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International student's guide to healthcare and health insurance in Canada

Learn about the different healthcare plans and services available to international students in Canada.

In this article:

What are the different healthcare insurance plans available to international students in Canada?

There are mainly three types of healthcare insurance plans you can go for – private healthcare insurance plans, university-provided medical insurance plans, and Canadian government healthcare insurance plans.

Since it is mandatory for all international students to have some form of healthcare insurance plan, you need to choose one that is best suited for you based on your location and medical needs.

What is a private healthcare insurance plan?

Private healthcare insurance plans are offered by non-government firms. You can choose from many different plans covering various medical services like prescription drugs, dental costs, private hospital rooms, ambulance services, and prescription glasses. 

Note that private healthcare plans are typically costlier than public healthcare plans.

What is a university-provided healthcare insurance plan?

Many universities have tie-ups with different healthcare insurance plan providers. Through these tie-ups, they will offer healthcare plans for their international students. With this type, you might not have different plan options to choose from as they are more likely to provide a single standard plan for all the international students. University-provided healthcare plans are generally cheaper than private healthcare plans.

What is the Canadian universal healthcare system?

The Canadian government offers a universal healthcare system that covers most of the necessary medical services. In most cases, this is only available for the Canadian citizens and permanent residents because the healthcare program is run on a provincial level. 

You need to check if the healthcare system of your province covers international students. If not, you can check and see if your university offers health insurance coverage or you can opt for a private health insurance plan.

Healthcare systems in different provinces

Alberta - Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)

International students planning to study in Canada for six months or more are eligible to apply for the public healthcare plan - AHCIP. Only essential medical services are covered as per this healthcare plan. Dental services and prescription drugs are not covered. 

If you need any special medical care, you have to opt for private insurance that covers those services. 

British Columbia – Medical Services Plan (MSP)

International students with courses longer than six months can apply for the public healthcare plan - MSP. You can only apply after coming to Canada, and the MSP takes about three months to process the applications. Basic medical services are covered during the processing wait time. 

You can supplement MSP with another healthcare plan from your university for additional coverage during your wait time. 

Manitoba - Manitoba International Student Health Plan

Manitoba's public healthcare service does not cover international students. Instead, you need to apply for the Manitoba International Student Health Plan. This plan is specifically designed for international students and covers even the costly medical services like hospital stays and x-rays.

New Brunswick - New Brunswick Medicare coverage

International students enrolled in a New Brunswick university for at least one academic year are eligible to apply for their public healthcare plan - New Brunswick Medicare coverage. You should note that only the basic necessary medical services are covered in this plan.

Newfoundland and Labrador - Medical Care Plan (MCP)

All international students are automatically registered for the Foreign Health insurance plan. Additionally, international students studying a full-time course for a minimum of 12 months are eligible to apply for the province’s Medical Care Plan (MCP).

MCP covers basic medical services, and you can opt for extended medical insurance plans if needed.

Northwest Territories - Northwest Territories Health Care (NWTHC)

International students enrolled in a full-time course for more than 12 months are eligible to apply for the province's public healthcare system - Northwest Territories Health Care (NWTHC). Essential medical services are covered in NWTHC.

Nova Scotia - Medical Services Insurance (MSI)

International students are not eligible to apply for Nova Scotia’s public healthcare plan. Many universities in this region offer various healthcare insurance plans for its students. You can opt for your university’s plan or go for a private insurance plan. 

After being legally registered in the province for 12 months, you can apply for the Nova Scotia Health Card through Medical Services Insurance (MSI). Once your application is processed, you can cancel the healthcare plans you used before.

Ontario - Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

International students are not eligible to apply for Ontario’s public healthcare system (OHIP), but all the higher education institutions in this province offer healthcare plans for their students. 

If you are going to study in a public institution, you can apply for healthcare coverage through the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). Private institutions will have their own private healthcare insurance providers. The charges for these plans are generally added to your fees.  

Prince Edward Island - PEI Health Card

International students studying courses with a duration of more than six months are eligible to apply for the province's public healthcare plan PIE Health Card. Note that you can only apply after residing in the province for more than three months. So, you need to opt for a university or private healthcare plan for the first three months of your stay in Canada. After you receive your PIE Health Card, you can cancel your other healthcare insurance plans. 

Quebec – Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ)

Only international students from the following countries are eligible to apply for Quebec’s public healthcare plan - Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ)

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Luxembourg
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Sweden

If you are not from one of these countries, you will be automatically enrolled in your university's group health insurance plan. You can also opt for a private health insurance plan if needed. 

Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan Health Card

International students planning to study in the province for more than six months are eligible to apply for free basic healthcare coverage through Saskatchewan Health Card. You can extend your coverage by obtaining private health insurance that covers costlier medical procedures if needed.

Yukon

Since Yukon University is the only Designated learning institution (DSI) in the province, international students are not eligible to apply for its public healthcare plan. If you enrol in Yukon University, you will be automatically registered for a mandatory group health insurance plan.