New spending for healthcare was highlighted as a top priority in Canada’s Budget 2023.
Healthcare is a provincial /territorial responsibility but due to pressure on the system caused by labour shortages and lack of funding before the COVID-19 pandemic (which intensified the situation), the provincial and territorial governments have requested more funding from the federal government.
Canada’s aging population puts additional strain on the healthcare system. The 2021 census shows that there are 861,395 people over the age of 85 living in Canada. There are a further 2.1 million between the ages of 75 and 85. While this bodes well for a low unemployment rate and a high demand for skilled immigrants in the healthcare sector, it also means more support is needed for healthcare in Canada.
Subsequently, in early February this year, the government announced that it would be spending nearly $200 billion over the next ten years for healthcare in Canada, in addition to existing commitments. This includes $46.2 billion in funding allocated to the provinces and territories, including additional Canada Health Transfer measures, which are individual bilateral agreements with each province and tailored to their specific needs. Budget 2023 gives more detail on where the money will be spent.
Dental care for Canadians and Newcomers
Budget 2023 honoured an agreement between the Liberal government and the NDP (New Democratic Party) to create a national dental plan for uninsured Canadians. The budget proposes $13 billion over five years, and $4.4 billion ongoing, to implement the Canadian Dental Care Plan.
Dental care in Canada has never been covered under provincial healthcare programs and is often out of reach for those on a low income. The Canadian Dental Association says that, on a per capita basis, total spending per Canadian on dental services was estimated at $378.60 per year.
According to the budget, the new plan would provide dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with an annual family income under $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000. The plan will begin to roll out in 2023 but details regarding eligibility for permanent and temporary residents have not yet been announced, nor has a start date.
Children of uninsured parents have already been benefitting from the Canada Dental Benefit, which gives eligible parents or guardians direct, up-front, tax-free payments to cover the cost of dental care for their children under 12.
Other healthcare spending
There were several other measures proposed as part of the Budget’s healthcare plan. Among them, $158.4 million will be allocated over three years to support the implementation and operation of 988, a hotline for suicide prevention and support during a mental health crisis. This would begin as of November 30, 2023.
The Canada Community Health Survey reported in December 2022 that 1.5% of immigrants and 3% of the Canadian-born population reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past year.
Additionally, the Budget proposed $36 million over three years to renew the Sexual and Reproductive Health Fund.
This fund supports community-based organizations that help make access to abortion, as well as other sexual and reproductive health care information and services, more accessible for vulnerable populations, including newcomers. Abortion is legal in Canada and all women have the right to choose regardless of their immigration status.
Finally, the Budget contains a proposal for $10 million over two years towards ParticipACTION’s Let’s Get Moving Initiative, to support national programming that aims to increase daily physical activity.
Healthcare for permanent and temporary residents in Canada
All permanent residents in Canada are eligible for free healthcare in their province of residence. This covers most day-to-day medical expenses as well as emergency medicine. Provincial health care systems usually do not pay for eye care or glasses, dental care, prescription medicines, or ambulance services
Still, in some provinces, there may be a wait of up to three months after getting permanent residency to become eligible for a provincial health card. Health cards are issued by the province once a Canadian or permanent resident lives there long enough to be considered a resident.
Because healthcare regulations vary by province, eligibility criteria for temporary residents also varies and it is recommended that temporary residents in Canada have a form of private health insurance.