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Expats moving to Calgary will be delighted to know that, by being legal permanent residents of Alberta, they have access to free healthcare during their stay in Canada.
It is fair to say that Canada prides itself on providing quality, universal and accessible healthcare. Be that as it may, a growing population and healthcare worker shortage continue to stifle the country’s healthcare system, meaning doctors and hospitals often have long waiting lists.
Public healthcare in Calgary
As an expat relocating to Alberta from outside of Canada, the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) coverage will start from the date of their arrival in the province. However, it's important to note the following:
To qualify for AHCIP coverage, a person must be a legal permanent resident of Alberta. As an expat, one must possess a valid residence or work visa and be physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days of the year.
Although coverage technically begins from the first day of an expat’s arrival in Alberta, they will not be officially covered until their documents have been submitted and their application for the AHCIP card has been processed and approved. This can take up to a month. That said, if expats need to pay for any medical expenses during this waiting period, they will be reimbursed as soon as their coverage is approved. We recommend having private medical insurance for the first few months in Calgary.
If expats do not apply for AHCIP coverage within 90 days of their arrival in Canada, the Alberta Health and Wellness department will have to determine the effective coverage dates. This could mean that new arrivals might be ineligible for reimbursements.
How to apply for healthcare in Calgary
Applying for AHCIP coverage is fairly easy. Simply download an application form from the Alberta Health and Wellness department's website, complete, sign, and mail it off with the following supporting documents:
Proof of Alberta residency (such as a rental agreement or utility bill)
Government-issued photo ID (such as a copy of a passport)
Proof of legal entitlement to reside in Canada (such as a copy of a working visa)
Coverage and types of care
The coverage offered by the AHCIP is extensive and includes services such as GP visits, hospital stays and surgeries, palliative care, and limited community-based rehabilitation services. Additionally, the coverage extends to optometry for children under 18.
While the AHCIP coverage is comprehensive, prescription drugs collected at pharmacies and dental care, mental healthcare, ambulance transport and midwifery are not covered. Expats who need these services should consider purchasing private insurance to supplement the AHCIP.
Expats should note that another great feature of Calgary's healthcare system is the existence of walk-in clinics. There are many in the greater Calgary area, most of which are open in the evenings and on weekends. Staffed by committed professionals, these clinics can supply patients with basic drugs and treatments.
Private health insurance in Calgary
Expats who don’t have permanent residency in Alberta and reside in the province for less than 183 days a year will need to invest in private health cover.
Leading reputable private healthcare companies include Manulife, Sunlife and Great-West Life. It might be necessary to engage the services of one of these companies to help pay for dental care, psychological counselling, physiotherapy and the like.
Hospitals in Calgary
Alberta Children's Hospital
Address: 28 Oki Dr NW
Foothills Medical Centre
Address: 1403 29 Street NW
Sheldon M Chumir Health Centre
Address: 1213 4 Street SW