As a new immigrant to Alberta, one of your first jobs should be to apply for an Alberta health card. This card is your record of your Alberta Personal Health Number (or Alberta PHN) and is proof of your eligibility for free healthcare under Alberta’s Health Care Insurance Plan.
You must provide your health card and ID whenever you need to access healthcare in Alberta. You will also need these when registering with a family doctor.
In this post, we will give you an overview of the Canadian and Alberta healthcare systems and explain in simple terms how to apply for an Alberta health card.
For more information on Canadian health care and other provincial health cards, refer to our article on applying for health cards in Canada.
Canadian Healthcare – An Overview
Canada has an excellent healthcare system which provides free primary care to eligible residents. Healthcare is publicly funded and administered at the provincial level. The provincial systems operate on a similar basis, but there is some variation in coverage.
Your provincial plan will also provide basic coverage while travelling within other provinces and territories. However, if you move province permanently, you will need to re-register for healthcare with your new province.
How To Apply For An Alberta Health Card – The Basics
Your Alberta health card application can appear complicated, but it involves the following basic steps.
- Gather the required documentation.
- Complete the application form (one per family)
- Submit the application form and documentation via mail or in person at a registry office.
- Your Alberta Personal Health Cards will be mailed to you
The following sections explain these steps in more detail, but some basic facts about the process are provided below:
|Health Plan Name||Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan (AHCIP)|
|Cost of Application||Free|
|Ongoing Insurance Cost||Free|
|Application Methods||Via Mail or In Person|
|Processing Time Postal Application||Up to 6 Weeks|
|Processing Time In-Person Application||5 Days|
|In-Person Locations||Participating Registry Offices|
|Coverage Wait Period*||None|
*For New Residents of Canada
Who Is Eligible For Alberta Health Insurance?
If you are legally entitled to live in Canada and plan to make Alberta your home for at least 12 months, you will be eligible for Alberta health coverage. This also applies to many people in Canada on temporary work permits and study permits.
If you move to Alberta from overseas, there is no waiting period for coverage, and you should apply for your health cards as soon as possible after you arrive.
Note that there is a wait time for people who move to Alberta from another province. In this situation, your coverage won’t start until the 1st day of the 3rd month following the date you became a resident.
For example: if you become a permanent Alberta resident on July 12th, your coverage will start on October 1st.
You will continue to receive basic coverage from your previous province or territory in the interim period.
Who Isn’t Eligible For Alberta Health Insurance?
If you are a student from another province or territory and plan to return to your home province after your studies, you won’t be eligible for Alberta health coverage. However, you will still receive coverage from your home province while in Alberta.
What Documentation Will I Need To Apply For An Alberta Health Card?
To apply for an Alberta Health Card, you will need to prove your identity, your right to be in Canada, and your residency in Alberta. Some acceptable documents are listed below:
Proof Of Identity
- Canadian/Non-Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship card or certificate
- Permanent Resident Card
- Federal identification card
- Government-issued driver’s licence
Proof Of Right To Reside In Canada
- Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship card/certificate
- Canadian birth certificate
- Permanent Resident Card
- Canada entry documents, such as a work permit, study permit, visitor record or notice of a decision
Proof Of Residency In Alberta
- Utility, telephone, gas, or cable TV bill
- Current bank or credit card statement
- Mortgage documents or residential lease
- Federal income tax return
- Vehicle registration documents
- Home Insurance
- Alberta drivers license
Apply For An Alberta Health Card In Person
The quickest way to get your Alberta health card is in person at a participating registry office. First, download and complete the AHCIP application form and then take it to your nearest office with your original documentation.
Alberta Health will process your application within five days, and your card will be mailed out to you.
(Note – Some official sources state that photocopies of documents are acceptable for in-person applications, while others refer to original documents. To be sure, we would suggest you take the originals with you).
Apply For An Alberta Health Card Via Mail
This is the easier option in some ways, as you don’t need to attend a registry office. However, processing times are up to 6 weeks, compared to just five days for in-person applications.
You will need to download and complete the AHCIP application form and mail it with photocopies of your documents to Alberta Health, PO Box 1360, Stn Main Edmonton, AB T5J 2N3.
(Note: You do not need to send original documents with your application; clear and legible photocopies are acceptable).
What Is Covered By The Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan?
AHCIP will cover you for medically necessary healthcare services such as:
- Visits to general practitioners, surgeons and other doctors
- Hospital services
- Psychiatric care
- Medically required diagnostic tests such as X-rays
- Laboratory services (e.g. blood tests)
- Some dental, podiatry and optometry services
- Eye tests (for those up to 18 years old and 65 and over)
What Isn’t Covered By The Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan?
AHCIP won’t cover you for the following services:
- Prescriptions (apart from during a hospital stay)
- Eye care, unless medically necessary
- Dental care, unless medically necessary
- Alternative treatments such as naturopathy
- Complementary treatments such as massage therapy and chiropractic services
- Cosmetic procedures
- Hearing aids
- Ambulance services (unless transferring between hospitals)
Many Albertans have private supplementary insurance for medical services that aren’t covered by the provincial plan. Supplementary health overage is often included in employee benefit packages, or you can acquire your own coverage.
How Do I Register With A Family Doctor In Alberta?
After you apply for an Alberta health card and get your number, you can register with a family doctor. You are free to register with any doctor in your area that is accepting new patients. Some options for finding a doctor would be:
- Ask for a recommendation from someone you know
- Call HealthLink Alberta on 811 or 1-866-408-5465
- Search online for doctors in your area (you may also find some helpful reviews)
- Use the Alberta “find a doctor” website.
There is currently a shortage of family doctors in Alberta, and it can be difficult to find clinics taking on new patients. This is especially true of the smaller towns and cities.
If you find yourself in this situation, we would suggest trying the Alberta “find a doctor” tool, as this will provide you with details of doctors accepting new patients in your area.