All Canadian Citizens and permanent residents are eligible for health insurance in Canada.

Canada’s health insurance system is set up to respond to people’s need for health care rather than their ability to pay for it.  Often referred to as Medicare, the system is designed to make sure that all residents of Canada have reasonable access to health care from doctors and hospitals.

Instead of having a single national plan, Canada’s health care program is made up of provincial and territorial health insurance plans, all of which share certain common features and standards.  Canada’s public health care system is funded through taxes and administered by the provinces and territories.  It is a publicly-funded system which is mostly free at the point of use.

Public health insurance

All Canadians and permanent residents may apply for health insurance.  When you have health insurance you do not have to pay directly for most health-care services.  They are paid for through your taxes.  When you use health-care services, you simply show your health insurance card to the hospital or medical clinic. A health card is issued by the Provincial Ministry of Health to each individual who enrolls for the program, and everyone within that province receives the same level of care.

Health insurance is different in each province and territory.  The medical care your province or territory offers might not be covered in other provinces or territories.  When you travel, check your coverage; you may require private health insurance.

Apply for public health insurance as soon as possible

You should apply for a health insurance card from your provincial or territorial government as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada.

You can get an application form at a doctor’s office, a hospital, a pharmacy, or an immigrant-serving organization.  You can also get forms online from your province or territory’s ministry responsible for health.

Required documents

When you apply for your health insurance card you will need to show some identification, such as your birth certificate or passport, or your confirmation of Permanent Residence.  You can also show your Permanent Resident Card.

What you will receive

In most provinces and territories, each family member receives their own card with a personal health identification number.  In Manitoba, only adults receive health insurance cards.  The adult card lists each family member’s name and personal identification number.

Your health insurance card shows your name, address, gender, and birth date.  You must carry the card with you, and present it at a hospital or clinic when you, or someone in your family, needs health services.

Waiting for Health Insurance Coverage to Begin

Depending on which province or territory you decide to make you new home, you have to wait for a period of time before you are eligible for public health insurance.  During this time, you should apply for temporary private health insurance coverage.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance is available for services that may not be covered under your province or territory’s health insurance plan.  These might include dental costs, private hospital rooms, the cost of prescription drugs, dental care, ambulance services, and prescription eyeglasses.  Some employers offer you the option to pay for extra health insurance from your pay cheque.

On average, households spent $2,250 on out-of-pocket health care expenses in 2014.  These include insurance premiums and health care expense not reimbursed by a public or private health care plan.

Depending on the type of visa you have on arrival in Canada, you may or may not be entitled to a health card.