Is health care free in Canada?
People legally residing in Canada who meet the minimal requirements (learn more later in this guide) have access to a range of free (fully covered) and low-cost (partially covered) health care services and prescribed drug coverage. The administration and delivery of these health care services are different for each province or territory. In this guide, you will learn some information about the health care coverage in the area of Canada where you are moving to/living in.
When you arrive in the province you plan to live in, you should start the process of signing up for the Provincial Health Plan. As most provinces and territories have minimum requirements that need to be met before you are eligible for provincial health care (e.g.: minimum period spent residing in a province, minimum employment period etc.), and there can be different lengths of waiting periods for your health care coverage to be approved and become active – it is extremely important to have private health insurance during this time. You can find private health insurance plans that you can purchase month by month or for longer.
To note: If you are planning to move to Canada on the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit, you need to have health insurance coverage when you are entering Canada. This health insurance must cover: medical care, hospitalization, and repatriation. The health insurance must cover the entire time you want to stay in Canada on the IEC work permit. If you don’t have sufficient coverage, you may be denied entry into Canada. Also, if your health insurance policy is not valid for the entire two years of your work permit, you may be issued a work permit that expires at the same time as your insurance. Even when you become eligible to start receiving provincial health care coverage – you still need to keep your private health insurance policy active for the duration of your IEC work permit. To learn more about this important requirement see: International Experience Canada: How to apply – Canada.ca
Links with the above information are described in more detail:
- For information on the health systems and services in Canada: Health system and services – Canada.ca
- For information on health cards across Canada: Health cards – Canada.ca
- For information on the ministries of health for each province and territory in Canada: Ministries of health – Canada.ca
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) is the health care plan available in Ontario.
To learn more about the services covered by OHIP, see here.
To qualify for OHIP you must meet the minimum requirements:
- be physically in Ontario for 153 days in any 12‑month period
- be physically in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after you began living in the province
- make Ontario your primary residence You must also meet at least one of the following additional requirements listed here
An example of one of these requirements is: “You are in Ontario on a valid work permit and are working full-time in Ontario, for an Ontario employer, for at least six months” – As an Irish newcomer to Ontario on the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit, this would be a valid work permit.
*Note: At the time of writing (October 2022) Ontario has removed the waiting period for OHIP coverage in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are eligible, you will have immediate health insurance coverage.
To find out how to apply for OHIP and about which documents you will need, see here
You must apply for OHIP in person at a Service Ontario Centre. For information on locations and opening hours, see here.
The Medical Service Plan (MSP) is the health care plan available in British Columbia. To learn more about MSP, see here.
To learn more about the services covered by MSP, see here.
To find out if you qualify for MSP coverage see here.
As an Irish newcomer to British Columbia in order to qualify for MSP, you must be living in British Columbia on a valid work permit that is a minimum of six months long – the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit would be a valid work permit.
If on the International Experience Canada IEC work permit, you must also meet all of the minimum qualifications listed below:
- must be staying in British Columbia for at least six consecutive months,
- be working a minimum of 18 hours per week, and
- must be employed for a minimum of six consecutive months during the valid period of the Working Holiday Permit.
As a newcomer to British Columbia, you should apply for MSP as soon as you arrive. Your coverage may start three months after your arrival date in British Columbia.
To find out how to apply for MSP and which documents you will need, see here.
The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) is the health care plan available in Alberta. To learn more about AHCIP, see here.
To learn more about the services covered by AHCIP, see here.
As an Irish newcomer to Alberta, you must be living in Alberta on a valid work permit that is a minimum of six months long – the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit would be a valid work permit.
To qualify for AHCIP you must also meet all of the minimum qualifications listed below –
- legally entitled to be in and remain in Canada and make your permanent home in Alberta
- committed to being physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days in any 12-month period
- not claiming residency or obtaining benefits under a claim of residency in another province, territory, or country
- any other person deemed by the regulations to be a resident or temporary resident, not including a tourist, transient, or visitor to Alberta To find out how to apply for AHCIP and about which documents you will need, see here.
All other provinces and territories For information on health care coverage in all remaining provinces and territories, see direct links to them here:
|In Manitoba: Learn about the Manitoba Health Card and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Saskatchewan: Learn about the Saskatchewan Health Card and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Prince Edward Island: Learn about PEI Health Card and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Newfoundland and Labrador: Learn about Medical Care Plan coverage and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Quebec: Learn about Health Insurance Coverage and how to sign up if eligible here
|In New Brunswick: Learn about Medicare card and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Northwest Territories: Learn about NWT Health Care Plan and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Nova Scotia: Learn about MSI Health Cards and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Nunavut: Learn about Health Care Card and how to sign up if eligible here
|In Yukon: Learn about Health Care Card and how to sign up if eligible here
If you have any questions or require additional support, please contact the I/CAN Social Care Advisors for free and confidential information: ICAN | Mental Health Resources in Canada (irishcanadianimmigrationcentre.org)