Health and Medical Care

Canada’s healthcare system is of a high quality with highly experienced medical staff with the option of having your own private healthcare insurance as well public health insurance for permanent residents and citizens of the country.
Expats who are permanent residents of Canada and all citizens are able to apply for public health insurance where they are able to get low cost medical access to doctors and health practitioners or even free medical care.

Each region in Canada will have its own health services and health insurance card which residents will need to obtain. If you have moved to the country to work, you will notice that many Canadian employers offer additional healthcare coverage to employees and families i.e. physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and prescription drugs. These costs are covered by the employer but the costs which are not covered; the employee will be required to pay a few hundred extra per year. Expats will also be considered for the public health care insurance if their visa is for more than six months, but there might be a waiting period of three months before you are included in this health care.

The inconvenience of the healthcare system that Canadians experience is usually the waiting times which can be very long, where people are waiting up to four weeks just for a consultation and then at least six months or more for surgery.
The public healthcare system is provided by Medicare who is funded by the government for all medical services i.e. Doctors, Nurses and hospitals mostly which are privately run. Temporary residents will not meet the requirements for the same benefits.
In some cases the rules of Canada may require expats to go through a medical examination before entering the country. This will be done by Canadian authorities or in a Canadian embassy. This is typically done if you are a long term immigrant in Canada.


Medicare is an insurance system which is very well known and where people are able to get public and private healthcare when in the country. However, in Canada expats will discover most medical practices and hospitals are only private.
A health insurance card will be required if you are being treated by Medicare and foreign nationals are able to apply for this when they have a permanent resident status in the country. To get a Medicare insurance card, it can take up to three months, so again it is highly recommended that private insurance coverage is taken out.
Below is a list of some of services that are covered and not covered by the health insurance Medicare. Please note this can vary in each region

What is covered by Medicare What is not covered by Medicare
Visits to family doctor or specialist Dental services
Medical procedures which are necessary Ambulance services
Drugs given by the hospital Optician care / Glasses
Hospital stay Prescribed outpatient drug
Physician Services
X-Rays, Most Immunisations and Lab Test

Non-insured services are services which are also not covered by Medicare or the government. Some of these include but are not limited to:

  • Circumcision of newborns
  • Cosmetic procedures – i.e. removals of skin tags, moles etc
  • Medical examinations as part of an annual check up
  • Immunisations
  • Examinations and diagnostics or other services at the request of third party purposes such as employment, travel or immigration

Private Healthcare

If you are temporarily in the country, it is advised that you invest in private health insurance to cover any medical costs where you will receive high quality treatment from well trained professionals. Furthermore residents in the country will also have private healthcare for the services that are not covered by the public health insurance.
Private healthcare insurance can help pay for a broader cover including hospital rooms, glasses, dental care and more, but the insurance policies do vary so please check this with where you are living or your local GP. The most popular private insurance services are: ETFS, TIC and Blue Cross.

Insurance for private health care is from $50 to $70 a month for individual coverage and can go up to $200 per month to cover two dependents. However, premium cover does tend to be more expensive.
Applying for a health insurance card

When expatriates are moving to the country, it is highly recommended that a medical card is applied for straight away.
To apply for a health insurance card, an application form will need to be filled. These can be obtained from a local pharmacy, doctors surgery or even online. Expats will be required to show proof of identification – i.e. a birth certificate or passport as well as the documents confirming permanent residency. Expats will then be eligible to receive Medicare treatment. As well as this, in some territories each family member will receive a unique personal identification number with a health card.
Do note that there is a standard three month waiting period to receive a health insurance card.

Emergency Medical Services

In the case of an emergency an ambulance can be called for by dialling 911. A highly trained paramedic will provide an excellent service at the scene of an emergency.

Pharmacies and Medicines

In Canada pharmacies are located in all cities and can be easily located. Pharmacies are located in drug stores, large department stores and grocery stores as well hospitals and medical clinics.
Most prescription medicines are provided at many pharmacies but they can be expensive, so receipts should be kept so that costs can be claimed from Medicare or your private health care insurance company.