March 16, 2023

We are providing responses to six frequently asked inquiries regarding healthcare in Canada by new permanent residents

As a newly landed Canadian Permanent Resident (PR), healthcare in Canada can be a new experience. It is essential to understand the healthcare system and how to access its services. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions by new Canadian PRs regarding healthcare in Canada.


  • Is Canadian healthcare free?

Healthcare in Canada is publicly funded through taxes paid annually by Canadian citizens and PRs. Most healthcare services are free for all Canadians at the point of use, including emergency services, surgeries, and hospital stays. However, certain medications and treatments, such as prescription drugs, dental, and vision care, require the recipient to pay out-of-pocket.


  • How do I access the healthcare system, and do I need a Health Card? If so, how long does it take to arrive?

All Canadian citizens and PRs need a health card to access healthcare services in Canada. This card verifies that the holder is registered with the healthcare system in their province or territory. The process for obtaining a health card varies by region, and there is no shared process used among provinces and territories. For example, Ontario requires applicants to visit a Service Ontario location in person, while Alberta allows applicants to apply in person or by mail. Health card processing times also vary by province/territory.


  • When am I eligible for public health care?

Eligibility for public health insurance varies by province and territory. A health card provides the holder with access to public health insurance in their province of residence and financial coverage for basic and emergency care services such as hospital stays. Some provinces and territories require public health insurance applicants to wait up to three months for their benefits to begin. Newfoundland and Labrador have no waiting period, while Alberta has a waiting period of three months.


  • Do I need private health insurance, and what are the benefits?

While public healthcare covers most medical services, private health insurance can provide coverage for services not covered by public insurance, such as dental, vision care, and prescription drugs. Additionally, private health insurance can provide coverage for an individual's healthcare needs during the waiting period imposed on public health insurance in Canada.


  • Should I get a family doctor, and how do I find one?

Having a family doctor is beneficial for individuals who need medical care regularly. Family doctors provide continuity of care and allow patients to schedule appointments in advance, avoiding long lines at walk-in clinics and hospitals. Finding a family doctor in Canada can be a challenging task as family doctors decide for themselves whether to accept new patients. A good starting point for finding a family doctor would be recommendations from friends and family or getting help from a settlement services provider. Online searches for family doctors in the local area can also return results of different family doctors close to where someone lives.


  • What documents do I need when visiting a doctor/hospital in an emergency?

When visiting a doctor or hospital in an emergency, there is no need for documentation such as a health card. The hospital or clinic will provide medical care first and then collect the necessary information after the emergency has passed. However, it is crucial to have a health card when visiting a doctor for non-emergency care.


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