Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (2024)

Canada is known for many things, such as being one of the world’s safest and most diverse countries. It is also known for its quality, universally-accessible healthcare.

The Canada health care system is one of the most comprehensive and thriving in the world. It is an excellent example of how a universal healthcare system can provide high-quality and equitable care to all Canadians. This versatile system offers free access to medically necessary healthcare services to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The system is funded by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments and is managed by each province or territory. However, it seems too good to be true to many outsiders looking in. Does Canada have free healthcare? Is healthcare free in Canada or is it just cheaper?

Overall, It is funded through taxes and is managed at the provincial and territorial levels, ensuring that all Canadians have access to the same standard of care. The system also focuses on preventative care and reducing inequalities in access to healthcare services, making it one of the world’s most successful public healthcare systems.

If you want to immigrate to Canada, healthcare is one of the essential things to know about. To learn more about how to get health care in Canada, talk to one of our certified immigration experts.

Healthcare in Canada -How it Works

Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (1)

The Canada health care system is called Medicare. Medicare is a publicly funded, universal Canadian healthcare system covering everyone, citizens and permanent residents.

Medicare covers many services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, diagnostic tests, prescriptions, and therapies. Depending on the province, some services may be free, while others may have co-payments or fees associated with them.

Medicare’s primary goal is to provide high-quality, accessible, and equitable care that meets the needs of all Canadians. To do this, the system must ensure that all patients receive the same standard of care, regardless of their income or other factors. These include the Canada Health Act, which sets out the principles for public health care, and the Canada Health Transfer, which provides financial support to the provinces and territories to deliver health care services.

Besides providing access to healthcare, Medicare also focuses on preventative care, such as health promotion and disease prevention. This includes providing access to vaccines, screening tests, and health education. The system also reduces inequalities in access to health care services, such as providing additional funding to rural and remote communities.

Who Does Public Healthcare Cover?

Medicare covers Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Therefore, foreign nationals in Canada would need to seek private medical care while awaiting permanent resident status.

Once you have become a permanent resident, you can apply for a Medicare card. The card usually takes around three months to be issued.

What Does Public Canadian Healthcare Cover?

Medicare covers all necessary medical care, including hospital and doctor visits. In addition, Medicare covers emergency medical care for all, even if you do not hold a government health card. However, public healthcare usually does not cover prescribed medications, dental, or vision care costs.

However, each healthcare plan differs depending on your province or territory.

The Canadian Healthcare System in Each Province

Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (2)

If you wish to immigrate to Canada, knowing how healthcare works and what it covers in the different provinces will also be good.


People in Alberta are covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). This plan covers a range of medical services, including.

  • Medically necessary doctors’ services such as hospital and doctor visits
  • Some dental and oral surgical health services
  • Psychiatrist visits

British Columbia

Canadians in British Columbia are covered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP). This plan covers patients for

  • Doctors’ services
  • Medically necessary eye examinations
  • Dental services performed in a hospital
  • Diagnostic services, including X-rays


The provincial health plan in this province is known as Manitoba Health. It covers:

  • Medically necessary doctors’ services
  • Surgery and anesthesia
  • X-ray and laboratory services ordered by a doctor
  • Routine eye exams every two years for residents under 19 or over 64
  • Eye exams are considered medically necessary
  • Eyeglasses for seniors

New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador

People of New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador are covered under Medicare. Medicare covers doctors’ and hospital services. This includes:

  • Specific surgical and dental procedures that are deemed medically necessary
  • Standard hospital stays and meals
  • Maternity care
  • Necessary laboratory and X-ray services
  • Therapies including
    • Physiotherapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Speech therapy
    • Audiology
    • Radiotherapy

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories Health Care Plan covers the following services.

  • Medically necessary surgery
  • Obstetrical (maternity) care
  • Eye exams, treatment, and procedures
  • Dental services if related to jaw injuries or disease
  • Standard hospital stays and meals
  • Diagnostic services, including X-rays and laboratory work
  • Medication administered in a hospital
  • Therapies such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy
  • Detoxification services

Nova Scotia

This province is covered under the Medical Services Insurance (MSI). It includes the following.

  • Doctors’ services
  • Some dental services
  • some optometric (eye care) services
  • the doctor referred specialist visits
  • certain hospital in-patient and out-patient services


Residents of Nunavut are covered under the Nunavut Health Care Plan. This covers the following services.

  • Doctors’ services
  • Surgery when necessary
  • Obstetrical (maternity) care
  • Eye exams
  • X-ray and diagnostic procedures
  • Radiotherapy treatment
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy


Residents of Ontario are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). This plan includes the following.

  • Doctors’ visits
  • Visits to walk-in clinics and other healthcare providers
  • Medical tests
  • Surgeries

Prince Edward Island

The following services cover residents of Prince Edward Island.

  • Doctor and in-hospital services
  • Home care
  • Palliative care
  • Long-term care
  • Addiction services
  • Mental health services
  • Drug programs through PEI Pharmacare
  • Dental services


Residents of Quebec are covered by the Reassurance Maladie du Quebec (RAMQ). Cover includes:

  • Medical exams
  • Surgeries
  • Ophthalmic drops
  • Diagnostic mammography
  • Blood glucose tests
  • Vasectomies


Residents of Saskatchewan are covered for:

  • Doctors’ services
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Immunization services
  • Certain dental services
  • Optical services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Screening mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 69


In Yukon, residents are covered for:

  • Doctors’ services
  • Care during pregnancy
  • Certain dental-surgical
  • Standard hospital stay
  • A radiological and diagnostic procedure
  • Radiotherapy services
  • Physiotherapy services

If you want to get your start in Canada and see if you are eligible for Canada’s world-leading healthcare system, you should get evaluated by a certified immigration expert like a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). An RCIC can fully assess you and your credentials to find the best pathway to Canada.

Advantages of the Canada Health Care System

Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (3)

There are several good points about Canada’s public healthcare system:

Universal Healthcare

Universal healthcare refers to Canada providing equal services for all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. In addition, pensioners in Canada are also entitled to receive free healthcare.

Quality Healthcare

Because of its excellent care and quality, the Canadahealth care system has been ranked as one of the best in the world for several years.

Educational Programs

A great reason to immigrate to Canada is that the Canadian healthcare system includes educational programs. These educational programs are aimed at seniors. The programs teach the general public how to prevent injuries and inform them about health risks. The purpose of this is to help Canadians stay aware and healthy and also to help reduce healthcare costs.


How is Public Healthcare in Canada Paid For?

Public healthcare is free because patients are not required to pay any fees to receive medical attention at a healthcare facility.

However, public health care in Canada is funded by a tax paid by Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

How Long Must You Live in Canada to Get Free Healthcare?

You must have lived in Canada and had a permanent resident status for at least three months to become eligible for Canada’s universal healthcare.

Can You be Denied Healthcare in Canada?

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to free public healthcare, while tourists and visitors are not. However, anyone in Canada can seek private healthcare.

Which Province in Canada has the Best Doctors?

Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Prince Edward Island (PEI) are among the top provinces in Canada for doctors to practice. In addition, Canada’s territories received the highest score in professional satisfaction in the most recent CMA Physician Workforce Survey.

The Medical Post’s overall ranking for healthcare in different Canadian provinces is as follows:

  • Alberta (A-);
  • Saskatchewan (B);
  • PEI (B);
  • Quebec (B-);
  • New Brunswick (B-);
  • BC. (C+);
  • Ontario (C+);
  • Nova Scotia (C+);
  • Newfoundland and Labrador (C+); and
  • Manitoba (C)

Canada Free Healthcare: Ensuring the People are Looked After

Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (4)

Now that you know more about health care in Canada, you can start planning your immigration journey. When you begin your application, one of our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) will be happy to help guide you through the process and increase your chances of being approved.

Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? (2024)


Healthcare in Canada: Is it Really Free? ›

The health system is funded mainly by provincial or territorial general tax revenue with some federal transfers and is free at the point of delivery for citizens.

Is healthcare really free in Canada? ›

How is Public Healthcare in Canada Paid For? Public healthcare is free because patients are not required to pay any fees to receive medical attention at a healthcare facility. However, public health care in Canada is funded by a tax paid by Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

How much do Canadians pay for healthcare? ›

average payment for public health care insur- ance ranges from $4,190 to $14,474 for six com- mon Canadian family types, depending on the type of family. the lowest incomes will pay an average of about $471 for public health care insurance in 2020.

Is healthcare better in the USA or Canada? ›

Canada fares better than the United States with regard to coverage, cost, and health outcomes. While overall access is better in Canada, patients are sometimes required to endure longer wait times than in the United States.

How do doctors get paid in Canada if healthcare is free? ›

Doctors are self-employed, which means they can determine their own hours and work location, and they are responsible for paying their employees, for office space and other overhead expenses. Doctors earn money by billing their provincial government for the services they provide to patients.

What is the biggest problem in healthcare in Canada? ›

CharacteristicPercentage of respondents
Not enough staff63%
Access to treatment/long waiting times47%
Ageing population29%
8 more rows
Sep 28, 2023

Why is healthcare free in Canada but not the US? ›

US patients pay for their medical services using premiums or copays – they never get free healthcare. But that's no different in Canada. While the Canadian healthcare system has many benefits, “free healthcare” in Canada is a myth. It's not actually free because Canadians pay for it via taxes.

Is healthcare cheaper in Canada or us? ›

Canadian healthcare is also less expensive. The cost of healthcare in the United States—both for individuals and the government—is by far the highest in the world, yet the United States also has the worst health outcomes overall of any high-income nation.

Which country has the best healthcare in the world? ›


Are taxes in Canada higher than USA? ›

Federal Income Taxes

The federal income tax brackets in Canada and the US are similar. In 2023, the top federal income tax rate in Canada is 33%, while the top federal income tax rate in the US is 37%.

Do doctors make more in Canada or USA? ›

The U.S. generally offers lower taxes and higher average salaries across medical specialties. Canadian doctors have lower education, insurance and operational costs. Lastly, remember that compensation is not the only factor to consider.

What country has free healthcare? ›

However, Brazil is the only country in the world that offers free healthcare for all its citizens. Also, Norway is the first country in the world to implement a free healthcare policy as far back as 1912.

Is it better to live in the US or Canada? ›

Canadian air quality tends to be better, and Canadians have a longer life expectancy. Moreover, Canada boasts a high percentage of passport holders, allowing for easy international travel. In contrast, the USA may offer a faster-paced lifestyle, but air pollution is higher, and life expectancy is slightly lower.

Are surgeries free in Canada? ›

The universal healthcare system covers essential medical visits, such as doctors' visits, hospital services (surgeries, both in-patient and out-patient), prescription drugs provided in hospital and immunizations.

What is free in Canada? ›

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Do Canadians like their healthcare? ›

Although two-thirds of Canadians say they are satisfied with province's healthcare system, this represents a slight two-point decrease compared to last year. The remaining third (32%) say they are dissatisfied with the system, with one in ten (10%) saying that they are 'very dissatisfied'.

What are the disadvantages of Canada's healthcare system? ›

Canada's healthcare system has been criticized for its lack of investment in cutting-edge medical technology and treatments. Some critics argue that the system's focus on providing basic care for all Canadians can sometimes lead to a lack of funding and investment in advanced medical technology and treatments.

Is Canada better or the USA for living? ›

Lifestyle in Canada and the USA

Additionally, Canada has better air quality, and its citizens tend to live longer lives. Canada has a high percentage of passport holders, offering convenient international travel. On the other hand, the USA may offer a more fast-paced lifestyle.

Are prescriptions free in Canada? ›

Here's an easy way to remember it: If you're in a Canadian hospital (and you're eligible for government healthcare) prescription drugs are provided at no cost to you, under the Canada Health Act. If you're not in hospital, however, it's up to your province or territory to establish prescription drug coverage.

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