Medical Coverage in Canada
There are a number of rumors and opinions about medical coverage in Canada and the U.S. In our opinion, both systems offer some of the best care in the world, but there is a greater availability of services and specialists in the U.S. Despite its reputation, universal healthcare does function fairly well but it doesn’t mean free healthcare. There are still some premiums and often co-pays depending on the province you reside in, and don’t forget, the taxes are higher in Canada than the U.S. to pay for the universal healthcare system. Further, many things like glasses, dental work and prescriptions may not be covered. The Canadian healthcare system has become a bit of a political “hot potato” as of late because of the long wait times, particularly for “elective” surgeries. This has led to a successful lawsuit in Quebec to allow government funds to be paid to private facilities for healthcare. Where this goes from here will be interesting to say the least.
If you are moving to Canada, be aware that you may not qualify for medical coverage in Canada immediately upon your arrival. This means you will have to make some alternate arrangements to cover this risk exposure upon your arrival. Provinces like Alberta offer coverage immediately upon your arrival whereas provinces like Ontario require a three-month waiting period. This is where good pre-entry planning can bear fruit. Most provinces offer a drug prescription benefit and if you are going to work for an employer, generally dental, prescription and other benefits are included as a part of your employee benefits.
Traveling to the U.S.
If you are going to spend anytime in the U.S. as a “Snowbird” or otherwise, your medical coverage in Canada provides minimal benefits. Instead, you will need supplemental travel insurance that can be obtained from a private health insurance carrier if your employer’s group coverage does not provide it. If you are over the age of 65 and have qualified for U.S. Medicare, you are in the unique position of getting the best of both worlds. When you travel to the U.S., you can use your U.S. Medicare benefits and rely on Canada’s universal coverage when in Canada. This also gives you the opportunity to get the best healthcare available for your circumstances whether it is in the U.S. or Canada.