Health Care and New Canadians

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By Larry Jackson
Communications Director, PrimeLink Canada.

The Canadian health care system is the envy of the world. Legal residents receive top quality medical and health services anywhere in the country with little or no apparent cost. For the most part, medical fees are covered through taxes and administered by the provincial governments. The reality is, if a permanent resident of Canada has a health problem, minor or major, they will be taken care of.

For many immigrants this promise of universal health care is one of the top reasons for choosing Canada as their new home. They get for free, services that would have been out of reach financially in their country of origin.

What many immigrants forget as they make their relocation plans is that access to the national health care system is not necessarily available from the day of their arrival in Canada. Each province administers the plan differently. Many require immigrants to wait at least three months before they are eligible to receive health plan benefits. The list of these provinces includes British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

It is important to apply for your health insurance card as soon as possible after your arrival in Canada. In those provinces where there is an eligibility waiting period, the date on which you can receive benefits is a minimum of three months after you apply, not three months after you arrive in the country.

It is also important to know that you need a health card for each and every member of your family. A family of four needs four cards. A family of six needs six. Without a card there are no benefits at all. In the past many people have tried to take advantage of the system. Now there is a strictly enforced rule in every medical facility in the country. No health services will be offered without a health card issued in the name of the individual being treated.

For those who have to go through the three month eligibility period for benefits, the Canadian government recommends the purchase of temporary, private health insurance coverage. These emergency medical insurance plans are available for as little as two dollars a day per individual. As the name suggests, they provide comprehensive coverage for medical emergencies and non-pre-existing health conditions. Some also provide benefits beyond what the government plans offer. The national system does not cover dental work. The private plans often do. They also can be purchased prior to arrival in Canada.

For more information about the Canadian Health Care System check the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration health care pages on the Internet at

A good reference for private emergency medical insurance is

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