Is Canadian Healthcare Really Free?

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Providing quality health care services which benefit human health is what every country endeavors to achieve at its finest. When my friend migrated to Canada, in quite a short time, she introduced me to the whole network and mechanism of Canadian Health Care. I kid you not, I was stunned, not because of how Health Care in Canada is the best but because of how systematic and important it is perceived. 

People rattle on about free Healthcare in Canada and how they don’t charge a penny for the healthcare services and this really got me thinking that is Healthcare in Canada Really Free? The answer is not entirely yes. Continue reading to know the exact answer and all Canada Healthcare Facts. 

Did you know?

  • In 2019, Expenditure on Healthcare in Canada was anticipated to reach around $265.5 Billion, meaning per person approximately $7,064. 
  • Around 11.5% of Canada’s economy is spent on Healthcare expenditure. 

Introduction to Canadian Healthcare System

Canada’s healthcare informally referred to as Medicare in Canada is a universal system that functions on public funds by Canada’s provincial, territorial structure. In simpler words, the Healthcare system is majorly operative through taxes. 

Everything is ruled out under the Canada Health Act. The Act basically states to protect, encourage and reinstate the physical and mental health of Canadian residents and promote reasonable access to medical services without financial or other obstacles. 

Canadian Healthcare covers about 65 to 70% of the Healthcare needs of Canadians and the remaining percent has to be paid by the Canadians to the private sector. 

How does Canadian Healthcare actually work?

Each province and territory is responsible for disbursing its own healthcare services and has to by compulsory provide basic medical needs and physician services. Additionally, some provinces and territories can offer certain supplementary benefits to the citizens to be covered by the health operational bodies in those provinces and territories. 

You need to be well aware of your province or territory’s healthcare plan.

Learn more about provincial and territorial healthcare plans here.  

How does Public Canadian Health Insurance work?

Each Canadian Citizen, whether that be a toddler or an elderly, should issue a public healthcare insurance card to receive the necessary medical assistance. It is extremely important for you to issue private health insurance too for additional backup. Keep reading forward to know why. 

On average, a Canadian pays around $7000 for Healthcare insurance; around $157 per month, per person. 

Private Health Insurance Canada:

Many citizens receive employer health insurance from their place of work which claims to cover health expenditures to an extent. Private Health Insurance in Canada can be issued for those services which the provincial or territory healthcare anatomy isn’t covering or is insuring but isn’t included in basic services such as doctor’s appointments. This is because Private Health Insurance Companies in Canada do not cover basic healthcare services. 

Health Insurance in Canada for New Immigrants:

The Basic Requirement for the issuance of Health Insurance and its coverage is for you to be a resident of the province or territory you reside in. So, under the Canada Health Act, all immigrants are eligible for Health Insurance in Canada. They need to apply for their Public Healthcare Insurance Card and it can take approximately 3 months for it to be received by the new immigrants. 

So the question comes...

Is Healthcare really free in Canada?

Not exactly, healthcare in Canada is free for basic health needs. If you read well between the lines, you’d understand that only the basic health needs that require physician services are requisitely offered free to Canadian citizens, otherwise it is highly dependent on what each province or territory has planned for the healthcare of its residents.

Most provincial or territorial healthcare plans facilitate hospital fees, cover surgical procedures or hospital fees. Despite that, some healthcare services such as dentistry, purchasing of prescribed medicines, or hospital rooms fee are mostly not included in the healthcare plans, meaning these have to be paid out of the citizen’s pocket. 

Now the thing about the free healthcare system is that everyone wants to avail the advantage and get their maximum healthcare expenses covered by the public healthcare insurance system. This ultimately means a huge responsibility for each provincial or territory healthcare body and a lot of waiting too. 

Once your public healthcare insurance governing body inspects your case and analyses the need granted; that your so and so surgery can be covered by the insurance, then only the surgical process can proceed. Till then, you’re just waiting for your medically necessary surgery to be operated on.

In emergency situations, you can’t afford the risk and this is the reason why we recommend you to issue a private health insurance plan too so that sudden huge medical expenses don’t entirely drown you. 

Is Healthcare Free in Canada for International Students?

The majority of Healthcare Services in Canada is free for the residents of Canada. However, many provinces and territories do cover the healthcare services fee of International Students as they get enrolled in the Foreign Health Insurance Plan, that is if the student is a registered International Student. 

The province’s Medical Care Plan would only declare you eligible for the insurance if you prove your admission in any educational institution for over a period of a year or full time. 

Many educational institutions provide healthcare insurance packages to their students. 

Even so, you need to issue private healthcare insurance so that medical emergencies other than the basic health needs can be insured by the private health insurance company. 

Is Healthcare Free in Canada for Temporary Residents?

The simple answer is, yes. If you’re someone who would reside in Canada for a temporary basis, let’s say for a year or maybe two, you can register yourself as a temporary resident in your province and enjoy the benefits of free basic medical needs till you live there. 

 Canadian Healthcare problems:

According to Statista, in 2018, statistics showed the percentage of the problems faced in Canadian Healthcare, some of which are as follows:

  1. Waiting time:

This is the most infuriating part of Canadian healthcare. As I mentioned above, Canadian Healthcare is universal and publicly availed. This increases the line of recipients of services and their eligibility of applied medical assistance makes it a tough task for provincial autonomies to cope up with which ultimately increases the waiting time. 

The solution of this problem is simple, they should hire more people on board to get swift and prompt service. 

  1. Shortage of Doctors:

Many doctors aren’t willing to work in public healthcare institutions due to various reasons like less pay than private healthcare institutions or the younger physicians do not meet their basic hour’s requirement. There are insufficient training services for doctors to maintain the gap between the number of physicians in Canada versus the population. 

  1. Pharmaceutical Drugs:

As much as Canadians enjoy the free medical services, they get robbed off the expenses of medication. Canada doesn’t have any drug insurance plan which could at least cover some portion of the expenditure caused by purchasing pharmaceutical drugs. 

According to Statista, In 2020, the number of complaints against Healthcare by the population was majorly made for access to healthcare in Canada, Medication in Canada and so on. 

3 Canada Healthcare Facts

  1. Public Doctors are also Self Employed Doctors:

Many doctors register themselves with the government and provide services to the public because of the Universal Healthcare system but many have their own private hospitals or clinic where they attend their patients as private doctors. 

  1. Canada acknowledges Mental Health Problems:

According to Statista, statistics from 2003 to 2020 show the number of Canadians perceiving Mental Health as good to excellent. In 2003, a total of 19,025,099 people voted for good to excellent mental health. By 2017, the numbers increased extensively to 21,055,100 but in 2020, it decreased to 20,243,300. 

However, psychiatric care facilities are conveniently, legally available for all Canadian Residents. 

  1. Cancer and Heart Diseases Patients:

In 2020 alone, according to Statista, a number of 225,800 new cases were generated, all reported for cancer. 

According to Statista, In 2020, 300,310 deaths were reported because of Cancer. 

The number of cases diagnosed for heart diseases from 2000-2013 according to Statista was around 3000.5. 


Healthcare in Canada is no doubt free and pre-eminent in a way. Numerous facilities that the Public Healthcare department provides in Canada are nowhere to be covered in many countries across the globe. 

However, with merits come certain attributes which should be cared for such as applying for Private Health Insurance as well as Public Health Insurance on time. If you’ve done that and are fully aware of all the benefits included in your provincial healthcare plan, we urge you to adore the best life in Canada with it’s fine Healthcare and colossal other facilities.