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Can non-citizens get free health care?

A doctor holds his hand over his chest during a rally for health care reform. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Canada’s “universal” health-care system is a little less universal when it comes to immigrants.

All citizens and permanent residents are eligible for public health insurance, which covers most medical issues. Newcomers to Canada, however, may not have the same access to services.

The Canada Health Act says all insured persons are entitled to the insured benefits offered within that province. “Insured persons” are lawful residents who have lived in the province for three months and live there for at least 183 days a year. Tourists, visitors, and “transients” are excluded.

For newcomers, the level of coverage depends on your immigration status. Generally speaking though, immigrants have limited access to free medical care and will likely have to pay for some treatments or insurance.

The provinces and territories offer free emergency medical services, but some restrictions may apply.

Refugees are eligible for care under the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides limited benefits to protected persons who are otherwise not eligible for provincial or territorial plans. It includes doctor and hospital visits, immunizations and pre- and post-natal care.

Temporary foreign workers should have insurance provided by their employer.

Read more:

Canada Health Act

Interim Federal Health Program