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Most Canadian healthcare providers run along free enterprise lines, and healthcare standards are very high. However, Canada’s healthcare sector is largely regulated. Therefore, Canadian fees are lower than in the US, but you might have waiting times. Availability of well-trained doctors and high-technology equipment should not be a problem, unless you live in a remote place and you require something very specific.
As Canada attracts millions of expatriates from all over the world, it is fairly possible to find healthcare professionals who speak your native language, though you might need to search out.
If you are not happy with the Canadian healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave Canada. In any event, you must go to a Canadian hospital if you are in an emergency situation. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Canada.
If you speak fluent English and French, language should not be a problem regardless of where you are in Canada.
If you only speak fluent English, language should not be a problem either, except in Quebec. Many Quebec-based physicians speak English, but not all of them.
If you only speak fluent French, language may be an issue if you are outside Quebec. It is possible to find a French-speaking doctor outside Quebec, but it may take some time to find one. Additionally, you might initially struggle with North American French (especially in the provinces east of Quebec) unless you are a native speaker.
Healthcare availability for expatriates
Some doctors may refuse to take on new patients, and the task may get even harder if you are not covered by a provincial health insurance plan. See National Health Service for Expats in Canada.
The fees charged by Canadian healthcare establishments are regulated. A fees schedule is set by the provincial Government, and you cannot be charged more than the fees specified by the schedule (subject to very limited exceptions).
Healthcare charges are regulated in Canada, but not in the US. As result, healthcare is much more expensive in the US. Therefore, many US residents may find it worthwhile to get treatment in Canada and pay their bills there. For more information on healthcare whilst you travel to the US, see our US healthcare sections.
Finding a doctor
You should look for a good general practitioner (family doctor) in your local area as soon as possible. A GP may refer you to a specialist or to a hospital if he believes you need it. You cannot apply for specialist treatment unless you have prior referral from a general practitioner. Overall, the process may take a few months, so you should plan in advance.
Although these services are generally not subsidised in Canada, you should not underestimate dental care and eye care. Failure to act in this area (e.g. make regular check-ups) may aggravate your situation later in life. Remember that Canada isn’t necessarily an expensive jurisdiction when it comes to healthcare.
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Word of mouth can help you determine if a specific doctor or hospital is trustworthy or not. You are always better off knowing in advance who you can trust.
Apart from emergency situations, you might have long waiting times before you can get hospital treatment. If you need specialist care, it may take up to a few months.
Canadian immigration rules may require you to carry out a medical examination prior to entering Canada. The medical exam must be made by Canadian authorities in Canada or in a Canadian embassy.
Many visitors or immigrants to Canada are exempt from the medical exam requirement. This examination is typically necessary if you are a long-term immigrant to Canada and you come from one developing country which is not exempt. Unless you come from China, India or the Philippines, you have to travel to a foreign country specifically for the medical examination.
For more information on medical examination rules, check the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
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If you are considering moving to Canada or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Canadian section including; details of immigration and visas, Canadian forums, Canadian event listings and service providers in Canada.
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