Healthcare in Canada

Expats moving to Canada can rest assured that the country boasts excellent healthcare facilities. Canada is well known for its national health system, which provides access to medical services for citizens 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.
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Citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for Medicare, the single-payer system funded predominantly by taxes. Each territory or province has its own health insurance plan, and while these vary, basic medical services are usually covered. Private health insurance can be used to cover medical services not included in Medicare, like optometry, dentistry, home care and prescription medications.

Hospitals and clinics in Canada are government-funded and regulated, although there are some private clinics that offer specialised treatments. Major cities like Toronto and Vancouver have well-equipped teaching hospitals linked to universities. However, finding an emergency department in rural parts of Canada may warrant 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. Furthermore, many GPs are unwilling to take on new patients, which could make things difficult for expats. For this reason, even those with access to Medicare may opt for private treatment if they are able to afford it.

Despite these issues, locals and expats alike report that the standard of healthcare in Canada is well above average.

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 have 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 must invest in a comprehensive policy, especially as they aren’t able to access Medicare.

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 and can be reimbursed depending on the nature of your health insurance policy.

The emergency number in Canada is 911 for the police, ambulance and fire department services. When the number 112 is dialled on cell phones, it redirects to 911.

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 also well-trained. Private ambulances are also available for non-emergency transport to hospitals.