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Health coverage for foreign workers

OHIP limitations and the benefits of private health insurance

Foreign workers are nothing new in Canada. Each year, we open our doors to temporary workers. Companies across the country look outside the country to hire skilled workers, academics and others to fill seasonal, temporary and long-term positions.

According to CBC News, the number of foreign workers has tripled within a decade, from 101,000 temporary foreign workers in 2002 to 338,000 in 2012.

With so many opportunities for work, as well as the opportunity to qualify for health coverage, choosing to work in Canada is an attractive option for potential immigrants.

OHIP coverage for foreign workers

Health coverage for foreign workers is available, as long as workers meet the eligibility requirements. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care outlines the parameters for foreign workers to quality for OHIP coverage:

You are a foreign worker who holds a valid work permit or other document issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) permitting you to work in Canada, and you also have a formal agreement in place to work full-time for an employer situated in Ontario which sets out the employer's name, your occupation, and confirmation that you will be working for no less than six consecutive months.

Other eligibility criteria include specific residency requirements.

Family members of foreign workers may also qualify for health coverage, as long as they are legally permitted to stay in Canada.

Waiting to get accepted for OHIP?

There is one caveat to qualifying for OHIP as a foreign worker: You are subject to a three-month waiting period. Short-term Visitors to Canada insurance plans are available to you. Rather than hoping you do not need health care and risk not being insured, you can have an affordable private insurance plan in case of an emergency before your OHIP coverage starts. You could then access emergency medical care without putting your finances at risk.

Why should you purchase private health insurance after OHIP is approved?

If you plan to work in Canada for an extended time and want to apply for citizenship, you can purchase a private health insurance policy to help cover medical costs that OHIP doesn’t cover.

Health insurance becomes even more important if your employer does not offer coverage through a group insurance plan. Many foreign workers and new immigrants don’t realize that OHIP does not cover all health care costs. Some forms of treatment, prescription drugs and medical procedures are not covered. Keeping a private health insurance policy even if you have OHIP coverage helps you pay for these additional health care costs, helping you to protect your health and financial well-being.