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Health Care

Photo ©Carolyn B. Heller

Cana­dians are among the heal­thiest people in the world.

Access to uni­ver­sal health care, com­pa­ra­ti­ve­ly few envi­ron­men­tal pro­blems, a rela­ti­ve­ly low crime rate, and a nation­wide enthu­siasm for sports and the out­doors all contri­bute to the population’s gene­ral good health. In fact, in 2007, the Uni­ted Nations ran­ked Cana­da as one of the top five best places to live world­wide, based on a varie­ty of envi­ron­men­tal, health, and eco­no­mic indicators.

Many people feel that one of the major bene­fits of living in Cana­da is the country’s high­ly regar­ded natio­nal health care sys­tem. Yet one of the trials for expats relo­ca­ting to Cana­da is lear­ning to navi­gate the ins and outs of the health care bureaucracy.

Canada’s natio­nal health insu­rance sys­tem is known as Medi­care. Unlike the U.S. sys­tem of the same name, Cana­dian Medi­care is a publi­cly fun­ded pro­gram that pro­vides health insu­rance for all Cana­dian citi­zens and per­ma­nent resi­dents, regard­less of whe­ther you’re wor­king or whe­ther you can afford to pay. In most cases, Medi­care will also cover you if you’re living in Cana­da with a work or stu­dy permit.

One of the most impor­tant things that a new­co­mer to Cana­da needs to do is arrange for Medi­care cove­rage. If you’re coming to Cana­da with a job, your employer will nor­mal­ly arrange for your health cove­rage, and your health care pre­miums will be deduc­ted from your sala­ry. If you’re self-employed or not yet wor­king, you need to apply and pay for your health insu­rance through your pro­vin­cial health agency.

Although Canada’s health care pro­gram is rou­ti­ne­ly des­cri­bed as a natio­nal health sys­tem, it’s actual­ly made up of 13 rela­ted programs–one in each pro­vince and ter­ri­to­ry. What this means is that when you move to Cana­da, you need to unders­tand not only the natio­nal health sys­tem ove­rall but its spe­ci­fic imple­men­ta­tion in the pro­vince where you’ll be living.

The fol­lo­wing is a list of Cana­da’s pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial health agencies :

– Excerp­ted (in part) from the book, Living Abroad in Cana­da. To read more, buy the book.

Pho­to ©Carolyn B. Heller