Immigrating to Quebec requires hard work, dedication, and organization. Even after you arrive in Quebec, there is still work to do. One important item to check off your list is making sure you have the proper Quebec healthcare coverage. This guide tells you everything you need to know about Quebec health insurance (RAMQ) for newcomers.
Canada offers publicly-funded healthcare that covers most medically necessary procedures and care. Each province manages its own healthcare, and in Quebec, the organization that administers healthcare for its residents is called the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). RAMQ administers the Quebec Health Insurance Plan, although in Quebec this is most often called assurance maladie or simply called RAMQ.
Settling into your new home in Canada doesn’t need to be stressful. Knowing that Québec’s public healthcare will be there when you need it is one of the many reasons why individuals and families choose to settle in this country. However, while you’re still establishing residency in the province, there will likely be a few weeks or even a few months where you cannot access RAMQ. During this time, we always recommend that newcomers purchase private health insurance.
Having private health insurance offers peace of mind, ensuring that you can access all necessary healthcare without being charged out-of-pocket.
Not sure where to start? Our trusted partner Cigna offers free quotes that are ready within minutes.
Quebec Health Insurance for newcomers
The Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) oversees the provincial health insurance plan (QHIP) as well as the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan, which is available to individuals who do not have prescription drug coverage through their employer or another private insurer. In Quebec, unlike some other provinces, it is mandatory to have prescription drug insurance coverage, so if you do not have coverage through your employer or a private insurer, you have to join the Quebec Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan.
Since there are two different types of health insurance available to newcomers in Québec, let’s talk about each separately.
The Quebec Health Insurance Plan (QHIP)
In Quebec, RAMQ’s provincial health insurance plan, QHIP or assurance maladie, covers the majority of medically necessary services and care, including some dental and optometric services. These services, which include everything from examinations and consultations to surgery and anesthesia, are covered regardless of whether they occur at a doctor’s office, hospital, local community service centre (CLSC), or the patient’s home.
Additionally, there are some types of services that are typically elective but may be covered by RAMQ’s assurance maladie if a doctor determines they are medically necessary. These services include procedures like scar correction, lipectomies, and electrolysis.
There may also be situations or times where a medically necessary service is covered but is unavailable within the province. In this case, a doctor may apply to RAMQ for an exemption so that the full cost of the out-of-province procedure can be covered by Quebec health insurance.
The Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan
In Quebec, it is mandatory for all eligible residents to hold some form of prescription drug coverage. This insurance can either be public or private.
The public option (the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan) is offered by RAMQ and is available to every individual who is not eligible for coverage through a private insurer. Rates for the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan range from $0 to $710 annually (as of 2021). If you have access to a prescription drug insurance plan through your employer or through a family member or spouse’s employer, you must select that option (you cannot opt for the public RAMQ option).
Newcomer eligibility for Quebec health insurance
To be eligible for Quebec health insurance through RAMQ, newcomers to Quebec must be legally authorized to enter and stay in Canada and must intend to establish their primary residence in Quebec. They must also be present in Quebec for at least 183 days within their first 12 months of eligibility.
In addition to proving their legal eligibility, most newcomers to Quebec must also go through a waiting period that ends on the 1st day of the 3rd month following the date of their arrival in Quebec.
The only exception is if you are a native of one of the following countries:
These countries have signed social security agreements with Quebec, allowing their citizens to immediately benefit from social services such as Quebec health insurance from RAMQ.
Applying for a Quebec Health Card (RAMQ Card) as a newcomer
Applying for a Quebec health card (also called a RAMQ card) is the first step in accessing healthcare. To start, newcomers must either call or visit their local RAMQ reception desk to obtain an application form. It’s recommended that new immigrants do this within their first 15 days in Quebec, to ensure that their application can be processed without delay. The application form is not available online.
After filling out the application form and attaching the necessary documents, newcomers will receive a letter in the mail indicating whether their application was successful, as well as the date that their coverage will begin. Successful applicants should receive a Quebec health card (RAMQ card) within 14 days of that date.
Navigating your first few months in Quebec
Arriving in Canada as a newcomer is a life-changing experience. There’s so much going on, and the last thing you want to worry about is what you’ll do if you get injured or ill during your first days in a new country.
That’s why we recommend that newcomers purchase private health insurance before they enter Quebec that will cover them from the moment they arrive. This protection ensures that you don’t need to worry about out-of-pocket medical costs while you wait for your Quebec health insurance plan through RAMQ.
Moving2Canada’s trusted partner Cigna allows newcomers to apply and get approved in minutes, then pick a plan that’s right for their needs. Click here to get your free quote today.