December 29, 2018

Health care in Canada – can tourist rely on it in case of emergency?


As a tourist or traveller visiting Canada, have you wondered what happens if you fall sick or meet with an accident? Who takes care of the medical treatment? As a tourist, you must know that the Canadian government will not pay for the medical expenses of the visitors and thus it is essential that you buy health insurance to cover your medical costs. So, get adequate travel medical insurance before you visit Canada as healthcare can be very expensive in this country.

Canada is a popular tourist country that receives a steady influx of tourists at all times of the year and from all parts of the world. Every year, more than 17 million visitors arrive here, and many of them travel without travel health care insurance. It means that they are vulnerable in case of an emergency and rely on the Canadian health care system.

Apply today and get your approved eTA by email!

Doctor and Clinics in Canada

Doctors are often looked upon as a family physician and referred to as a general practitioner or GP. The GP is the main point of contact within the healthcare system in Canada. Patients visit the general practitioner for routine check-ups, general medical concerns, to get vaccinations and prescriptions Preventative and early detection is encouraged in Canada.

Always get an appointment to see a doctor, and it is best to ask for recommendations as not all clinics will accept any new patients. One can get in touch with an immigrant-serving organisation for help. When booking an appointment with a doctor, you will need to provide our name, address, contact number and the purpose of the visit.  Upon arrival at the clinic, register with the receptionist and present your health card. You will be asked to give your medical history, medical conditions, drug allergies, and other medical concerns. You will be questioned about information related to travel health insurance. In case the patient wants to see a specialist, the GP would make a referral. He is assisted by nurses or medical students in his tasks.

Health records in Canada are maintained electronically on an electronic record keeping system. The system allows for safe storage and sharing of health information of the patients.  The health records can be shared between doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals. However, the health records are to be kept private and confidential, and no one can access the information without the knowledge of the patient. Patients can access their health records and can also ask for a hard copy.

The doctor issues prescriptions and you are expected to carry the hard copy of your prescription when you visit the clinic. Prescription refills can be done over the phone, or the doctor can call the pharmacy to refill the prescription. In Canada, immunizations or vaccinations are provided at GP offices, clinics and are meant to prevent serious diseases like polio, Rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria mumps, and Hepatitis. For children, these immunizations are free and certain immunizations are given to the child before he attends school.

For Medical Emergencies, one should visit the local Emergency Department or call 911.

Recommendations for travelers

Before you travel, consult a health care provider and pack a travel health kit that you might require abroad.

Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and avoid injections or blood transfusions. As your territorial health card may not cover your health care expenses, it is essential to get more information about the right travel health insurance. It is essential that you get comprehensive health insurance before you travel to Canada.

Get your ETA Canada.

It is the responsibility of all tourists and travelers to Canada to get adequate health care coverage and make appropriate arrangements. As a visitor, one should be aware that the foreign national insurance plans they travel with may not suffice to cover all medical emergencies they might face during their visit to Canada. Even if they are visiting family, the Canadian provincial health insurance does not cover the visitors. These uninsured visitors are thus expected to pay their medical bills. If you think that you have the provincial health care in Canada, doesn’t mean that you can afford to relax. For example, if you have been abroad for a long period, you will have to reapply for the coverage when you return.

The foreign visitors, international students and new immigrants entering Canada are more vulnerable. They need to have adequate travel health insurance to safeguard themselves against any unexpected health emergencies and the high costs of Canadian health care. Although the travel health insurance has not been made mandatory, the Government of Canada encourages the tourists and travelers to get the right health insurance coverage to take care of their medical costs when they arrive in the country. There are popular insurance providers from where one can buy their travel insurance coverage. However, the coverage can vary by the insurance company, the age group, and medical history. One can buy their insurance after their arrival in Canada, and it is recommended to get a policy of at least $50,000 of coverage.

Not sure if you are eligible for eTA? Check here the requirements.

As a private tourist patient without health insurance

Doctors in Canada will accept private patients but would prefer the fess to be paid in cash. Most walk-in clinics in cities have their prices posted, and the normal consultation fee starts from CAD$100. In case you visit a hospital, there is a fee for tourists for medical services. In case if you visit a regular clinic without an appointment, you will pay the regular consultation fee. However, be wary that you might get only about 10 minutes for your consultation and would be referred to a specialist or an outpatient clinic, and there you will have to pay again. The other option is to go to the hospital emergency segment that can be chaotic and congested. It is not uncommon to experience hours of wait. Yet another option would be to go to the local community service centre where the doctor’s visit during the regular business hours. However, be prepared that you will need to pay out of your pocket and in cash. Health care is indeed expensive in Canada. It is essential to understand your position as a tourist and remove any misconceptions about the Canadian health care system. The expenses of healthcare costs for a non-resident visitor can go up to $5,000 per day.

What should a typical travel insurance cover?

Those who are not Canadian residents do not get covered by provincial health insurance plans. If you are not a Canadian citizen or resident, the only way to avoid those significant medical expenses in case of an accident or medical problem is to get adequate health coverage.  The Canadian government’s health-care program covers only Canadian citizens. It is highly recommended that if any seniors and parents are visiting Canada, they should carry international travel insurance to cover their health and travel expenses. As there are different travel medical insurance policies, one must check beforehand if the policy covers any specific needs of yours. For example, if you plan to go for adventurous sports activities, skating, skiing, you should get specific travel insurance to fit your needs.

There are well-known Canadian insurance companies that can provide private medical insurance and will allow visitors to take care of any unexpected medical emergencies. One can buy these insurance coverages upon arrival in Canada. It is indeed not just a requirement but a smart solution for all those who are traveling to Canada or visiting the country. As they are not eligible for government health insurance plan benefits, the only way out for them are the travel insurance coverage.

An effective travel insurance plan protects travelers from any emergency medical care costs and takes care of expenses at the physician office, the diagnostic tests, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. Also, you also enjoy coverage for childcare hospitalization, Interruption coverage, and trip breaks. The applicants must meet specific requirements in order to be eligible for an insurance plan.  For those under the age of 55, no questions are asked. They can choose the amount of insurance that could range from$25,000 to $150,000 or more for the total coverage.

Typical travel insurance for Canada will cover medical, and any other travel emergencies during your stay in the country. As medical care can be expensive for non-Canadian residents, one should buy a travel insurance policy with complete coverage for their trip.  The insurance policy should cover illness, accidents or injury that might occur while you are traveling. It should also provide non-medical emergency coverage.

What is not covered?

As an applicant, one must know that travel insurance does not cover everything. There are exclusions, conditions, and limitations to every plan. Thus, it is very essential to discuss the plan in detail with your service provider and read between the fine lines. Generally, travel insurance will not cover any existing conditions. Other common exclusions are injuries and accidents caused because of substance abuse and alcohol. You will not get coverage for routine cosmetic surgery and non-emergency care. If you fail to get advance approval for treatment, most travel insurance plans can limit benefits. Also, the plan won’t cover risky sports like rock climbing, bungee jumping, hang gliding and scuba diving.

See also: How to avoid being refused to travel under eTA Authorization?

FAQ on travel insurance

  • Who is eligible for travel insurance?
    Canadians who return to Canada after a long trip abroad need to renew their provincial health plan. All the visitors to Canada on business or vacation and the immigrants to Canada who are still waiting for government health coverage should apply for the travel insurance.
  • What is the minimum insurance benefits one should purchase?
    As a visitor to Canada, it is recommended to buy at least $50,000 of medical insurance, as the expenses can touch $3,500 – $5,000 per day.
  • When should one buy travel medical insurance?
    One can buy medical coverage at any time, either before they arrive or upon arrival in Canada. Most of the insurance companies will not cover expenses within 24 hours up to a week as a result of sickness after the arrival date.
  • What is a Pre-existing Condition?
    A pre-existing condition is any medical condition or sickness that the applicant has consulted a physician before and has been hospitalized for. A pre-existing medical condition is a significant cause of the decline in medical claims. There are specific insurance plans where one can get coverage for stable pre-existing conditions that are stable.
  • Is there a need for medical tests before buying travel insurance?
    Typically, there is no medical examination done when buying a travel insurance plan.
  • Is one limited to specific medical practitioners or hospitals based on travel insurance?
    If you have adequate travel insurance, you can seek medical service in Canada anywhere; and there are no restrictions, as long as the final costs fall well within the coverage.
  • Can one buy insurance for visitors over the age of 85?
    Some insurance companies do offer limited insurance coverage for visitors older than 85.
  • Can one get insurance for group visitors?
    Yes, it is possible to get group travel medical insurance for a group of visitors.
  • Can one purchase a plan that covers pregnancy and diabetes?
    There are insurance plans that include maternity benefit after 12 months of coverage. As diabetes is a pre-existing condition, it is not covered by emergency travel insurance.
  • Should one buy Insurance for their parents who are healthy and fit?
    As no one can foretell the future or what may happen, it is advisable to buy medical travel insurance for their parents.
  • Can one get travel insurance based on the credit card?
    Some credit cards provide basic travel insurance, but you need to read the fine print and know exactly what is covered. Many credit cards offer low coverage limits and have limits to what they offer. One can also explore their company to look for travel insurance benefits.
  • Is it safe to buy travel insurance online?
    Yes, it is perfectly safe to do so as companies providing travel insurance fall within a secure ordering environment and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) level of encryption to process your orders.