Unlike the UK, there is no 'national' Canadian healthcare program. Instead, the health care insurance program is operated by each Canadian province, known as Medicare. This covers the cost of basic medical treatment. What is covered by Medicare, what is excluded and when a newcomer can get coverage from varies from province to province.
Typically the following health care services are covered by Medicare:
- Most examinations and treatment by doctors (general practitioners as well as specialists)
- Many types of surgery
- Hospital care
- Many laboratory tests
- Most vaccinations for children ( see Wiki on Immunization )
- Ontario now cover medications for under 25's https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-about-ohip-plus
Usually Medicare does not cover the following health care services:
- Ambulance services
- Prescription drugs administered outside of a hospital setting (i.e., drugs that your doctor prescribes and that you purchase from a pharmacy -- note that this includes insulin for diabetics)
- Dental care
- Glasses and contact lenses
- Non-essential surgical procedures (the exact list varies from province to province, but may include certain types of cosmetic surgery, etc. )
But please remember that these lists vary from province to province, and you need to clarify what Medicare does and does not cover in the province to which you will be moving.
One-way travel insurance
It can, at first, seem difficult to obtain insurance coverage when you travel from the UK in order to take up residence in Canada. The companies that sell travel insurance rarely cover emigrants who are travelling one-way.
However, a number of companies do: the Post Office (for a maximum of 17 days), "Down Under" Emigration Insurance (for the trip over and up to 3 months on arrival) and Insure&Go https://www.duinsure.com/travel_insurance/policies_emigration
Before Medicare starts
Some provinces impose a three-month waiting period before new residents are eligible for Medicare coverage, with others you can get immediate coverage. So you need to check the Medicare plan of the specific province to which you will be moving.
Many newly arrived residents purchase private medical insurance to cover personal accidents / medical emergencies during the three-month waiting period (note that this is not 'mandatory' or 'required by CIC' - it is entirely your decision).
Companies that offer this type of insurance include:
- ETFS Travel & Healthcare Solutions
- Blue Cross
- Sun Life Financial
- Great West Life
- The Co-operators
- TIC Travel Insurance
Note that normal 'holiday' type travel insurance bought in the UK will NOT work. It is only for when you're a resident of the UK and holidaying abroad. So because you're moving permanently, you'd need specific insurance.
Or you can try comparison websites, like Arbetov Insurance.
Long-term supplementary insurance
In many cases, Canadian employers provide group medical and dental insurance programs for their employees. These plans cover the cost of prescription drugs, dental care, and other elements of health care that the provincial health care insurance programs do not cover.
But not all employers provide supplementary medical and dental insurance coverage, and some may stipulate that benefits are only available after a certain amount of time served. However, this waiting period is often waived or negotiable.
If your employer does not have a group medical and dental insurance scheme, consider buying supplementary insurance from one of the companies listed in the previous section.
Insurance for self-employed people
There are a number of medical and dental insurance companies that offer plans tailored to the owners of small businesses and to self-employed people. In many cases the business owner or self-employed person can offset the premiums against their taxable income. Quickcard is one of the companies that offers this kind of insurance.
Registering for provincial health care insurance
Even if your destination province imposes a three month (or similar) waiting time before you're eligible for provincial health care insurance, you should register with the plan soon after arriving. It takes time for the paperwork to go through the system. By registering promptly, you will go some way towards ensuring that everything is in order when your waiting period is over.
Here are the websites of the various provincial and territory health care insurance plans:
New permanent residents moving to Alberta from outside of Canada are eligible for coverage from the date of landing in Alberta (i.e. no wait period). You must of course register to get the coverage.
Alberta - Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan
There also is a Wiki article called Health Care-Alberta.
If you are a new permanent resident in BC, you should apply for MSP as soon as you arrive. Your coverage will start three months after your arrival date in British Columbia. You should get private health care insurance while you wait. Premiums for healthcare were eliminated as of January 2020.
British Columbia - Medical Services Plan of B.C.
You are eligible for coverage on your date of arrival in Manitoba when proof of Permanent Resident Status is provided or on the date Permanent Resident Status is granted.
Manitoba - Manitoba Health
Foreign Nationals or Canadians moving back to New Brunswick from another country are entitled to Medicare coverage from their first day of arrival in the province providing they are deemed to have established a permanent residence within New Brunswick.
New Brunswick - New Brunswick Medicare
Newfoundland & Labrador
Newfoundland - Newfoundland & Labrador - Medical Care Plan
Northwest Territories - NWT Health Care Plan
Nova Scotia has no waiting period.
Nunavut - Nunavut Health Care Plan
Ontario has a 3 month waiting period. You should consider private insurance to cover these first three months (not mandatory, your decision).
You can download and complete the forms for registration in advance. You should then go to any Services Ontario office and produce these and the required documents. Do 'shop around' for Services Ontario offices, some are frantically busy all the time with long wait periods (usually close to cities), others you can be served immediately (more rural locations).
You can do this at any time in the first three months and your cover start date will be from your date of arrival in the province. It helps if your 'proof' (e.g. bank statements etc.) have a good degree of activity showing on them to prove that you have settled.
It takes 2 / 3 weeks for your photo card to come through in the normal post.
The Wiki article called Health Insurance-Ontario reveals that there is some wiggle room in the three-month wait for OHIP eligibility.
Prince Edward Island - PEI Health Card
You become eligible for Quebec health insurance as a new permanent resident from another country, or as the holder of a closed work permit for a Quebec company, after a waiting period of up to three months after the date of your registration. This “waiting period” applies even if you hold Canadian citizenship.
Quebec - Health Insurance Plan
If you are moving to Saskatchewan from outside of Canada, you may be eligible for Saskatchewan health coverage on, or before, the first day of the third month after arriving in Canada, if you are among one of the groups:
- Permanent residents (landed immigrants)
- People discharged from the Canadian Forces
- Non-immigrants who are in Canada in connection with their trade or profession
- International students
- Returning spouses of Canadian Forces members
- Returning Canadian citizens
Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan Health