treat the injuries sustained during the service of their country but whatever injuries that need treatment, in other words, they get all the care that they need.

There is more, every veteran who is injured, disabled, and retired is granted lifelong financial support and unlimited care under the Canadian health care system.

This long-term care includes but is not limited to medical care facilities and free comfortable accommodations at nursing homes across Canada. 

Do non-citizens or permanent residents get free healthcare in Canada?

The flipside is, the lauded Canadian “universal” healthcare system isn’t so universal when it comes to non-citizens and non-permanent residents.

Nevertheless, foreign temporary workers and students who possess a valid permit would be eligible for healthcare coverage.

But for either the foreign workers or students to be eligible, they must be employed full-time or enrolled full-time.

Canada has a Health Act that states that all insured individuals are entitled to the insured benefits provided within that province.

“Insured Individuals” in this sense are lawful residents who have stayed in a province for up to three months and would be living there for at least 183 days in a year. This does not include Tourists, visitors, and “transients”.

Individuals who have gotten permanent residence status in Canada may need to wait for a period of 3-months before they can access the free healthcare, note that this is solely dependent on their province of residence.  

Basics of the Canadian health care system

What is covered?

To a great extent, all basic essential care required is covered, this includes primary care physicians, specialists, and all hospital-related services.

What isn’t covered?

Like we mentioned earlier, this varies from province to province but typically most do not cover prescription drugs, dental, or vision.

Also, cosmetic surgeries and some other forms of elective surgery which are not considered essential are not covered.

Pharmaceutical benefits are solely given to aged, disabled, or low-income earners.

How to apply for public health insurance in Canada

We at recommend that you apply for your health insurance card immediately after you step into Canada.

The forms needed to successfully apply for your insurance card can be found at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, hospitals, and immigrant organizations.

The required documentations are your identification and confirmation of permanent resident status.

As earlier stated, some provinces like Ontario, B.C., Quebec, and New Brunswick need a waiting period of three months before the coverage starts.

Canadians don’t directly pay for healthcare services as we have severally stated but pay through government taxes with an exception to British Columbia, where you are supposed to pay a monthly premium.

In the instance of an individual travelling outside of their territory or province, they would need to buy private health insurance so as to have the exact same medical services covered.

As for you as a newcomer, you will also have to buy private health insurance to cover yourself during the waiting period of three months.

Also, there are private supplementary plans that can be purchased to help cover things like dental work, eye care, and other treatments that are not included under the basic care, but only in some provinces.

There are also those employers willing to subsidize extended healthcare plans as part of your employee benefits.

Purchasing private health insurance in Canada

If you wish to buy privately-owned health insurance to cover medical expenses like dental and drug coverage.

Some provincial and territorial governments offer that while also funding supplementary benefits for certain groups like low-income residents and seniors.

That supplementary health insurance covers things like drugs prescribed outside of a hospital, cost of ambulance, hearing, vision, and dental care because they are not covered under the Canada Health Act.

Lots of private health insurance plans are offered as a part of employee benefit packages in numerous companies. It typically covers vision and dental care.

As an alternative, Canadians may choose to buy insurance packages from private insurance providers.

The major reason some people choose to buy private insurance is to supplement their primary health coverage.

For those people who may constantly require services that are not covered under provincial health insurance just like medications, corrective lenses, or home care, private insurance plans offset these medical expenses.

Although private insurance can be beneficial to individuals with certain needs, lots of Canadians rely exclusively on the public health system and do this by choice.

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