Canada is an exciting country known for its multicultural society, breathtaking landscapes, and publicly funded healthcare.
That said, moving to Canada can present its fair share of challenges, such as navigating the country’s healthcare system, which can be daunting for many newcomers. To help you familiarize yourself with how the system works, including how to apply for a health card and access urgent care, here is the essential information you need:
Unpacking Canada’s free healthcare system
As a permanent resident or immigrant with land, you can apply for publicly funded Medicare health services. Through Medicare, basic medical services, like doctor visits, hospital stays, and diagnostic tests, are provided for free or at a fraction of the cost. However, because these services are primarily funded and delivered by each provincial government, coverage and delivery details may vary slightly from province to province. Therefore, you should check with the province of your intended residence, work, or study to determine the services available.
In general, Medicare doesn’t cover services and items like dental care, vision care, and prescription drugs, and without adequate private health insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for them. So stay informed about what’s covered and what’s not, and consider your options carefully.
Transition to Canada: Applying for a health card
To access Medicare services in Canada, you will first need to apply for a Canadian health card. The application for the health card, or provincial health card as it is also known, is usually free. The application process differs by province, but all require supporting documents, including proof of residency and immigration status and a government-issued ID. It’s worth keeping in mind that some provinces may have a waiting period of up to three months before you can receive care.
Once your application is verified, you can use your card to access government-covered health care. You will need to present your card each time you visit a doctor or hospital to confirm your eligibility.
Find a family doctor for you and your loved ones
Family physicians, or general practitioners (GPs), provide essential primary health care services and serve as valuable guides through the Canadian health care system. They can help you understand your care options, make informed decisions, and provide referrals to specialists when needed. You can find a family doctor by registering with the provincial health system, asking friends or colleagues for recommendations, or using online resources such as the Canadian Association’s Physician Finder tool.
Urgent care in Canada: how to get help when you need it
Canada offers free emergency medical treatment, regardless of immigration status, and you do not need a health card. However, it is recommended to go to the nearest hospital in an emergency, as some walk-in clinics may charge fees if you are not a resident of that province or territory. If you can’t get to a hospital, dial 911 and it will connect you to police, ambulance and fire services no matter where you are in the country. The cost of ambulance services in Canada is generally partially covered by each province, and patients are responsible for a lower co-payment amount.
What makes a private health insurance plan a smart move
Private health insurance, held by approximately two-thirds of Canadians, can offer a broader range of services and benefits, shorter wait times, and a broader network of health care providers. Also, it’s important to note that some provinces in Canada may only provide health coverage to their residents. This means that you may not be covered if you need medical attention or have an accident outside of your home region.
Although private health plans are often purchased as an employment benefit, it is wise to be aware of their potential limitations and explore alternative coverage options.
Why choose an international plan from Cigna Healthcare?
An international health plan from Cigna Healthcare provides quick access to quality care when and where you need it, from 24/7 phone and online doctor appointments and mental wellness support to treatment hospital, including cancer care. And because Cigna Healthcare understands that everyone’s needs are different, it offers a variety of supplements that cover outpatient treatment, dental and vision care, and prescriptions to tailor your health plan to be right for you. .
Whether you’re moving to Canada to work or live, a Cigna Healthcare plan ensures you’ll have everything you need to stay healthy and happy, without worrying about unpredictable medical expenses.
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