Health Insurance in Canada: What You Need to Know as an Expat

Wondering about healthcare and health insurance in Canada? Depending on your entry status, you may be eligible for coverage under Canada’s publicly funded healthcare system, Medicare.

All Canadians are covered by the country’s Medicare system but there are a variety of private plans out there if you don’t happen to be eligible, or if you’re interested in supplementing your public insurance with a private plan that covers aspects of healthcare not covered by Medicare.

Access to healthcare is an absolute necessity for maintaining good quality of life. Without proper access and good services, people are likely to have poorer overall health and lead unhealthier lives.

An unhealthy populace has negative costs, both monetary and societal, for the communities that make up a nation.

As a developed nation, Canada decided that it needs a robust healthcare system to ensure its citizens lead healthy and productive lives. The country has a respectable worldwide ranking in healthcare but there is always room for improvement.

Here we’ll take a look at Medicare and private insurance so that it’s easy for you to navigate the system, and by the end of the guide you’ll have an idea of what plan works for you.

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Canadians are proud of their healthcare system and its egalitarian ideals. Rich or poor have basically equal access to the free publicly funded healthcare system, Medicare, as long as they are citizens or residents of Canada. 

Let’s take a look at Medicare in detail in this section so you know if you’re covered and what you’re covered for, plus a host of other essential information.


In the 1950s and 1960s, Canadian healthcare was expanded and regulated by the passage of Acts of Parliament that ensured universal coverage for citizens all across the provinces and territories of Canada. 

Canada does not in fact have a single healthcare system, but instead has 13 provincial and territorial health insurance plans that are administered on that level with legally binding guidelines set by the federal government. 

Funding for Medicare is provided for by the federal government, which transfers its general revenues to the provinces and territories.

Instead of a single universal system, Canada has 13 provincial and territorial health insurance plans.


As a newcomer to Canada, you’re probably wondering if you’re eligible for Canadian healthcare. Anyone who is a resident of a province in Canada is considered an insured person. The Canadian Health Act defines a resident as: 

“a person lawfully entitled to be or to remain in Canada who makes his home and is ordinarily present in the province, but does not include a tourist, a transient or a visitor to the province.”

As long as you meet the basic requirement of your place of residence being a province or territory, then you are eligible for that province or territory’s health insurance plan. However, it is important to note that the provinces also have their own rules such as minimum residence requirements and physical presence requirements. 

Minimum residence requirements are limited by the Canadian Health Act to three months and most provinces require residents to be physically present in the province 183 days of the year, and provide evidence of their intent to return.

Medicare Coverage

Across Canada, once you are eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to register with your provincial or territory’s insurance plan that provides coverage for medically necessary services and a host of other procedures. 

Although there are a lot of commonalities across provincial and territorial lines, each plan differs in how services are offered. Some provinces even provide a level of coverage for elective medical procedure.

Typically, what’s covered is services like visits to the family doctor, walk-in clinics, emergency care, urgent care, visits to specialists, hospital stays, prescription drugs while in hospital, diagnostic tests, bloodwork, radiation therapy, cancer support services, and some more.

On top of these generally provided services, each province and territory has a list of covered medical services. Take a look at the following list for a more in-depth look at your province or territory’s insurance coverage:

Services Not Covered by Medicare

Now that we’ve looked at what is covered by Medicare, let’s now focus on services not covered by Medicare. As noted above, if your procedure or doctor’s visit is medically necessary then it’s likely covered, however there are a number of services provided by hospitals and physicians that do not meet that standard.

Provincial and territorial health insurance plans will not insure those services, and so you may either be charged for these services yourself or you may purchase private extended health insurance that provides coverage.

In general, the services you may be charged for include preferred hospital accommodation (unless prescribed), private duty nursing services, provision of telephones and televisions, prescription renewals by telephone, provision of medical certificates required for work, school, insurance, and fitness clubs, testimony in court, and cosmetic services.

You’re also not covered for dental care, vision care, limb prostheses, wheelchairs, prescription medication, podiatry, and chiropractics. Ambulance service is also not generally fully covered and based on your province, you’ll be paying very different rates.

For a more in-depth look at each province and territory, make sure to consult the list we’ve compiled that provides links to pages on what is and isn’t covered:

Provincial Health Plans

With each province providing its own plan, you’ll need to ensure you’re eligible and registered according to their criteria. Let’s break things down province by province in this section.

Ontario OHIP

OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) is Ontario’s health insurance plan and what you’ll be covered under if you’re a resident of Ontario. 

It covers appointments with a family doctor, visits to walk-in clinics and some other health care providers, visits to an emergency room, and medical tests and surgeries. Basically essential health services. For more info, check out the Ontario website on coverage.

To be eligible for OHIP, here are the following requirements you must meet plus one additional requirement:

  • 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 home

Here’s a link to the Ontario OHIP page where you will find a list of the extra requirements of which you’ll need to meet just the one to be eligible for OHIP. 

The page also contains other supplemental information that you should definitely take a look at.

You need to be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days a year in order to be eligible for the OHIP

Alberta AHCIP

AHCIP (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan) is Alberta’s health care plan for its residents.

It covers many medically necessary physician services as well as partially covers some others. Here’s a link to the Alberta provincial government’s list of medically covered services so you can see in greater detail what is and isn’t covered.

There are a number of requirements you need to meet to be eligible for AHCIP:

  • You must be legally entitled to be or to remain in Canada and make your permanent residence in Alberta.
  • You must be committed to being physically present in Albert for at least 183 days in a 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.

Here’s a link to the Alberta health insurance eligibility page if you need more information.

Quebec RAMQ

RAMQ (Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec) is Quebec’s health insurance plan for residents within its borders.

The plan covers medically necessary services as well as accessory costs just like in Ontario and Alberta. Here’s the government website containing a list of covered and not covered services if you’d like to take a closer look.

Here’s who is eligible for health insurance in Canada:

  • Persons born in Quebec
  • Persons from another Canadian province taking up residence in Quebec
  • Persons from another country taking up residence in Quebec
  • Persons from another country staying in Quebec temporarily

For more information, take a look at the Quebec government’s eligibility page.

British Columbia MSP

MSP (Medical Services Plan) is British Columbia’s single payer health insurance plan and though slightly different, it’s made a move to being more in line with its fellow Canadian provinces.

It covers medically necessary services just like the other provinces and here’s the BC government website on what is covered and not covered.

To be eligible, you need to fall under one of four categories and meet the requirements of those categories:

  • Residents
  • Dependents
  • First Nations’ residents
  • Other individuals in BC

Here’s a link to the BC Government’s eligibility requirements.

Now here’s what makes British Columbia different. Once you apply for MSP and are enrolled in the system, you’re required to pay an MSP monthly premium. 

BC is currently the only province that has this system in place but will soon eliminate the system on January 1, 2020. Until then, here’s a link to the provincial government website on monthly premium rates.

Atlantic Provinces

The Atlantic provinces refers to Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

The health insurance in each of these provinces follows the model of the other provinces already mentioned above and here’s links to each of the provincial government’s websites on health care:

Prairie Provinces

Saskatchewan and Manitoba – including Alberta – are known collectively as the Prairies of Canada.

Take a look at Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s health care systems by following these links that provide information from each provincial government’s website.


Canada has three territories, Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories. 

They also provide health care for their residents much like their provincial counterparts. Here’s a few links to get you started.

Obtaining Your Health Card

So if you’re eligible for Canadian Medicare and meet the residency requirements set out by your home province, you can start receiving Medicare health services once you’ve obtained a health card. 

Make sure you apply for a health card as soon as you’re eligible as you don’t want to be stuck paying hefty fees for using health care services without coverage.

To obtain your health card, you’ll need to apply with your province at a relevant provincial services centre. 

For example, in Ontario you need to bring the required documentation over to a Service Ontario centre and your new health card will be mailed to your address. The same applies to all the other provinces. 

The different provinces require slightly different documents but in general they’ll require two or three pieces of identification that confirm your status and that show you live in the province. You’ll also need to bring in a filled out health insurance coverage form.

Here are links to each provincial and territorial government’s page on application for health insurance coverage and health card:

Additional Service

Once you’re obtained your health insurance card and fall under your province or territory’s health insurance plan, there’s a number of services below that you can and should take advantage of. 

These services are covered by Medicare and you simply need to make sure you bring a valid health card with you. 

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, don’t worry, as these services are also available for people with private insurance or out-of-pocket, the latter of which we don’t recommend doing. 

Emergency procedures can end up costing an arm and a leg if you’re not insured so absolutely make sure you have some form of coverage.

Family Doctor

Family doctor or family GPs (General Practitioners) are doctors who provide general care services in Canada. They provide basic care, treat patients when they’re sick, and encourage preventative care. 

When settling into Canada, especially a new area, it’s vitally important you look for a family doctor to tend to you and your family’s health concerns. These doctors will be your primary caregivers and are responsible for check-ups, immunizations, and more.

Once you’ve found one you’re happy with, they are likely to be your family GP for as long as you are satisfied with their care. 

To get you started, here’s a few options and steps you can take to find the right doctor for you.

Specialists and Referrals

If you’re suffering from health concerns like serious heart issues, cancer, etc, your family GP might not be best equipped to handle your situation.

For health issues like this that require more in-depth knowledge, family doctors will then refer you to a specialist to address your concerns. You need that referral to be able to see a specialist doctor.

This brings us to one of the unintentionally defining features of Canadian Medicare which we’ll discuss in the next section. 

Walk-in Clinic

Walk-in clinics dot the Canadian landscape and at some point you may find yourself in need of using their services. 

If you don’t have a family doctor, or do but they’re unavailable, walk-in clinics serve as a good choice for medical care. You normally won’t need an appointment to see the nurse or doctor at the clinic, simply walk in. 

They’re the place to go for assessment and treatment of illnesses and injuries like cuts, bruises, minor infections, etc. Generally non-urgent situations.

Make sure to bring your health card If you have one as the service is free. 

Urgent Care Centre

Urgent Care Centres provide treatment for urgent, but non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries like infections, broken bones, cuts, earaches, etc. through emergency-trained doctors.

They provide diagnosis of injuries, and services and treatments like casts, stitches, X-ray, laboratory work, and eye care.

Bring your health card with you if you have one as this service is free.

Emergency Care

Now if your condition is severe or life-threatening, you should immediately visit the emergency room to have your condition examined by a nurse or doctor.

Otherwise, ERs see patients for a host of different conditions but the order you will be seen in will depend on the severity of your injury.

Emergency unit in Canada is 24/7 thoughout the year

ERs are always staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so you can access their services no matter the time of the day.

You’ll have to wait your turn and based on what’s happening in the ER, it may take a while. Here’s a few resources that track ER wait times:

Again, bring your health card with you if you have one as the service will be free.


If you are in need of an ambulance, simply dial 9-1-1 to access their services.

Be aware though that getting an ambulance is generally not free. Although the provincial government pays for the service, a portion of the costs are borne by patients. 

Ambulance fees vary based on province, with each province pricing patients differently on a number of factors such as whether they are residents of the province, their age, location, etc. 

Here’s a listing of each province’s price structure:

Private Health Insurance

Alongside its extensive public Medicare system, Canada also has private insurance available for its residents. 

As an expat, you may not be eligible for Medicare based on your residency status and may need to shop around the market for private insurance that suits you. 

Even if you are eligible for Medicare, there are many procedures and services not covered and you can purchase extended private health insurance to fill in the gaps. Let’s take an in-depth look at private health insurance in this section.

Why Do You Need It?

Private insurance in Canada comes in a number of different forms and you can pick and choose based on your situation or preference.

Since public insurance in Canada is good, many people wonder why they need to purchase private health insurance. 

Let’s take a look. 

Wait Time

One of the more controversial aspects of Canadian health care is the wait times. It’s a sensitive political issue that divides Canadians, and often attracts Americans to the debate who compare it to their own health care system.

In Canada, as appointments with specialist doctors are only possible by referral through a General Practitioner (GP), patients are required to wait their turn until they are ready to see a specialist.

If you need to see a specialist, first you need to go to your family doctor who will evaluate the severity of your condition and subsequently refer you to the specialist. 

Next, the referral will be received by the specialist doctor and you will be given a date for your first appointment. The specialist will then see you on the appointed date and address your medical concerns.

If your health issue can’t be resolved by that meeting, the specialist may request further tests (blood tests, MRI, X-ray) and further consultation before they decide if a surgery is necessary. Once the specialist decides surgery is required, you’ll be given a date when you can actually have the surgery. 

Finally, you have the surgery.

This entire process takes some time and depends on a number of factors such as the hospital where the specialist operates, the priority level of the patient’s condition, the type of medical condition the specialist is seeing, and more. Every patient’s wait times will be different as all these factors mean their situation is unique.

If you want to know what your wait times will look like, here’s some government resources you can check out broken down by province:

Prescription Drugs

Most Canadians and residents have access to prescription drugs through a combination of public and private plans. The federal government mandates that prescription drugs administered in Canadian hospitals be free for patients. 

Outside of that, the provincial and territorial governments manage their own publicly-funded drug plans. 

These public plans vary in many ways. What is covered, who is covered, what the plans pay, and more. That’s where the private sector comes in.

Many private insurance companies offer coverage for prescription drugs, especially in combination with other health plans. Not only that, employee group benefits often include coverage for prescription drugs as well so make sure to see what your employer covers.

With private insurance plans already offering coverage for prescription drugs, the difference really comes down to what drugs are covered, what annual and lifetime maximums are, type and percentage of reimbursement, deductibles, and how much your premiums are.

You’ll get coverage for drugs prescribed by a physician, dentist, or psychiatrist, drugs that are medically necessary, and drugs have a Drug Identification Number known as DIN. 

You may be able to get coverage for new drugs recently approved for public uses (drugs recently out of clinical trials), smoking cessation aids, contraceptives, fertility drugs, and other such “life style” drugs, brand name drugs if there is an equivalent generic drug, and medical marijuana under employee benefits and under certain circumstances.

What you won’t get coverage for are over-the-counter drugs that aren’t prescribed, drugs administered in a hospital as these are covered by provincial health plans, and prescription drugs that don’t have a DIN.

Annual maximums can vary greatly based on company and health plans. Some companies offer around $400 to $2,000, with more expensive plans offering coverage for drugs up to $100,000 a year.

Worldwide Coverage

If you opt for an international health insurance plan, you are able to get worldwide coverage allowing you to access healthcare services anywhere in the world. 

This is especially useful if you prefer to fly back to your home country for certain types of treatment and recover in a familar environment with your friends and families around. 

GeoBlue Xplorer plan is a really good option in this regard for US Citizens. 

For other nationalities, check out Cigna Global, IMG, and Aetna.

GeoBlue is a good option for US expats in Canada

More Comprehensive Coverage

Medicare covers most basic health needs but there are a number of services not covered. Dental care, optometry, and more services are covered either by private insurance or paid for out-of-pocket and we’ll go into greater detail on these services later in the article.

This health care package is basically supplementing your existing Medicare insurance with private insurance to extend your coverage.

Wating for Medicare

Once you’ve made the move to Canada and are settling down in one of the provinces, you may need to wait a few months before you’re eligible for the province or territory’s health insurance plan. 

During this time it’s recommended you sign up for private insurance until you’re enrolled in Medicare.

Control Your Health Expense Budget

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, you’re going to need to buy private insurance to keep your health costs down – otherwise you’re in danger of paying exorbitant out-of-pocket fees. Make sure you consult our section on private health insurance companies and what they offer to find the right fit for you.

You might also receive private insurance through your employer, who may have deals with private insurance companies to cover their employees.


Now your coverage will depend on what sort of private insurance you’re getting and what the insurance company offers. 

As there is a lot of variety in what most companies provide as coverage, you’ll find that the best way to find specific information is by following the links we have provided to each company’s website.

Typically though, you’ll want to look at what medical services are provided for, reimbursement percentages, deductibles, premiums, exclusions, and annual and lifetime maximums.

Lifetime and yearly maximums in Canadian plans are usually divided up into categories. So your maximums for emergency care, dental, prescription drugs, vision care, medical equipment, orthodontics, and more will be seperate. They will also have different limits based on what your premiums are and how much the insurance company is willing to insure up to.

The average household monthly premiums for private insurance in Canada is around $333. Obviously this fluctuates based on a host of factors and you can find insurance plans with lower premiums.

Whether you’re receiving benefits from your employer in the form of extended insurance, purchasing extended health insurance yourself, or you’re in need of private insurance because you’re not yet eligible for Medicare, take a look at this list of covered services:

  • Critical Illness Coverage
  • Eye Exams
  • Dental Care
  • Disability Income
  • Physiotherapy
  • Prescription Eyewear
  • Prescription Medication
  • Hearing Aids
  • Hospital Stays
  • Medical Equipment
  • Mental Health Support Services
  • Ambulance Services
  • Paramedical Services
  • Speech Therapy Services
  • Travel Insurance
  • Prosthetic Services
  • Life Insurance

In general, what you can expect to have covered by extended insurance from your employer or if you obtain it yourself will most likely cover these health services. 

Again, which of these services do end up being covered will largely depend on the plan you have access to.

Depending on your private insurance plans, you might be covered for vision.


Make sure to take a good look at any exclusions that you’ll find in your insurance policy. Different companies and policies will have different exclusions and these can vary greatly. 

In general, you’ll find certain exclusions tend to be common across companies and insurance plans. For example, services that cover pre-existing conditions will be excluded from coverage. On top of that, coverage for smoking cesstion aids, suicide or attempted suicide, war and terrorism, driving under the influence of alcohols, drugs, and toxic substances, and sports injuries are usually not covered.

There are a whole host of other conditions not covered as well, but they will be specific to your plan so make sure to read the fine print.

Pre-existing Conditions

In Canada, Medicare doesn’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. Everyone who is eligible for their province’s health insurance and who has pre-existing conditions is covered regardless.

This however does not apply to private insurance in Canada. If you have a pre-existing condition, you must let the insurer know when you’re filling out the questionnaire. Not doing so is considered fraud.

Don’t despair however, you can still get private insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition. Either you may pay higher insurance premiums, or receive a plan that covers illnesses and injuries that aren’t related to your pre-existing condition.

Also be aware of what does and doesn’t constitute a pre-existing condition. It’s generally defined as a health or medical condition for which you’ve experienced one of the following prior to your effective date:

  • You experienced symptoms
  • You received medical attention
  • You were hospitalised
  • You were prescribed and/or took medicine
  • You had a medical or surgical procedure.

Conditions like AIDS, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, kidney disease, liver disease, and many more fall under the pre-existing condition label. If you have some recurring or chronic health issues, check out Sunlife’s page on pre-existing conditions for a good partial list of conditions.

There are a number of available options; simply get in touch with a private insurance company of your choosing and discuss the plan for you with one of their agents. 

Private Insurance Companies in Canada

Once you’re sure you need or want private insurance, it’s time to pick the ideal plan for you. 

You have two options for private insurance, local plans and international plans. 

International plans are more suitable for expats in general.

First, you can keep it with you after you move to a new country. This is useful because of pre-exising condition exclusion. 

If you happen to have any serious or chronic disease during the insurance coverage, the insurance will still cover you. 

However, when you buy a new plan, chances are that they will consider it as a pre-existing condition and won’t cover for it. 

The second reason is that international plans come with international coverage. You have an option to fly back to your home country and get treated there. 

Local insurance, on the other hand, is more suitable for those who are planning to live permanently in Canada.

There’s a number of ways to look for insurance in Canada. If you would like to get international insurance, you can use this page here and get quotes from different international plans at once. 

Let’s take a look at the major insurance companies.

International Insurance

Cigna Global is one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. They have 24/7 live support and are partnered with millions of hospitals worldwide. Plans offered by Cigna Global are comprehensive and come with lots of options. You can choose one based on your preference. 

GeoBlue is a very good option for US Citizens who are living in Canada. They have plans that are especially designed for US citizens who are living abroad. They also have the largest network of medical facilities in the US. 

IMG offers budget plans for those who need health insurance mainly for medical emergencies. Their plans tend to have a lower premium than other international insurance providers, but also come with lower coverage limits as well. 

Aetna provides various options for expats who are living abroad, including Canada. 

Local Insurance

Manulife is Canada’s largest and North America’s second largest insurance company and provides a number of different packages for health, life, and travel insurance. They have options for prescription drugs, dental care, vision care, and more, which you can mix and match through their website.

Sunlife is another major Canadian insurance provider that provides health, life, and travel insurance packages. Their website keeps things simple and easy to understand and you can get in touch with an advisor through their website if you need additional help.

GreatWest Life Assurance offers a range of different health and life insurance options that you can add on to. Access their website to find a plan that would suit you.

Blue Cross offers travel and health insurance across Canada. Simply access their website, choose your province, and select from the options they’ve provided.

You can also find insurance options through GMS Health Insurance, ScotiaLife Financial, State Farm, and TD Insurance.

There are more options available if you’re looking to shop around for better quotes or more suitable plans, so definitely check out these rate comparison sites:

Physical Therapy

There are a number of types of physical therapy that are available for residents of Canada. Services such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic therapy, and osteopathic manipulative therapy fall under this category.

These services aren’t covered by the provincial insurance plans so you’ll need to get either private insurance or pay out of pocket to use them. You can also use the group benefits provided by your employer to access these therapy services if they’re covered.

Physical therapy is insured in general up to $250 a year by the major insurance companies.

Sports Medicine

Sports medicine clinics offer a long list of different therapy options for athletes and nonathletes. Some have services like yogatherapy, acupuncture, nutrition, and more available to their patients. 

The different provinces have a patchwork of coverage, partial coverage, conditional coverage, and noncoverage options for these services. 

For example, Ontario will cover physiotherapy if you meet a number of conditions, otherwise you’ll have to use private insurance, group benefits, or pay yourself.

If you have a sports-related injury and are looking to get an evaluation, a sports medicine doctor is the place to go. 

Depending on your province, the service may be covered by your provincial plan, OHIP for example, and/or you may need a referral from your GP. From there, you and your sports medicine doctor can decide on the best option for you in terms of therapy, if any is required or not.


If you’ve settled on a private insurance provider for yourself and/or family, then it’s a fairly straightforward process from there.

You could simply access an insurer’s website and register with them for quotes and plans tailored to you. Since so much is done online these days, insurance companies have made it easy to get a lot of information and start registering without even having to speak with a customer representative. 

However, if you need to speak to a representative to discuss your options, you can easily get in touch with one.

You should also be upfront about your medical history and possible pre-existing conditions when filling out the insurer’s questionnaire. Not doing so is fraud and you can end up in a lot of legal trouble and even be uninsurable.

Travel Insurance

If you’re visiting Canada, chances are you’re going to be needing travel insurance if you’re not adequately covered in some way or other. Out-of-pocket coverage can be very expensive in Canada, especially for medical emergencies, so let’s pick the right travel insurance for your needs.

Travel Insurance maximums are around $1 million to $5 million based on the insurance plan and company. They come with a number of conditions and requirements so make sure to read the fine print on whatever plan you end up purchasing.

Check out our article on how to pick the best travel insurance for Canada to find the insurance that would be perfect for your needs.

Dental Insurance

Dental care in Canada is not included in the Canada Health Act and as such most Canadians get their oral care done through private means. Some employers offer it to their employees through group benefits, or you can search for a private plan that suits you.

Usually when you’re applying for private health insurance in Canada, the plans either already include dental insurance or give you the choice to choose your level of coverage. You could even choose to completely exclude dental insurance or choose only dental coverage based on your needs. 

Depending on what level of dental coverage you opt for, a dental plan by itself can cost from around $50 to around $150 per month approximately. These plans cover exams, fillings, x-rays, oral surgery, and a host of other medical services related to oral care.

Many insurance plans have different maximums for each type of dental service. Accidental dental services are insured to around $2000 dollars. There are also separate maximums for dental services like preventive, restorative, and orthodontics that range from $400 to $1500.

Whether it’s full coverage or a pick-and-choose option, there’s a large number of insurance providers in Canada that provide dental care if you’re looking to get some yourself. Simply consult with one of the private insurance companies or rate comparison sites we’ve provided to see their specific rates.

Dental coverage isn’t included in Medicare. You can only get it with private insurance plans.

Vision Care Insurance

Vision care is just like dental insurance in that it is not covered by Medicare, except in some limited forms and situations by provincial governments. 

To really get access to vision care services like eye exams, elective vision corrective surgery, and more, you need to be insured privately or through group benefits.

Again, only situations considered medically necessary like injury or trauma to the eye or related area, eye disease, risk to the eyes because of diabetes, among a number of other cases would have a chance of being covered, and this would also depend on the province’s coverage. You’ll need to speak to your doctor to find out if an eye procedure you’re getting is covered.

In cases not considered medically necessary, coverage will fall under private insurance plans. Usually vision care is bundled with a private insurance plan with levels of vision care varying according to how much coverage you’d like and are willing to pay for. 

Though you can find a few places offering vision care by itself like Ontario Blue Cross for $21.28 monthly, the normal route is insurance companies like Sunlife or Manulife, for example, offering it as part of their regular coverage plans. They’ll offer tiered plans that adjust the level of vision coverage which correspondingly adjusts the cost of the plan.

Maximums for vision care are around $150 to $250 every 2 years and more depending on plan and company. There’s also maximums for eye exams of around $50 every 2 years. There’s also coverage for eyeglasses and deductibles for breakage and repair.

Certain procedures and services won’t be covered even by private health insurance, not to mention public health insurance. For example, cosmetic vision related procedures or obtaining industrial safety goggles wouldn’t be covered by private insurance.

If you’re not insured and you need access to a service or product that falls under vision care, you’re going to end up paying out-of-pocket. 

Head back to our private insurance companies’ section and take a look at the companies and sites we’ve listed as many of them offer vision care insurance.

Medical Insurance Plans for Visitors and Newcomers

Now if you’re not a permanent resident of Canada, you may not be eligible for Medicare and will have to get covered in some other way. And even as a permanent resident, you have to go through a waiting period before you get coverage. 

We’ll take a look at the different visitors and newcomers to Canada and evaluate the options available to you.

Permanent Resident

If you are a Permanent resident, then you qualify for Medicare as long as you meet your province’s residency requirements. Once you get your health card, you have access to the same health coverage as Canadian citizens. Services and items not covered by Medicare can always be supplemented through private insurance or group benefits.

During that waiting period where you are not yet eligible for your province’s plan, it is highly recommended you get privately insured to be safe.


If you’re coming as a tourist to Canada, you will not be covered by Canada’s free public Medicare. You can still access the many health care services provided by the country but you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket, or preferably have some form of travel insurance to cover any emergencies that might arise.

You can check out World Nomads as they offer affordable travel insurance plans for Canada through their Standard and Explorer Plans. Standard is what you’re more likely to get if you’re planning to stick to the cities, but if you’re planning on venturing out to the wild side of Canada – skiing, hiking, snowboarding and more out in the countryside – then you’ll want their Explorer Plan.

On our page Travel Insurance in Canada, check out our sections “Travel Insurance Companies Based on Activities” and “Provincial Travel Insurance Companies” for information on specific plans and companies that we recommend you get as a tourist to Canada. 

In summation, make sure you have some form of coverage, especially one suited to the activities you intend to pursue while you are in Canada. Paying off large medical bills isn’t what you want to take away from a vacation to idyllic Canada.

Temporary Worker

If you are in Canada on a temporary work permit, then you can be covered by Medicare. You’re eligible for your province’s health insurance plan once you meet certain residency requirements. 

Before that, you’ll need to get some private insurance, until you’re covered by the public system.

If you’re in a low wage position or under the Agricultural Stream, then it is your employer who must provide you with health insurance.

Check back on our sections on Eligibility and Private Insurance Companies for more details.

Many businesses in Canada also offer benefits packages for their employees as a way of attracting and keeping talent. This often comes in the form of health, life, dental, and other forms of extended private insurance. 

Companies provide it for a number of reasons and you should take a close look at the options your employer or prospective employers are offering. 

The plans vary widely in scope, type, setup, and more, so take advantage of these perks if your employer has made them available.

To note as well, make sure you are informed about how much these premiums cost as employers may also require employees to pay a portion of the costs.


Obtaining health insurance is mandatory for international students who are enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities. Things however vary from province to province. Some provinces offer coverage through their public plans to students while others do not. If you are not covered by the province you are studying in, then the institution you are studying at will be expected to have some form of coverage plan in place for you.

If you’re staying in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, or Saskatchewan, then you’re eligible for the provincial plan as long as you meet certain residency and study permit requirements.

Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon do not offer coverage through their provincial plans. Quebec also does not offer coverage except for certain exemptions.

Check out CanadaVisa’s page on student health insurance for some more detailed info.

Now, on to you

Getting health insurance and coverage can be a daunting task, especially when you have to navigate the complex federal, provincial, and private web of plans, eligibility requirements, and more. 

Make sure to get coverage through the public system if you can as it is very helpful to have in Canada. Otherwise, be sure to read the sections on private insurance and medical insurance plans for newcomers and visitors to make the best decision for your health.

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