Access to a publicly-funded universal healthcare system is one of the reasons that attract immigrants to Canada.
Each province in Canada uses a percentage of the taxes collected from people to fund health care.
It makes it possible for people to afford primary health care for little to no cost.
This article provides a healthcare guide for newcomers in Canada, explaining the purpose of provincial health insurance cards, how and where to get one, emergency options and tips for free services.
In Canada, each province has its unique system for managing health care.
In total, Canada has 13 different provincial and territorial health insurance plans, each functioning differently.
For example, suppose you are moving as a permanent resident and plan to live in Ontario or British Columbia.
In that case, you might have to wait up to three months after landing before you are eligible for health care benefits.
Whereas if you choose to settle in Alberta, there is no waiting period, and you are covered from the moment you land.
However, the cost of healthcare in Canada can be higher than in your home country.
So, buying private insurance for the initial few months is advised if you go to a province with a waiting period for provincial health care.
The following is a summary of the crucial healthcare actions you should become familiar with as a newcomer in Canada.
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Request for a provincial health insurance card
You need a health insurance card in Canada to obtain medical services. These cards are given to residents by each province or territory.
To get this card, you must submit an application to the provincial government as a newcomer.
Remember that if you live in a province with a waiting period for public insurance, your eligibility period begins on the day you land in the province rather than the day you apply.
For instance, if you arrived in Toronto on April 1, 2021, but applied for your health insurance card on June 25, 2021, you would qualify for benefits after about five days.
Furthermore, if you apply in July after the three-month waiting period has passed, you will receive coverage immediately.
How to apply for the provincial health insurance card?
Each province’s website lists the physical locations’ addresses and the paperwork needed for your application.
You can easily apply for your health card by walking to the location that is closest to you.
However, each application must be submitted in person. Provinces may have different application requirements, but for the most part, all they ask for is a government-issued ID, proof of residency and paperwork verifying immigration status.
After verification, your health card will be mailed to your residence address. Ensure that you always show this card when you visit a hospital or a doctor.
How much is the healthcare coverage?
The Canadian government offers free emergency medical services even if you don’t have a government health card. However, it is dependent on your immigration status.
Nevertheless, you should get to the closest hospital if you experience a medical emergency. A walk-in clinic may charge you if you do not live in that province or territory.
Usually, only the most basic medical services are covered by provincial insurance.
However, if you don’t have any other private insurance coverage, in that case, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for things like prescription medications, dental procedures, physiotherapy, ambulance services, and prescription glasses because the government may not cover them.
Many employers provide extended health insurance benefits to cover medical situations that provincial insurance does not cover.
Therefore, before accepting the offer letter, it is a good idea to inquire with your company about these perks and be knowledgeable about your benefits.
How to find a family doctor?
Most Canadians use their family doctor as their primary contact for medical assistance or guidance.
A family doctor gives you and your family routine medical care and can also refer you to a specialist if necessary.
To find a family doctor, you could contact your friends, coworkers, family members, or acquaintances or get in touch with government-provided immigration services.
Other alternatives include looking into community health centres and checking your provincial websites.
How to get free healthcare services?
Free medical services are available to all residents in Canada. You can call or visit a free clinic to access this service.
Every province and territory provides free health advice or information by phone.
These phone lines are manned by licensed nurses every day of the week, including holidays.
In addition, you can reach a healthcare provider in provinces and territories by dialling 811.
These health helplines’ goal is to assist people in determining if they can handle a situation on their own or whether they should seek medical counsel from a doctor, not to diagnose illnesses or issue prescriptions.
If the helpline suggests you see a doctor, and if you do not have insurance, you can contact Community health centres (CHC).
While most CHCs take provincial insurance, they also offer assistance to those who need help and are awaiting provincial coverage.
Nevertheless, in case of an emergency, you can go to the emergency room at the nearby hospital or dial 911 if you need immediate medical attention. Calls to 911 are always free.
However, the government advises consulting your doctor about whether you should carry medical information with you at all times on a medical necklace or bracelet.
Especially for serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or medication allergies.