How to Find Affordable Health Care in Canada

Americans frequently refer to Canada when discussing health care, both as an example that the U.S. should follow and as an adversary that it should avoid emulating. This trend becomes particularly evident during presidential election years.

Canadians generally receive healthcare through the public system, which is free for citizens and permanent residents alike. Others supplement it with private health coverage.

Public Healthcare

Canada is internationally-recognized for its high-quality national healthcare system, which offers free universal coverage to citizens and permanent residents alike. Ranked among the best systems worldwide, Canadian public health spending accounts for around 11% of its GDP; though its government-subsidized healthcare is often highly praised, sometimes in particular areas (e.g. lengthy wait times to see specialists) it may fall short and many Canadians supplement it with private medical coverage as an insurance alternative.

Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories each operate public healthcare programs which vary in terms of enrollment, coverage and services offered; all programs aim to provide basic healthcare services on a prepaid basis such as physician visits or hospital stays – though services offered may be limited and coverage may not reach further areas across Canada.

Canadians wishing to supplement their Medicare coverage often opt for private health insurance plans as an extra layer of protection. Individual policies may be purchased directly or grouped health coverage can be offered as part of an employer’s benefits package – the latter often offering lower premiums than individual plans but aren’t transferrable upon changing jobs or leaving an employment environment.

Private health insurance provides coverage of services not covered by provincial or territorial plans, such as dental care, ambulance services, physiotherapy and psychotherapy. While these may not be necessary for most citizens, they can provide access to quality healthcare in case of an emergency or accident.

As expats contemplating making Canada their permanent home, it’s crucial that they gain an understanding of Canada’s public healthcare system and how it varies from other nations’ systems. Doing so will prevent any surprises when applying for a medicare card and accessing public healthcare. Supplementary private medical insurance might be wise as wait times to see specialists can be lengthy while prescription medicines costs may not be covered by public healthcare plans in Canada.

Private Healthcare

Canadian healthcare differs significantly from its U.S. counterpart in several ways, including how it’s funded and accessed. Citizens and permanent residents in Canada can purchase private health insurance to cover services not paid for through public programs, while self-employed can deduct premium payments from their taxes. Such coverage typically provided by companies such as Manulife, Sun Life, GMS and Canada Life.

While some might assume Canadians enjoy free healthcare, it is essential to remember that their public system was designed as a “single-payer” system in which each province and territory has to meet national guidelines before developing programs like Ontario Health Insurance Plan or RAMQ in Quebec – they must all comply with federal standards.

Decentralizing healthcare allows for personalized local priorities to emerge; each region may differ significantly in its needs and healthcare priorities, for instance depending on rural versus urban populations, language traditions or cultural concerns that come into play when making healthcare decisions in any given location.

Canada’s overall level of care varies widely and waiting times for medically necessary treatment can often be lengthy – this is especially the case where populations are increasing quickly, or for newcomers who have yet to enroll in public systems such as medicare and must wait three months on average for their card processing.

Due to this reason, expats in Canada should carefully consider purchasing additional health insurance coverage. Just not everyone can book an easy appointment with Pine Health’s Massage Therapists. But supplemental health plans provide better access to healthcare, can bypass waiting lists, and may help avoid hospital bills should an emergency room visit become necessary. Moreover, having such coverage allows flexibility when staying in non-government hospitals with potentially private rooms; unlike the United States where all plans must meet certain minimum requirements; many private insurers in Canada provide flexible plans tailored specifically to your situation.


Canadian expats living abroad can take advantage of Canada’s excellent healthcare system funded by provincial taxpayers. Medicare provides generous access to high-quality medical facilities; however, due to long waiting times many expats opt for additional private health plans so as to speed up accessing care faster.

Over 25 million Canadians now subscribe to private health plans that supplement Medicare with additional benefits such as dental, prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids, home care services, long term care arrangements, ambulance services, registered massage therapy/physiotherapy sessions as well as semi-private and private hospital rooms. It would be wise for expats to select an international health plan which covers them throughout their stay in Canada.

If an expat plans on moving permanently to Canada, they must apply for a Canadian Medicare card as soon as they arrive. As this process can take up to three months, it is advisable that they obtain an international health plan which provides coverage during this time.

As the United States is such an immense country, priorities in each province can differ widely from one another. Factors such as rural versus urban populations, cultural traditions and linguistic diversity all play a crucial role in how healthcare is provided across the board; making it hard to achieve uniform quality healthcare services across the entire nation.

While Canada’s healthcare system is world-class, it may not meet all of an expat’s healthcare needs in Canada. Therefore, anyone moving there should obtain international health insurance to protect them financially from unexpected medical expenses. They can research available plans on global insurance marketplace to compare premiums and benefits that best suit their specific requirements; or alternatively their employer will most likely offer group health coverage during their employment contract term.

Giving Birth

One of the major expenses of having a child is giving birth, which can easily cost thousands without health insurance coverage. But even with insurance, its cost varies based on your location – Nebraska being more costly and Michigan less so, according to Health Care Cost Institute data. These prices don’t even account for prenatal visits or related healthcare.

Medicare Canada, Canada’s universal healthcare system for citizens and permanent residents alike, covers most hospital services, doctor’s visits and medications for residents. Funded and administered mainly through per capita contributions by provinces and territories on an equal per capita basis, this healthcare system differs significantly from American Medicare in its approach, delivery models and benefits offered.

Decentralisation means that care standards differ across regions and that coverage and benefits provided by the national health service can differ for expats residing across provinces or territories; this phenomenon has become all too frequent as workers migrate between industries across the nation for employment.

If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, international health insurance will be essential in covering your healthcare costs in Canada. Public healthcare systems only extend coverage for those holding valid health cards issued by their provincial/territorial governments.

To secure affordable health care in Canada, the first step should be finding an accessible family physician or general practitioner. While this process may take some time and patience, to expedite things you could start looking in July when many new family physicians graduate and become available. You could also make use of helpful online tools like Health Care Connect and Doctor Search to make things simpler.

If you’re planning on giving birth in the country, it’s essential to understand all associated costs. According to Peterson-Kaiser Foundation Health System Tracker 2022, the national average cost for childbirth without health insurance is currently estimated at $18,865 (Source: Peterson-Kaiser Foundation Health System Tracker 2022). This includes pregnancy care costs such as labor and delivery as well as postpartum care after delivery; C-section or additional complications could increase this figure significantly.