Canada offers widespread publicly funded healthcare through its Medicare system – this is partly paid for by Canadian taxpayers with a certain amount being taken from their wages each month (the amount varies depending on the province in which you live).
All legal permanent residents of Canada are eligible to be insured through Medicare. Upon arriving to live in Canada you will need to apply for a healthcare insurance card from your local provincial or territorial government as soon as possible – application forms can be picked up in hospitals, pharmacies or even through some relocation companies. Documents you will need to provide in order to successfully receive a Medicare insurance card include identification such as your birth certificate or passport and your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292) or your Permanent Resident Card. The length of time it will take you to receive your insurance card will vary depending on the province in which you live. Therefore, it may be worth taking out at least short-term private medical insurance when you first arrive in Canada to cover you while you wait – you will need to apply for this private insurance within five days of arriving in the country or run the extremely high risk of a company becoming unwilling to insure you.
The Medicare system is not administered by the federal government. Instead the type of services and health treatment that will be covered for by Medicare will vary depending on the province in which you live. Usually (but not always), most hospital treatments, minor surgeries and visits to GPs will be covered by Medicare. Typically, however, dentistry, use of emergency services, some eye care and most homeopathic services are not covered, while prescription drug costs will vary dramatically depending on where you live. Once an individual has received treatment which is covered by Medicare, it up to the doctor or surgery itself to bill the government for the cost of the treatment. It is also worth noting that the system does not dictate which doctor or service provider (public or private) an individual must use. One major downside to Canada’s Medicare system, however, is that waiting times for non-emergency treatments or consultations can be extremely long. In 2010, 59 per cent of respondents reported waiting four weeks or more to see a specialist and 25 per cent four months or more for elective surgery.
It is also essential to realise that the medical care your province or territory offers might not be covered in other provinces and territories across Canada. So, when you travel you may require private health insurance.
In addition to Medicare, almost two-thirds of Canadians take out some form of private health insurance, largely to cover against the fairly high cost of prescription drugs but also to guard against any services that may not be covered under your province or territory’s health insurance plan. Having private insurance should also lead to faster waiting times for treatments. There are numerous private health insurance companies in Canada, with many being tied to a particular province/territory.