If you’re an international student planning on studying in Canada then ensuring that you have good health insurance in place before you leave is crucial. In Canada, the rules on healthcare are determined by each individual Canadian province and vary distinctly from one to the other. Some provinces will offer coverage to international students and others will not so it’s important to establish whether that’s the case before you leave for your studies.
Know your province
Although Canada has a public healthcare system that offers government health services to citizens and permanent residents, the decision as to whether to extend this to temporary residents (including international students) will lie with each province. Provinces that offer health coverage to international students include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan. The medical services that are offered and the various eligibility requirements can be substantially different from one province to another so you need to establish whether you will be eligible for healthcare and, if so, what kind of coverage. This will often depend on the type of permit or visa that you hold – so, for example in Alberta an international student is entitled to healthcare if they have a study permit for a minimum of 12 months, whereas in Manitoba only six months length of study permit is required.
Timing is crucial
Health insurance coverage for international students may also begin at different times – in some provinces the coverage may begin immediately on arrival in the country but in others this could be as much as 90 days after arrival. The most basic healthcare coverage will include medically necessary hospital and physician services but additional benefits may be available. These benefits may provide whole or partial coverage and may also be aimed at specific demographics, such as the very young or the very old.
There are some provinces in Canada that don’t offer any healthcare coverage at all to international students: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Yukon. However, even in these provinces there is sometimes an opportunity for international students to apply for some sort of healthcare coverage. For example, the province of Quebec has bilateral social services agreements in place with nine European countries, which means that international students who are originating from those countries may be able to apply to receive healthcare services in the province. Other provinces have specific public healthcare programs that may be applicable to international students – for example, the University Health Insurance Plan in Ontario.
If you’re applying to study in a province that doesn’t offer healthcare coverage then you must take out health insurance before you leave for Canada. You should choose a policy that will provide the kind of coverage you’ll need – remember if you’re planning on skiing or taking on any similarly adventurous activities you may need a more extensive policy to deal with any accidents or injuries that occur as a result. Most Canadian educational institutions will require an international student to have health insurance in place in order to study there. Whether this is a private health insurance policy or the school or college’s own health insurance plan that students can opt into, it’s necessary to have some sort of coverage. International students who are covered under their own – or their parents – health insurance policies may also be able to continue with this plan, rather than taking out additional coverage.
So, before you start thinking about packing for your time abroad, or choosing your courses, you need to make sure that you have all the basics covered, with health insurance a priority. Research the province that you’re going to be studying in, if necessary contact the school you’re going to and ask for help finding the best, cheapest way to obtain the right level of healthcare cover and make sure that you incorporate healthcare payments into your budget if necessary.