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How Does a Canadian Non-Resident Get Immigrant Health Insurance?

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This page provides information to Canadians about immigrant health insurance.

If you have just moved to Canada, or are thinking about it, you most likely have questions about the national health care system. You might be wondering, “What is a health card?”, “What does it cover?”, and “How can I obtain immigrant health insurance?”

Immigrant Health InsuranceCanada has a national healthcare system that provides residents with a health card that offers coverage for various medical services and procedures. The Federal government dictates the general policy, but each province’s specific terms of coverage slightly differ. For eligibility and coverage information, you should inquire with the health office of the province you wish to reside in, before moving to Canada.

Under the Canada Health Act, persons immigrating to Canada, and wanting to obtain immigrant health insurance coverage, can face waiting periods for up to 90 days, depending on the province of choice.

Applying for a Health Card
Applying for a health card is one of the important things you should do when you set up residence in Canada. Each family member must apply individually; even babies need their own health card. An application form is available at the Ministry of Health office, or at any hospital or pharmacy.

When applying for a health care card, the following documents need to be presented:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Permanent residence form.

Note that a health card is only valid in the province of residence - if you move to another province, your health card is no longer valid. If you change your address, you must advise the Ministry of Health.

Provincial Health Coverage
If you are moving to Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec or New Brunswick, you will have to wait three months before you get full health coverage. Immigrants to these four provinces should consider obtaining private insurance coverage until they become eligible for the provincial insurance plan. In the other provinces, you can receive your health card immediately upon application.

Before settling in Canada, it is best to shop around in order to acquire substantial information on the various immigrant health insurance plans and policies. And if you are planning to buy additional insurance coverage, it is important to search for the type of coverage that best suits you and your family.

Private Immigrant Health Insurance
In some cases, it is wise to purchase private health insurance as a supplement to the Provincial Health Insurance Plan as some medical costs such as special treatments and procedures, ambulance costs, dental and vision care are not always covered by the province’s program. Your physician can answer questions concerning specific medical coverage. Below is a list of services typically covered by the Provincial Health Insurance Plan:

  • Hospital care
  • Immunization shots
  • X-rays
  • Lab tests
  • Certain types of surgery
  • Medical treatments

Prescription Medications
If you have been prescribed a particular drug, you should bring a surplus with you when you move to Canada as you might not be able to find a doctor immediately upon your arrival into your new neighborhood.

An Alternative – Interim Federal Health Program
If you are unable to pay for medical services, and you do not have a private health insurance plan, and you are not yet eligible for the Provincial Health Insurance, you can apply to the Interim Federal Health Program. This program provides refugees with temporary medical coverage.