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Citizenship and Immigration Canada


Canada has a public health care system commonly known as Medicare. This means that health insurance covering essential medical services is available to all permanent residents and Canadian citizens.

The federal government sets health-care standards for the whole country while the provincial ministries of health run the health care system. In general, Medicare is paid for through taxes. Two provinces (British Columbia and Alberta) however, charge premiums.

Read about:

How to get medical services

Medical services are available across Canada from hospitals, clinics, doctors and other health-care providers. When you receive medical services you need to show your provincial health card. If you do not have a provincial health card you will need to pay directly for the costs of the services.

Your telephone book lists doctors and other health-care providers under the headings "Physicians and Surgeons".

Applying for a provincial health insurance card

Who is eligible for a health insurance card?

  • All Canadian citizens
  • All permanent residents

In some provinces temporary workers, students and some others in Canada on a temporary basis are also eligible.

Those claiming refugee status who are needy or living in a province with a three-month eligibility waiting period can get emergency or essential health-care services through the Interim Federal Health Program at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

How to apply for a health insurance card

To apply for a health insurance card you will need to apply to the ministry of health in the province or territory where you live. You can get an application form from the provincial ministry of health, or in any doctor’s office, hospital or pharmacy. Apply for your health insurance card as soon as possible after arriving in Canada.

You will need to show your birth certificate, Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292) and passport. You may also show your Permanent Resident Card. You may need to provide other documents showing your name, address and signature.

Please note that everyone in your family needs their own provincial health insurance card. Take their documents with you to the ministry of health office and ask about registering them.

When will your health insurance coverage begin?

In most provinces you will receive coverage as soon as you apply.

Four provinces however, have a waiting period before you are eligible for a health card.

In British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick there is a three-month eligibility waiting period before your coverage begins.

Please note that during the eligibility waiting period, you should buy private health insurance.

Rules for temporary workers, students or other visitors also vary from province to province.

Contact the ministry of health in your province for more information.

Medical services covered by Medicare

Health-care services covered by Medicare include:

  • Examination and treatment by family doctors;
  • Many types of surgery;
  • Most treatments by specialists;
  • Hospital care;
  • X-rays;
  • Many laboratory tests; and
  • Most immunizations.

Medical services not covered by Medicare

Your public health insurance will only pay for essential or medically necessary services.

Health-care services not covered by Medicare, and for which you will have to pay include:

  • Ambulance services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Dental care
  • Glasses and contact lenses

These services are sometimes covered by workplace benefits packages.

Some provinces do pay for non-medical services, such as prescription drugs. In some cases, both you and your province will pay a portion of the total cost.

Visiting or moving to a new province

Your health card is mainly for use in the province where you live. If you are visiting another province, your card can be used in an emergency.

If you are moving permanently to another province, reapply for a new provincial health card as soon as possible. There are waiting periods before your coverage begins in your new province, although the province you left will continue to provide coverage for a limited period of time.

If you are going to reside in a different province for a temporary period of time you should contact the provincial ministry of health office in your home province before you leave.


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