Health care in Canada
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.
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.
Health insurance is different in each province and territory. The medical care your province or territory offers might not be covered in other provinces and 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.
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 (IMM 5292). 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 your new home, you may have to wait 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 insurance companies are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book, usually under Insurance. You must buy this private insurance within five days of arriving in your province or territory or insurance companies may not provide coverage for you.
Refugee claimants who cannot afford private health insurance and refugee claimants living in provinces that have a three-month waiting period can receive emergency and essential health services at no cost. The cost for these services is covered by the Interim Federal Health Program.
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.
Do not lose or share your card
You must not share your health insurance card with anyone else. Your card is for your use only and you could lose the benefits it provides by letting other people use it. You could also face criminal charges and be removed from Canada. If you lose the card, you might have to pay a fee to replace it.
Finding more information
Health information is available from provincial and territorial ministries of health.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
Visit the Health Care System website for more information on health insurance coverage and cards in each province and territory.