Health Care

Health Care in Canada, Medicare system for immigrants to Canada

What you should know about Health Care in Canada

Canada has a public health care system known as Medicare. It provides insurance coverage for health care services to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. (You will be a permanent resident.) The federal government sets health care standards for the whole country, but the programs are run by the provincial ministries of health.

Apply for provincial health care coverage as soon as possible after you arrive in the province where you plan to live. In the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, there is a three-month waiting period before you become eligible for medicare coverage. If you are planning to settle in any of these provinces, you should buy private health insurance coverage for the first three months. Insurance companies are listed in the Yellow Pages of all Canadian telephone books, under “Insurance.”

If you need medication, be sure to bring a supply of it with you. It could take a while for you to find a family doctor in Canada from whom you will have to get new prescriptions. However, every city in Canada has walk-in medical clinics where you can see a doctor for emergencies or until you find a family physician. The services provided by these drop-in clinics can be paid for either through Medicare, or by private health insurance. In most cases, you do not need to pay cash for their services. The clinics are staffed by medical personnel with the same qualifications as every other medical personnel in Canada, and the quality of care you get in walk-in clinics is equal to the quality of care you get from hospitals and family doctors.

Applying for a Health Insurance card

One of the most important things you need to do as soon as you arrive in Canada is to apply for a health insurance card. All members of your family, even newborn babies, must have their own card. You can get an application form from the provincial ministry of health office, any doctor’s office, a hospital or a pharmacy. The immigrant-serving organization in your area can help you fill out the form. To apply for a health card, you will need your birth certificate or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292) and passport. The permanent resident card may also be presented. In most provinces, you will receive coverage as soon as you apply.

Your health insurance card is mainly for use in the province where you live. If you are visiting another province and have a medical emergency, you can use your card. However, if you move to another province, you will need to apply for a new card.


Interim Federal Health Program

The Interim Federal Health Program provides temporary health insurance to refugees, protected persons and refugee claimants, as well as to their dependants, who are not yet covered by a provincial or territorial health insurance plan. This program is delivered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) To qualify, you must be able to demonstrate that you are unable to pay for your own medical services, and that you are not covered by a private health insurance plan.

More information on the health care system can be found at


For information about the Federal Health Program, call:

* General Inquiries: 1 888 242-2100

* TTY: 1 888 576-8502