Medical coverage for international students in Canada May 2023

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Although Canada is renowned for its free Canadian healthcare system, it is important to note that these services are primarily available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Therefore, international students studying in Canada should arrange for health insurance throughout their study program to ensure adequate medical coverage.

In this article, we will explore the different aspects of student health insurance in Canada, including the Canadian health care system, health services by province, and available health care options.

Health care in Canada

Canada’s health care system operates at the provincial level, resulting in variations in coverage between different provinces and territories. It is crucial for foreign nationals considering studying in Canada to familiarize themselves with the health care services available in their province of study. While some provinces extend coverage to international students under their provincial health insurance plans, most provinces require students to obtain private health insurance.

Health care services for students by province

In provinces where international students are required to obtain private health insurance, educational institutions often offer health insurance packages specifically designed for international students.

Depending on the school, students may be required to enroll in the institution’s health insurance program or have the option of opting out if they can demonstrate that they have private health insurance from another source.

Educational institutions are familiar with health insurance requirements for international students and can provide guidance accordingly.

Canadian healthcare for citizens and permanent residents

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital services without incurring out-of-pocket expenses.

The Canadian universal health care system covers only medically necessary services, constituting the basic coverage of health care. However, people in Canada who do not have permanent resident or citizenship status generally have to pay for medical services, unless they have private health insurance.

Temporary residents, including international students, are often required by immigration programs to purchase private health insurance for their stay in Canada.

They have several options for obtaining health insurance, including purchasing private insurance from an insurance company, receiving health insurance through their employer if they work in Canada, or enrolling in insurance through the through their educational institution if they are studying in Canada.

In the event of an emergency, all provinces and territories in Canada offer free services, even if a patient does not have a government health insurance card. However, the scope of services that can be provided may be restricted depending on a person’s immigration status.

Out-of-province medical insurance

Provincial health care coverage, whether obtained through a government program or a private plan, generally applies only within the province in question. International students who plan to travel outside of their province of study, whether to Canada or another country, should consult with their health insurance provider to determine if their coverage extends to these travel periods.

If an international student’s health insurance does not cover travel, it may be necessary to purchase private health insurance to ensure coverage for medical expenses incurred while traveling.

Health care options

International students looking for private insurance options in Canada have access to a variety of tools and resources:

  1. Find insurance: This public service tool, operated by the Life and Health Insurance Ombudsman Service, provides a complete list of 99% of the insurance programs offered by Canadian life and health insurance companies.
  2. Mediation service for life and health insurance (OLHI): As Canada’s independent information service for Canadian life and health insurance consumers, this organization also serves as an independent complaint resolution service for insurance consumers.

Student health insurance is an essential aspect of the study experience for international students in Canada. While the country’s renowned healthcare system caters primarily to citizens and permanent residents, international students should ensure they have adequate health insurance coverage throughout their study program.

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