Just like the study system, the Canadian health system is organized on a federal basis: Although basic medical care is enshrined in law by the Canada Health Act, how this is guaranteed in detail is a matter for the ten provinces. The requirements for health insurance while studying in Canada are therefore different. In addition, it depends on which university or college in Canada you are studying and which type of study you have chosen.
Whether you are only staying in the country for a summer session or a semester abroad, or whether you want to complete a full bachelor’s or master’s degree in Canada: Anyone studying in Canada needs health insurance. Quite a few universities in Canada have introduced new and expanded insurance packages in recent years, some of which are also mandatory for international students.
The Canadian Health System: A Brief Overview
Canadians take great pride in their healthcare system. The so-called Medicare is a kind of health care, a general citizen insurance, which is financed to a large extent through taxes. As in the education system, it is based on equal opportunities: All Canadians, regardless of their income, should receive the same medical treatment. Foreigners with permanent residence status also receive basic medical care through Medicare.
It is important that the Canadian Medicare is really only a basic care. Medication and dental or ophthalmic treatments are not covered. Therefore, there are various health insurance plans (Health Insurance Plans) that extend the basic provision for additional medical services. Canadian universities also have so-called Health Insurance Plans, which are aimed at both local and international students. The plans are designed to ensure that all students have adequate insurance coverage, as medical treatments are extremely expensive in Canada.
Regulations for international students
In Canada there is a general compulsory insurance. This does not only apply to international students who are staying in Canada for more than six months for their studies and who need a study permit. Also Exchange / Visit Students who are only for a summer session or a semester abroad in Canada must have health insurance. How exactly the health insurance for studying in Canada looks like and what it has to cover is strictly regulated.
Almost every Canadian university has its own health insurance plan, some of which are mandatory. It is not possible at every university in Canada to replace the health insurance plan there with a foreign health insurance taken out in Germany. Therefore, you should always find out from your future university in Canada how they will handle the formalities for health insurance, as the German international health insurance may be the cheaper option.
Either way: German statutory health insurance is not accepted in Canada; That means you have to have other health insurance in any case: Either with a private health insurance taken out in Germany or with the Health Insurance Plan of the Canadian university.
Health Insurance Plans: University insurance plans
Most Canadian universities have in recent years started developing their health insurance plans specifically for international students. For example, at universities in British Columbia there are so-called Temporary Insurance Plans, in New Brunswick and Manitoba the International Student Health Plan and in Ontario the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP).
It is becoming increasingly compulsory for visiting students to insure themselves through this university plan, and entry into the university’s insurance plan usually takes place automatically upon enrollment. In addition to these Basic Plans, which usually cover the same benefits as the state Medicare, a large number of Canadian universities offer Extended Health Care Plans, which also cover medication and treatments at the dentist and ophthalmologist. These extended plans are mandatory for all local students and in some cases also for international students.
Take out additional insurance!
If you want to study in Canada, a major country in North America listed on picktrue, you should definitely take out additional insurance, be it through the university you are visiting (if not compulsory anyway) or with a German insurance company. Because the basic insurance covers by far not as many services as you know from the statutory health insurance in Germany. It is important to check whether
- the Canadian university accepts proof of a foreign health insurance taken out in Germany and
- the German insurance meets the strict Canadian regulations.
You should check carefully beforehand which medical care is covered by the university’s entire insurance package. Especially if you regularly need certain medication due to a chronic illness or have frequent medical check-ups. Under these circumstances, it may be advisable to take out additional health insurance for studying in Canada despite an extended insurance plan. In this way you ensure that you do not meet unexpectedly high costs.
Which variant is ultimately the cheaper – the health insurance taken out in Germany or the University’s Extended Health Care Plan – depends on the university and must be checked on a case-by-case basis. You should also make sure that your university’s health insurance is also effective in other provinces of Canada.
Health insurance for a full degree in Canada
Those who complete a full degree in Canada and therefore spend more than six months in the country can, or sometimes even have to, apply for a Health / Care Card from the respective province. In Ontario, on the other hand, international students remain insured through UHIP throughout their studies. The regulations and also the deadlines for registration are different and you should inform yourself either at your Canadian university or at the Ministries of Health of the individual provinces / territories.
Anyone who has access to the Provincial Health Care Plan, such as the MSP (Medical Services Plan) British Columbia or the MSI (Medical Service Insurance) Nova Scotia, must bear in mind that the insurance cover only takes effect after three months. During this time you should insure yourself through the university or a private foreign health insurance. In addition, you should continue to use the university’s extended health insurance during your studies in Canada, if this is not mandatory anyway.