Canadian Healthcare System

Canada is known worldwide for its free healthcare, covering the most important medical care (family doctor consultations, tests, and surgeries). In Canada, healthcare services are provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.

Federal vs Provincial and Territorial Governments   

The Federal Government

Following the Canada Health Act, the federal government is in charge of two important roles:

  • Provide funding to the provinces and territories to deliver healthcare services to their residents, and
  • Provide funding and/or healthcare services to refugees, federal inmates, the army (veterans and current members), First Nations and Inuit people.


The Provincial and Territorial Governments

The provinces and territories administer and deliver most of Canada’s healthcare services. Under the Canada Health Act, some medical care services are not covered. It is under the province/territory’s purview to choose to cover or not additional medical care, such as prescription drugs, or dental work.

Under most provincial and territorial laws, private insurers are restricted from offering coverage that duplicates that of the publicly funded plans, but they can compete in the supplementary coverage market. These are usually offered as part of employee benefit packages in many companies. Alternatively, supplementary coverage can be purchased from private insurance providers.

For newly established residents in Canada, healthcare coverage can take some period of time before entering into effect. However, under the Canada Health Act, the waiting period will never exceed 3 months.


Each province/territory sets its rules concerning coverage of international students and temporary workers.

Ontario and British Columbia require their residents to pay a health care premium for accessing healthcare. However, if a resident cannot pay the premiums (for financial reasons), healthcare cannot be refused according to the Canada Health Act.

Pros and Cons of the Canadian Healthcare System

Negatives :

  • Priority assessment means some must wait longer
  • Rural areas may not be covered sufficiently compared to more metropolitan areas
  • Dental care and prescription drugs are mostly not covered by the provincial or territorial governments.

Positives :

  • Access of healthcare for everyone​​
  • Education and preventive programs to reduce costs
  • No complicated bills, almost no paperwork
  • Special Care For Special Needs

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