The Local Healthcare Insurance System in Canada
The local healthcare insurance system in Canada is national; however it is composed of thirteen provincial and territorial health plans. It is funded by the federal government and also by provinces and territories (except for two provinces: British Colombia and Ontario which are funded slightly differently).
The national healthcare system (shared with the thirteen health plans) provides all citizens with free access to “primary” care (visits with a GP, emergency care and basic hospital care). Dental care (unless provided at the hospital) and vision care are not covered.
Each province administers its own healthcare system which is why there are some differences from one province to another in terms of eligibility and pricing.
It is important to note that if you move to another province, you will need to register with the health system of that province. You may have to wait for up to three months to access the new health insurance system.
To find out more about healthcare in Canada, please go to: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
Doctors’ visits in Canada
or family doctors provide routine and primary care (cold, flu, etc.).
In general, they see their patients from Monday to Friday, from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm - 6.00 pm, as well as on Saturday morning.
They speak English and sometimes French in the regions of Quebec, New Brunswick and in Ontario’s North.
Fees vary from one province to another and depend on the treatments provided. Consultation fees range from 50 CAD to 85 CAD on average. If you do not have health insurance coverage, you will have to pay before the consultation.
As there are not enough doctors, it may be difficult to get an appointment. If you cannot find a GP, you can go to a medical clinic without a prior appointment: these are called the walk-in clinics (see definition below).
Specialist doctors in Canada
If you need specific treatments, your GP will refer you to a specialist doctor
As there are only a few specialist doctors, waiting times to get an appointment are long. In order to compensate for the lack of doctors, your GP may provide regular gynecological examinations for example if you do not need specific treatments. Otherwise, he/she will refer you to a gynecologist.
As for certain specialist doctors such as ophthalmologists, you do not need to see your GP first.
Being admitted to the hospital in Canada
Hospitals use advanced technologies and provide high-quality medical devices and staff.
Basic care may be provided at public hospitals but waiting times are often long. If you do not have health insurance coverage, you will need to pay before your consultation as is the case for GPs.
Consultation fees at private hospitals range from 150 CAD to 400 CAD on average.
Emergency services are open 24 hours a day in most hospitals but waiting times are also long
If you do not have health insurance coverage and need to receive emergency care, the hospital will ask you to pay a 1,000 CAD deposit.
Walk-in clinics in Canada
These are “consultation centers
” that generally operate during working hours and provide routine or emergency care without a prior appointment. As they are much appreciated, waiting times may be long. Consultation fees are not higher than those of GPs.
In case of emergency, call 911.
Buying drugs in Canada
All drugs prescribed and delivered in Canadian hospitals are covered and subsidized by the government.
Outside of the hospital setting, each province has its own drug insurance program with different levels of coverage.
Over-the-counter drugs can be found in supermarkets whereas prescription drugs must be bought in specific shops.
In Canada, drugs are delivered on a personalized basis: you will receive the exact number of pills or capsules needed depending on how long your treatment is.
Last updated: January 2013
The Local Healthcare Insurance System in Quebec
The healthcare insurance system in Quebec is administered by the Ministry of Health and social services. This public health scheme is funded via income taxes. It gives all citizens free access to basic medical and hospital care through the health insurance card, also known as “carte soleil”
(sun card). This card is issued by the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec
(RAMQ) within three months following the application for registration. Please note that there is a three-month waiting period during which you will support all the expenses. However, agreements have been entered with Denmark, Finland, France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal and Sweden in order to receive reimbursement if medical services are provided during the waiting period. For this, you will have to provide the RAMQ with a certificate of enrollment with the healthcare system of one of the countries above mentioned.
Some treatments are not covered by the healthcare system like dental or orthopedic care. This is why it is necessary to take out private health insurance.
To find out more about the healthcare system in Quebec, please go to: www.ramq.gouv.qc.ca
Doctors’ visits in Quebec
GPs in Quebec
There are different categories of doctors in Quebec:
- GPs who accept the health insurance card: you do not have to make cash advances and the doctor will be paid directly by the RAMQ.
- Doctors called “opted out doctors”: in this case, you have to pay the consultation and send the bill to the RAMQ in order to be reimbursed.
- Doctors called “non-participating doctors” who do not accept the health insurance card: you will have to support all the expenses and the RAMQ will not reimburse any consultation.
It is therefore important to check the type of doctor you will visit beforehand in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You can find the list of “opted out” and “non-participating” doctors issued by the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec (RAMQ) by clicking here
Doctors see their patients from Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 4.00 – 6.00 pm and on Saturday morning. They speak French and often English too.
There are not enough doctors in Quebec and waiting times to get an appointment may sometimes be very long, as is the case in the other provinces of Canada.
Specialist doctors in Quebec:
If you need specific treatment, your GP will refer you to a specialist doctor.
As there are only a few specialist doctors, waiting times to get an appointment are often very long.
This is why it is recommended that you go directly to an optician for a simple eye examination in order to avoid long waiting times. He/she will perform the necessary examination and will advise you on the appropriate eyeglasses. However, for most serious cases such as cataract, you will have to book an appointment with an ophthalmologist.
Being admitted to the hospital in Quebec
Hospitals in Quebec
Basic care may be provided in public hospitals but waiting times are often long.
Emergency services are open 24 hours a day in most hospitals but waiting times are also long. The most serious cases will be taken care of in priority.
The walk-in clinics
In Quebec there are walk-in clinics that generally operate during working hours, as is the case in the other Canadian provinces.
If you have trouble finding a GP, these clinics provide basic care and consultations without a prior appointment. As they are much appreciated, waiting times may be long. However, consultation fees are not higher than those of GPs.
In case of emergency
, call 911
Buying drugs in Quebec
Over-the-counter drugs may be bought in supermarkets whereas prescription drugs must be bought in specific shops.
Drugs are delivered on a personalized basis: you will receive the exact number of drugs needed depending on how long your treatment is.
Last updated: February 2013