As a new immigrant to Ontario, one of your first jobs should be to apply for an Ontario health card. This card records your Ontario health number and is proof of your eligibility for free healthcare under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (or OHIP).
You will need to provide your health card whenever you need to access healthcare in Ontario, and you will also need these when registering with a family doctor.
In this post, we will give you an overview of the Canadian and Ontario healthcare systems and explain in simple terms how to apply for an Ontario 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 similarly, 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 must re-register for healthcare with your new province.
How To Apply For An Ontario Health Card – The Basics
Your Ontario 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 in person at a Service Ontario location.
- Your Ontario OHIP 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||Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)|
|Cost of Application||Free|
|Ongoing Insurance Cost||Free|
|Application Methods||In-Person Only|
|Processing Time||4-6 Weeks|
|In-Person Locations||ServiceOntario Offices|
|Coverage Wait Period||None|
Who Is Eligible For The Ontario Health Insurance Plan?
To be eligible for coverage, you must meet ALL of the following residency requirements:
- Be physically in Ontario for 153 days in any 12 months.
- Be physically in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after you begin living in the province.
- Make Ontario your primary residence.
In addition to the above, you must meet ONE of the criteria below:
- Canadian citizen
- Indigenous person (registered under the federal Indian Act)
- Permanent resident
- Applying for permanent residence in Canada (certain conditions apply)
- Have a valid work permit (certain conditions apply)
- Convention refugees or other protected people
- Temporary Resident Permit (only in some circumstances)
- Clergy member (certain conditions apply)
For details of exceptions and full conditions, visit the Government of Ontario website.
In response to the COVID crisis, the Government of Ontario removed all waiting periods for OHIP coverage. As a result, you will have immediate access to coverage if you are eligible for OHIP.
Who Isn’t Eligible For The Ontario Health Insurance Plan?
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 OHIP. However, you will still receive coverage from your home province in Ontario.
What Documentation Will I Need To Apply For An Ontario Health Card?
To apply for an Ontario Health Card, you will need to prove the following:
- Your identity (e.g. credit card, passport, driver’s licence)
- Your right to be in Canada (e.g. Canadian passport/birth certificate, permanent residence card, work permit)
- Your residency status in Ontario (driver’s licence, utility bill, rental agreement)
Note that you need three different documents. For example, you couldn’t use your driver’s licence for sections 1 and 3 above. In addition, ServiceOntario won’t accept photocopies of documents. You will either need to take original documents or (in some cases) digital copies will be accepted.
A comprehensive list of acceptable documents can be found on the Ontario.ca website.
How To Apply For An Ontario Health Card
The only way to apply for an Ontario Health Card is at a Service Ontario office.
Once you have gathered your documentation, you should download and complete the Registration for Ontario Health Coverage. Then, take this and copies of your documentation to the Service Ontario location.
OHIP will process your application (typically in 4-6 weeks) and mail your health cards to you.
What Is Covered By The Ontario Health Insurance Plan?
OHIP will cover you for medically necessary healthcare services such as:
- Visits to general practitioners, surgeons and other doctors
- Hospital services
- Medically required diagnostic tests such as X-rays
- Laboratory services (e.g. blood tests)
- Some dental & optometry services
- Optometry services (under-20’s and over-64’s only)
- Podiatry services (limits apply)
- Abortion services
- Ambulance services (limits and conditions apply)
- Travel from Northern Ontario for certain specialized services
What Isn’t Covered By The Ontario Health Insurance Plan?
OHIP won’t cover you for the following services:
- Prescriptions (apart from during a hospital stay)
- Eye care for 20-64 year-olds unless medically necessary
- Dental care, unless medically necessary
- Cosmetic procedures
Many Ontarians have private supplementary insurance for medical services not covered by the provincial plan. Supplementary health overage is often included in employee benefit packages, or you can acquire your coverage personally.
How Do I Register With A Family Doctor In Ontario?
After you apply for an Ontario health card and get your number, you can register with a family doctor. You can register with any doctor in your area, accepting new patients. You may find a doctor based on the recommendation of someone you know or search online.
There is currently a shortage of family doctors in some areas of Ontario, and it can be difficult to find clinics taking on new patients. This is especially true of some rural and northern regions.
If you are in this situation, we suggest you register with Health Care Connect. This government service can help to match you with doctors accepting patients in your area.