Healthcare in Canada is one of the best in the world. According to the Global Health Index 2019, Canada’s score was 85.70, ranking 16th in the Top 25 Healthiest Countries in the World. American citizens with complicated diagnoses often seek care in the neighborhood to the north. This is especially true for people without insurance, as it saves them on costs.
The government constantly invests in the Canadian healthcare system, trains professionals, and in every possible way contributes to ensuring that Medicare is free to all citizens and permanent residents regardless of their income level.
So, yes, in a sense, Canada has free healthcare, but below, we’ll explain what it is and how it works for different residents.
What is Medicare?
Medicare is a public service, and each province and territory has its own medical coverage program. These programs are almost identical, with some distinctions. Eligible residents get a Health Insurance Card, a plastic card with their signature, Social Insurance Number, and home address. The card is typically issued in the province they live in.
How Does Canada Pay for Free?
Canadian Medicare is funded through general income, corporate, and sales taxation. The Fraser Institute study reveals that the median Canadian family pays 42.6% of their income for taxes. As a result, all citizens and permanent residents enjoy free medical services.
Virtually, these are paid services, but the government pays for them. This runs contrary to the US healthcare system.
Better Not to Get Sick at All in the US
Unlike in Canada, medical care in the US is paid. You may get into financial trouble if you end up in a hospital. The average charge per day for a hospital stay is around $2,600, which won’t include surgery, hospital care, and prescribed medication.
Those with insurance coverage are paid 80% of the hospital stay, while the remaining 20% has to be paid out-of-pocket. But even the cost and coverage of private insurance are not unilateral throughout states, and many Americans struggle to deal with sudden or unexpected medical expenses.
Medicare – “Yes” for Canadian Citizens and PR Holders
If you are moving to Canada under one of the immigration programs or are a potential PR holder, then you qualify for the universal public health care service. But you have to remember that you won’t be able to get the Health Insurance Card within the first three months upon your arrival. Instead, you can purchase private insurance while waiting for that period to pass. You may find many reliable options, such as BestQuote, Cigna Global, etc.
You may think that three months is a short period and you are unlikely to need to see a doctor. However, we strongly recommend not skipping this important step, especially if you are moving with children who are more at risk of getting sick during adaptation.
There are plenty of stories about people who moved to Canada and managed to get seriously injured during their first days in the country. One day in a Canadian hospital without insurance ranges between $3,000-$4,000. You still want to push your luck?
Medicare – Not for Temporary Residents in Canada
While some international students and foreign workers may be eligible for Medicare, most are considered temporary residents and, consequently, aren’t eligible for this publicly-funded insurance.
So American students and workers, including those that come to Canada under IEC Working Holiday Visa, will have to purchase private medical cover.
Do Canadians Use Private Insurance?
Many Canadian citizens and permanent residents have private plans and Health Insurance Cards.
About 2/3 of legal residents use insurance for medical services not covered by Medicare. These are outpatient prescription drugs, dental, vision, psychologist care, ambulance, hearing aids, and chiropractic.
Canada Healthcare Facts
- The average life expectancy is 82.05 years (2019).
- 69% of the population have private insurance.
- The Health Insurance Card is issued to each family member.
- The Canadian healthcare system relies heavily on primary care physicians, who comprise 51% of general practitioners.
- Many doctors have private solo practice and enjoy a high degree of autonomy. They bill the government after providing medical care to a patient.