What’s the difference between provincial health plans and travel health insurance in Canada?

Canada is well-known for its healthcare system, and quality healthcare is a significant perk of making one of Canada’s provinces or territories home. Find out why it’s a good idea to purchase travel health insurance in Canada to cover unexpected medical expenses before you become eligible for a government health insurance program. 


Why is it a good idea to purchase private travel health insurance in Canada before I arrive? 

Government health insurance programs like OHIP in Ontario and AHCIP in Alberta allow you to apply for coverage once you arrive in Canada and establish your permanent residency in a province. 

Bonus tip: You can use proof of home/renter’s insurance documents to prove that you live in your province. Find out more about why you need renter’s insurance in Canada. 

As a result, you won’t be covered by government health insurance as soon as you arrive in the country. That’s where private insurance coverage is a good idea for both temporary visitors to Canada and people on the path to becoming permanent residents and Canadian citizens. 

In addition, provincial health insurance doesn’t cover health-related expenses specific to newcomers to Canada, such as trip interruption insurance and travel expenses for you and your family members if a medical emergency were to occur. That’s why we’ve partnered with Manulife Financial Travel Insurance to ensure you have access to the health services you and your family need as you make Canada your home. 


How does the Canadian healthcare system work? 

Canadian provincial and territorial government health insurance covers various health services, including emergency ambulance and hospital services, routine medical procedures, doctor visits, and limited dental, eye and foot care. 

The governments of each Canadian province and territory independently administer their health care systems with a unique set of covered services and eligibility requirements for newcomers. 


What does government health insurance cover that visitor to Canada health insurance doesn’t? 

Government health insurance services typically cover emergency medical treatments and most routine health monitoring services like doctor check-ups and necessary medical tests and procedures. In contrast, private travel health insurance is designed to cover unforeseeable health emergencies such as an accidental injury (covered under travel accident insurance) or sudden illness (covered under emergency medical insurance). 

In other words, visitor travel health insurance is not designed to cover routine medical care like doctor’s visits and other health services that are not part of care after a medical emergency or accident. 

What are examples of health care benefits covered under provincial and private travel insurance programs? 

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two types of health insurance using Ontario’s health insurance program (OHIP) as an example. 

Covered under OHIP

  • Visits to your family doctor
  • Annual eye exams and assessments for people 19 and younger and 65 and older
  • A portion of the cost of podiatrist visits
  • Transportation to medical services for people living in remote areas of Northern Ontario 

Covered by Manulife Travel Insurance:

  • Additional meals and hotel fees for family after a medical incident
  • Child care if a guardian becomes ill or injured 
  • Return of remains in the event of a death
  • Emergency air transportation home 
  • Transportation of a loved one to visit you in the hospital if you’re travelling alone
  • Transportation home for children and travel companion 
  • $50,000 or $25,000 compensation for major accidental injuries, including death, amputation or blindness
  • Optional trip interruption coverage of $1,500 for individuals or $5,000 for families. 
  • Automatic extension of the coverage period in the event of transportation delays, a medical condition or hospitalization

Covered by both OHIP and Manulife Travel Insurance:

  • Emergency room visits 
  • Emergency dental care 
  • Hospital and physician care 
  • Paramedic care
  • Ambulance transportation

Not covered by OHIP or Visitor Travel Insurance:

Supplemental private health insurance programs such as employee health insurance packages may help pay for these services. 

  • Prescription drugs not administered at a hospital
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses 
  • Laser eye surgery
  • Foot surgery performed by a podiatrist
  • Dental care administered in a dentist’s office 
  • Cosmetic surgery 


Can I cancel my Manulife private health insurance policy once I’m eligible for government health insurance? 

After you purchase your coverage, you can cancel your policy for a refund before you arrive in Canada. However, after your departure date, you can’t receive a full refund for your policy. 

Depending on which part of the country you plan to become a permanent resident of, you may have to wait up to 3 months before becoming eligible for government health insurance. 

Manulife offers health insurance coverage terms of 365 days. However, as soon as you become eligible for government insurance, you can apply for refunds for unused days of your visitor health insurance policy:

  • If you haven’t collected any claim benefits.
  • And can provide proof of government insurance for everyone covered under your policy. 

You can also apply for a refund of your paid policy premiums if you have not received a claim benefit and leave Canada before your policy expires. 

For more details about the Manulife Financial Travel Insurance Policy for Visitors to Canada, please review the following documents: 

The bottom line is that both government and private travel insurance policies offer benefits that help pay for vital medical services while you’re in Canada. Still, visitor travel insurance provides you and your family temporary protection while applying for government health insurance programs. Further, travel insurance can pay for health expenses designed to help newcomers that aren’t available under government health insurance programs. 

Get your travel insurance quote today to find out more about your options for travel health insurance in Canada

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