Healthcare in Canada – Essential Information on the Canadian Healthcare System

Healthcare in Canada is a vital subject for anyone moving to or residing in Canada. The Federal Government does provide some funding from the taxpayer for the health system, however, each Province is individually responsible for its own Healthcare system.

There is a basic free system (Alberta, BC and Ontario charge the residents a healthcare tax or premium to pay for this!) that every legal resident and citizen of Canada is entitled to which includes access to a family doctor and most hospital treatment (definitely emergency care). This is governed by the Canada Health Act (1984) which lays down the basic entitlements of free coverage. Prescription drugs and supplies are provided in the hospitals in most cases as long as you remain an in patient.

The costs start to mount up for prescription drugs and medical supplies when you are not in hospital. Drugs are bought from the pharmacy at the standard cost which for specialist drugs can run into hundreds of dollars for one course of treatment. Other medical services will probably not be covered such as Physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and massage therapy. Custom made medical supplies such as knee braces or orthotics can cost over a thousand dollars to purchase in some instances.

The amount of coverage and standard of Healthcare in Canada is described in detail on the main Government site but does vary between Provinces however. The federal taxes are used for some level of coverage by being distributed between the Provinces – the residents of each Province may then have to pay additional levies.

Each Province also has its own regulations for the practitioner’s qualifications and even nurses will have to recertify if they move between Provinces. This does cause confusion to new migrants to Canada as most foreign qualifications just may not be enough and will most likely result in some level of retraining. Dental treatment is normally NOT included in the healthcare system and you will have to pay for treatment. Dentists are private practitioners so don’t expect cheap prices – definitely ensure you have dental coverage if possible.

Many Canadian employers offer fairly comprehensive benefits packages that include coverage for Prescription drugs, Dental and other services such as physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment though this is most often only up to 80% of the cost. As each Province has different rules for qualifying times to gain access for the free service ensure you thoroughly research your Province of choice via the links above. You would normally pay for the drugs/services and then claim back the allowance so keep your receipts.

If your employment doesn’t come with coverage or you wish to improve it you will need to take out a private policy – there are many available so ensure you research each one and find one that is suitable to your budget and needs.

If you require short term coverage for when you first arrive in Canada, make sure you have a proper policy (travel insurance may not be sufficient) and CHECK you are covered.

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