Canadian health care
Health care is an important aspect to planning your life in Canada as an international student. This information will prepare you to manage your health during your studies:
- Cost of health care in Canada
- Health insurance while in Canada
- Travel health insurance
- Health services available
- Your medical and immunization records
- In an emergency
- Buying medicines in Canada
- Taking care of your mental health
Cost of health care in Canada
What will health care cost while you study in Canada? Will you be eligible for free health care? The answers depend on the province or territory you choose as your study destination. Check with your school, college or university to find out how to get health coverage while you study.
Health insurance while in Canada
Will you need health insurance when you study in Canada? Ask your school, college or university when you apply. Provinces and territories that offer free health care to international students may require a period of residency in Canada before you are granted free health coverage. If this is the case for you, be sure to find out what health insurance you need to obtain.
As an international student, you need to determine whether your province or territory extends health care coverage to you (see above). If so, you’ll be able to access doctors and hospitals in that province or territory. This kind of health insurance does not cover dentists, chiropractors, physiotherapy and other similar services.
In parts of the country where there is no free health coverage for international students, your university or college will ask you to buy private medical insurance. In Ontario, for example, all international students must have health coverage provided by University Health Insurance Plan.
Travel health insurance
Travel health insurance is a different from basic health insurance. It’ll be useful if your time in Canada is short (less than 1 year) and if you expect to live in different parts of Canada. It may be necessary if you plan to attend:
- High school for only 9 or 10 months
- Language school for 12 or 20 weeks (less than 6 months)
- A summer camp language school
- A co-op program or internship as part of university or college studies
To learn where and how to buy travel insurance, contact:
- Your travel agent
- The Canadian school you plan to attend
Health services available
Canada offers a full range of high-quality health care services for your mental and physical health. Our health care service providers include:
- Chiropractors and osteopaths
- Counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists
- Dentists and dental hygienists
- Eye doctors, or optometrists and ophthalmologists
- Medical doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses
- Naturopaths and nutritionists
Most universities and colleges have a health clinic on campus. Some provinces and territories provide telehealth centres. This free service lets you talk to a registered nurse who answers health questions and provides advice on non-urgent health matters by telephone.
Canada now has an app called Maple that connects you with a doctor online or by telephone for medical care. The service requires payment if you do not have insurance coverage.
Your medical and immunization records
Planning for your health in Canada is important. Before you leave home, ask your doctor or health clinic to provide you with:
- A copy of medical records, especially for an ongoing health condition like diabetes or epilepsy
- A list of prescription drugs you need in Canada
- Your immunization records
While there are no mandatory vaccination laws governing Canada, elementary and high schools typically require students to have vaccinations for many childhood illnesses. The kind of immunizations students need varies in different provinces and territories.
For example, students who wish to enroll in schools in Ontario and New Brunswick are required to provide immunization records to the school at the time of registration. They must be immunized for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. Students in Manitoba are not required to have a measles vaccination if they wish to enroll in school, but those who are not vaccinated must stay home if there is an outbreak.
If you are part of a co-op or work experience program and working on a construction site or outdoors, you may need to have a tetanus vaccination.
In an emergency
Across the country, dial 911 from a cell phone or any telephone to access emergency services, such as an ambulance to take you to hospital if you are seriously injured or gravely ill.
If you are very sick or injured, go to the emergency department of any hospital. You must show the hospital staff your health insurance card to receive services.
Buying medicines in Canada
In Canada, you can buy medicine at a pharmacy or drugstore. For prescription medicine, you’ll need an authorized prescription from a doctor. You must see the doctor in their office or at a hospital to get a prescription.
Other medicines, such as pills for a headache or ointment to help a cut heal, are called “over-the-counter” drugs. They’re available in any drugstore or pharmacy or some grocery stores. You don’t need a prescription to buy these types of medicines.
If you use a prescription drug in your home country, talk to your doctor about how to get your prescription filled in Canada.
Some student health insurance plans cover the cost of prescription drugs. Others don’t. You may be able to buy extended health insurance that covers the cost of prescription drugs. Ask your university or college about this.
Taking care of your mental health
Mental health refers to your emotional wellbeing. It’s an important part of staying healthy. Most universities and colleges in Canada have mental health counsellors on campus. Check with your health clinic at your school if you need to speak to someone. If you are dealing with personal challenges, reach out to a mental health professional for support.
As an international student, mental health support can help you deal with issues such as:
- The pressure of a heavy workload at school
- Stress from working and studying at the same time
- Bullying, sexual harassment or assault
- Culture shock
- Depression or anxiety
Across the country, mental health hotlines offer confidential counselling services by telephone. The staff are trained volunteers or professionals who are there to listen to your problems and guide you to the resources you need to get through a difficult time.
- Canada’s health system and services
- Healthy Canadians – for health information
- Mental Health Canada directory
- Canadian Mental Health Association
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