Healthcare in Canada

Canada boasts excellent healthcare facilities, and is well known for its national health system, which is accessible to both locals and permanent residents. Those with temporary residence will need to rely on private health insurance but there are many options to suit a range of needs and budgets.
Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.
Citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for Medicare Canada, the single-payer system funded predominantly by taxes. Each territory or province has its own health insurance plan, and while these vary, Canada’s healthcare system usually covers basic medical services. Private health insurance can be used to cover medical services not included in Medicare, such as eye care, dental care and prescription medications.

Most hospitals and clinics in Canada are government-funded and regulated, although there are some private clinics that offer specialised treatments. Major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have well-equipped teaching hospitals linked to universities. However, finding an emergency department in rural parts of Canada may require a long drive. General family clinics can handle minor emergencies and are easily found throughout the country.

While the standard of care at public facilities in Canada is good, waiting times can be a problem and delays are common, even at an emergency department. To see a specialist, patients generally need a referral from a GP.

Expats can access Medicare once they have been granted permanent residency in Canada. Because each province has its own insurance plan, the rules vary depending on where a person is based. Generally, there is a waiting period before a health insurance card can be issued. During this period, expats should ensure they have private health insurance in place.

Health insurance cards signify an individual’s right to access Medicare, and each family member needs to carry their own. As the process of obtaining a health insurance card can be quite bureaucratic and time-consuming, many expats opt to take out private insurance.

Many locals use private health insurance to supplement their Medicare entitlement. Expats without permanent residency are advised to invest in a comprehensive policy, since they aren’t eligible for Medicare. Most employers offer some kind of private insurance policy, whether to cover those unable to access Medicare, or to top up Medicare coverage.

International and local healthcare insurers are available. Depending on the length of stay in Canada and future plans, it may be better to opt for an international health insurance policy. Expats should check which hospitals in the local area are accessible before investing in any health insurance plan.

Expats shouldn’t have any problem finding pharmacies in Canada. They can be found in large grocery stores, department stores and attached to various hospitals and clinics. While over-the-counter medication is easy to obtain from a pharmacy, it is worth noting that some medications that don’t require a prescription in an expat’s home country may need one in Canada. Prescription medication is relatively affordable in Canada but isn’t covered under Medicare. Private insurance plans often cover this expense, but individual plans may vary.

The emergency number in Canada is 911 for the police, ambulance and fire department services.

Each province or territory in Canada is responsible for the emergency medical services under its jurisdiction. In larger cities, response times are much faster than in more rural areas. Ambulances are well equipped in line with local regulations, and paramedics and EMTs are highly trained. Private ambulances are also available for non-emergency transport to hospitals.