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Healthcare in Canada is publicly funded, meaning the cost of health and medical expenses is shared by taxpayers. This single-payer system means that eligible users typically do not have to pay for most healthcare and hospital services in Canada.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as some foreign workers on work permits and some international students, may apply for public health insurance from their province or territory.

In some provinces, new permanent residents will have access to provincial health insurance coverage as soon as they arrive. In others, there is a waiting period of up to three months.

Private health insurance can cover your needs during this period. Visit BestQuote, or get a free quote here from Cigna, to see which policies may be available to you. Temporary residents, including workers and students, can review their options for travel insurance in Canada here (in some cases, it may be mandatory to take out an insurance policy before arriving in Canada).

Newcomers to Canada who are eligible for public coverage in their province of residence may also wish to purchase private health insurance for services not covered by provincial coverage for healthcare in Canada. Insurance can cover prescriptions, dental and optical services, and other forms of paramedical care (such as physical therapy or mental health services). Many (though not all) employers will also provide this kind of coverage as a term of your employment, though coverage may only be available if or when you complete a probationary period of employment.

Related: Canadian travel insurance guide for newcomers travelling outside Canada.

Do you use prescription drugs and are wondering how to get them in Canada? Check out our guide on prescriptions for newcomers.

Healthcare in Canada outside your province of residence

Medical coverage in any Canadian province will give you access to basic health services in any other province across Canada.

For example, if you are covered by the province of Ontario and need to access emergency medical services when physically present in Manitoba, you may obtain those services.

However, it is important to keep in mind that this comes with some restrictions, and you may incur costs for some services, such as ambulance transportation, some emergency dental services, and the purchase of prescription drugs, if you receive them outside your province of residence. Knowing this is crucial to understanding healthcare in Canada.


Health insurance for Canada provided in Alberta is known as the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP).

New permanent residents might be eligible for coverage on the date of their arrival in Alberta, so long as all validation requirements are met.

You will need to register for coverage. You can do this by submitting AHCIP registration forms and providing proof of residency in Alberta, government-issued ID, and proof that you are legally entitled to be in Canada. Suitable documentation includes a utility bill or pay stub, a passport or driver’s license, and a permanent resident card or port of entry immigration document.

Coverage provided by AHCIP includes medically-required physician services, psychiatrist visits, medically required diagnostic services, and certain dental surgeries. Some additional coverage is available for people under 19 and over 65.

Learn more about healthcare in Alberta.

British Columbia

Health insurance in British Columbia is known as the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

If eligible, you should apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in British Columbia, as you may have to wait up to three months after your arrival date for MSP to start covering your health care costs.

MSP coverage provides healthcare in Canada and includes services provided in British Columbia by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, necessary eye exams, x-rays, and some orthodontic services.

Residents used to pay a monthly premium for MSP, but this fee was eliminated in 2020.Learn more about healthcare in British Columbia.


Permanent residents in Manitoba are eligible for Manitoba healthcare coverage, known as Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living, as soon as their permanent residence status is granted.

In order to receive your health card and be eligible for coverage, you will need to present a photocopy of your passport, along with all immigration documents provided to you, and a completed Manitoba Health Registration Form.

Healthcare in Manitoba provides coverage for physicians’ services, surgeries, and x-ray and laboratory services when ordered by a physician.

Learn more about healthcare in Manitoba.

New Brunswick

Medical care in New Brunswick is provided by New Brunswick Medicare.

Applications for coverage should be submitted to Medicare directly. This application will need to include an “Application for Registration – Medicare” form and copies of all Canadian immigration identification records, as well as an entry stamp on your passport. Once eligibility has been confirmed, you will receive a letter indicating your coverage start date.

Learn more about healthcare in New Brunswick.

Newfoundand and Labrador

Health coverage in Newfoundland and Labrador is provided by the Medical Care Plan (MCP).

To apply for coverage under the MCP, permanent residents will need to complete the Application for Newfoundland and Labrador Health Care Coverage form, as well as some other forms. They will also need to submit their Permanent Residence card or record.

Certain foreign workers and international students may also be eligible for coverage under the MCP.

Learn more about health care coverage in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Northwest Territories

The NWT Health Care Plan is the health insurer for residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT). These forms can be submitted online or mailed.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia residents receive health coverage through the Medical Services Insurance Program, or MSI.

MSI provides first-day coverage to permanent residents moving to Nova Scotia. Those holding a valid work permit are also eligible for coverage, which will begin on the date of arrival in Nova Scotia or the date the work permit was issued (whichever is later).

To register for a Health Card in Nova Scotia, you must call the MSI Registration and Enquiry Department.

Learn more about health care in Nova Scotia.


The Nunavut Health Care Plan provides for residents of Nunavut. You must be a permanent resident of Nunavut in order to apply.

Learn more about health care in Nunavut.


The Ontario Health Insurance Plan, or OHIP, is Ontario’s provincial health care plan. It can take up to three months after you’ve been approved for coverage before OHIP will cover the costs of your health care in Ontario. OHIP pays for doctor visits, hospital stays, abortions, podiatry, ambulance services, eligible dental surgery, and other services. If you live in northern Ontario, OHIP can also cover the cost of travel for health services. You can apply for OHIP at any Service Ontario office. You will need to provide:

  • a completed Registration for Ontario Health Coverage (0265-82) form; and
  • three separate, original identification documents:
    • proof of your Canadian citizenship or OHIP-eligible immigration status (e.g. Canadian birth certificate, Permanent Resident Card),
    • proof that you live in Ontario (e.g. Ontario driver’s licence, income tax assessment), and
    • a document that supports your identity (e.g. a credit card, or a passport from any country).

Learn more about navigating the health care system in Ontario.

Prince Edward Island

Health coverage in Prince Edward Island (PEI) is provided to those holding a valid PEI Health Card. Health coverage is provided to citizens and permanent residents three months after you establish residency in PEI.

Permanent residents applying for a PEI Health Card will need to complete an online form and attach a copy of their Confirmation of Permanent Residence document, or both sides of their Permanent Residence card.

Work permit holders and international students may also be eligible for health care coverage in PEI.

Learn more about health care in Prince Edward Island.


Eligible residents of Quebec must register for the Health Insurance Plan, which is managed by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (Health Insurance Board of Quebec), also known as the RAMQ.

New residents arriving in Quebec from outside Canada will have to wait up to three months after their date of registration to become eligible for health care coverage in Quebec.It is recommended that you apply for coverage as soon as possible after arrival in Quebec.

You will need to complete the registration form to apply – this is not available online, so you will need to call the Régie or visit a Régie office to obtain one. If you visit an office in-person, you can complete the form during the same visit so long as you have the necessary proof-of-identity documentation with you.

For permanent residents, this documentation includes originals of your permanent resident card (or other document issued by immigration authorities which proves permanent residency) and, in most cases, your Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). Proof of residence in Quebec can be demonstrated by providing a copy of a residential lease, deed of purchase for a residential property, or attestation from an employer.

Temporary workers, who can provide an immigration document showing their employer’s name and stating they may work in Quebec for at least six months, are also eligible for health care coverage in Quebec.

Learn more about health care in Quebec.


Health insurance in Saskatchewan is provided by the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Permanent residents and eligible temporary residents moving to Saskatchewan may be eligible for health coverage on or before the first day of their third month after arriving in Canada.

Copies of documents proving your legal entitlement to be in Canada, residency in Saskatchewan, and identity must be provided. You can apply for the Saskatchewan Health Card online.

All medically necessary services, including both inpatient and outpatient services, are included with Saskatchewan Health Card coverage. Saskatchewan also provides some supplemental services, including dental services and prescription drugs, to recommended individuals.

Learn more about health care in Saskatchewan.


Yukon Health Care Insurance provides coverage for residents of the Yukon. You must register for coverage in person.

Health care in Canada: More helpful information

Now that you know more about health care in Canada, it’s time to explore some other helpful resources.

Get started by researching the cost of private health insurance coverage. We recommend two companies that provide free quotes to help you understand your options. Visit BestQuote, and get a free quote here from Cigna, to see which policies may be available to you.

How to Choose Health Insurance in Canada

When choosing health insurance in Canada, be sure to check the coverage each provider is offering.

Here are some questions you should ask before choosing health insurance:

  • What it covered? look at exactly what health issues are covered. Some providers may exclude certain health issues from coverage.
  • When it pays a benefit? There may be restrictions on when health insurance pays out.
  • How payments are paid out? Some providers pay monthly, some will give you a lump sum. Others will only pay once you have incurred the expense. Check how payments are paid out to make sure they align with your financial circumstances.
  • Is there a cap on how much they will pay? Some providers may cap the amount they will pay out.

These are all important considerations when choosing Health Insurance in Canada.

Understanding Medical Services for Newcomers

Navigating medical services can be complex for newcomers. Each province operates their medical services differently however in most cases, your first point of contact for medical services should be primary health care services provided by each province. Most provinces also have a telephone health information service staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by knowledgeable, experienced nurses and is free of charge for residents of Canada. When in doubt, call your provinces health information line.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
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