Moving to a different province can be thrilling, exciting, and at the same time, extremely challenging. One important aspect that can often be overlooked is understanding the health care system of the new province.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your provincial health plan when moving to a new province, you’re not alone. Thousands of Canadians move across the country every year, and with that comes lots of questions and new systems to learn.

We outline some details on how Canadian health care operates and what to consider when moving provinces.

The Canada Health Act and Canadian Health Insurance Program

In Canada we have the Canada Health Act. The Act is a federal law created to make sure all provinces provide access to certain medical services to ensure the physical and mental well-being of everyone.

The Canadian health insurance program – which is the interconnected set of provincial insurance programs that make up our country’s national one – is designed to make sure every Canadian has access to health care on a prepaid basis.

While the basics of health care are the same across all provinces, the administration, services offered, and funding differ between each.

Provincial Differences in Health Care

Each province administers health care differently, mainly due to differences in geographic conditions, financial implications, and human resources at each province's disposal.

A key difference among health care systems is the funding models. Despite health funding being a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments, the way each province distributes these funds varies.

Alberta, for instance, uses a mixed system of funding. Each Albertan's health care is financed through provincial taxation and federal grants, supplemented by a portion of individual income tax. Similarly, British Columbia has a mixture of public and private funding through taxation and insurance premiums, respectively.

Ontario's health system is funded primarily through progressive income tax and provincial sales taxes, with a smaller portion coming from various forms of co-payment.

Though all provinces must provide a comprehensive range of services under the Canada Health Act, the extent and parameters of service delivery vary from province to province. Some provinces like Saskatchewan provide a more extensive list of hospital services as compared to Manitoba, where a number of these services are delivered outside hospitals by community-based organizations.

Similarly, the level of coverage for prescription medication varies, with Quebec offering one of the most comprehensive public drug programs in the country.

Each province’s health care insurance plan differs in what it covers and what it doesn’t. When moving provinces, be sure to familiarize yourself with your past and new province’s coverage plans to avoid any surprises.

Things to Consider When Moving Provinces

1.  Understand the Structures

Moving provinces includes dealing with different health insurance policy structures. It’s important to understand the differences, including the coverage, terms, and conditions. Doing some online digging, and diving into their respective websites (or making phone calls) will give you an idea of how the plans operate.

2. Inform Your Current Provincial Insurer 

While planning your move, inform your current provincial insurer about your relocation. Knowing what components of your existing coverage will have similar equivalents in your new home province (or will have some modification) will help ease your mind. Search "General Inquiries" or "Contact" + your current provincial government healthcare (i.e. Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan) to find the easiest ways to call your provider. Call the inquiries line and ask them what significant differences you might expect when switching regions. For peace of mind, private insurance can sometimes help bridge any gaps. 

3. Research Your New Provincial Insurer 

Understanding how health insurance operates in your new province helps in making an informed decision. Find out what’s publicly funded and what falls under private insurance to bridge any gaps.

4.  Register for Health Insurance Immediately

Many provinces have a waiting period (typically 3 months) before health coverage takes effect; register as soon as possible upon arrival. Don’t worry though – the waiting period does not mean you’re not covered. Your previous province-of-residence insurance program covers you during the waiting period (so hold on to your old health care card for a smooth transition).

GMS Private Health Plans

Private health insurance offers coverage for health care services that provincial insurance does not. This includes prescription medications for individuals not covered under government plans, dental care for adults, vision care, physiotherapy, ambulance services, and other non-insured health-related services like massages and mental health services.

If your family health needs extend beyond your provincial health coverage, GMS can help fill the gap. Our Personal Health plans offer the flexibility to choose anywhere from basic to extensive coverage. The rates are determined by the benefits you choose and your medical history. If you’ve recently left a job with benefits, you also qualify for our Replacement Health coverage. We offer guaranteed acceptance with no medical questions and your choice between three pre-bundled plans. Learn more today!

Not sure which plan to go with? Click here to get a recommendation.