Interim Federal Health Program – Do you qualify?

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Most Canadians are in the fortunate position of enjoying Government Health Care, no matter what province or territory they live in. This coverage applies to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, landed immigrants, and those First Nations individuals eligible under the Indian Act. It is truly an enviable global position and one that makes Canada a desirable location to settle in for immigrants from all corners of the world.

However, this benefit is not granted immediately upon arrival in Canada. Those new to the country have a waiting period for health insurance while their residency status in Canada is determined. This waiting period can be months or years, depending on the type of residency being sought. Until then, people new to Canada must find alternatives to pay for treatment in the event they need to seek the services of a health care professional.

Interim Federal Health Program

The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) may provide coverage for temporary, limited healthcare services for those not covered by their provincial or territorial care plan. Eligibility for this program, delivered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, is limited to specified groups such as refugee claimants and other protected persons whose claims have been accepted.

Benefits under the IFHP are limited to services received from a doctor or nurse, and some diagnostic services. Medications or vaccines are generally only covered when the disease or illness they are treating poses a risk to public health (i.e., tuberculosis) and other supplemental health services such as dental care or rehabilitation are not covered. To find out the specific eligibility requirements for the IFHP, review the fact sheet from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Alternatives to the IFHP

The IFHP has limited eligibility requirements and limited coverage for those who do qualify. This leaves a great number of people planning to stay in Canada for a few weeks or a few months at risk of huge medical bills in the event of a medical emergency while they are here. Emergency medical insurance for visitors to Canada is important because while the Canadian health care system is the envy of the world, it can be very expensive for people without coverage.

People coming to Canada for extended trips that are not eligible for the IFHP or their provincial or territorial health plans, such as those coming on a work visa, need to make other arrangements to pay for health care. Fortunately, there are affordable, private health insurance plans available to provide comprehensive coverage for the duration of their stay in Canada.

Talk to an Insurance Broker

The process to obtain private health insurance to cover an extended visit to Canada can be a very quick and easy one. Though it is best to ensure coverage before entering the country, in some circumstances it may be possible to arrange coverage after arriving in Canada. The best way to ensure adequate health insurance coverage is to talk to an insurance broker about the highly specialized needs of each person applying for coverage.


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