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Young mother with her daughter talking to a medical doctor about health care.
Your Ontario Health Card covers many medical services for you and your family.

If you have recently arrived in Ontario, an important first step is to apply for your Ontario Health Card. Canada is known throughout the world for its easy-to-access universal health care. Free health care is a source of pride for Canadians. Since health care is the responsibility of Canada’s provincial governments, each province has a slightly different approach to providing free, universal health care for its residents. In this article, we will look at Ontario’s health care system and the Ontario health card application process.

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) provides free basic health care services to Ontario residents. To access free health care in Ontario, you must apply for an OHIP health card. OHIP will cover appointments with your family doctor, visits to walk-in clinics and regular eye check-ups, to name some of the services.

OHIP Health Card Application Process

Before you submit your Ontario health card application, make sure that you meet the three basic eligibility requirements AND at least one of the additional requirements.

To meet basic requirements, you must:

  1. Be physically in Ontario for 153 day in any 12-month time frame.
  2. Be physically in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after you began living in Ontario.
  3. Make Ontario your primary province of residence. This means that your main home must be in Ontario.

Additional requirements:

You must also meet at least one of these additional requirements. For example, you are:

  • A Canadian citizen
  • A permanent resident
  • Applying for permanent residence in Canada.

If you meet all the requirements you are eligible to apply for OHIP. Now comes the question, how exactly do you apply for OHIP to get your Ontario health card? Let’s go through the Ontario health card application process, starting with what you need to apply.

When Can You Apply for OHIP?

You can apply for OHIP as soon as you arrive in Ontario. If you are eligible, you can get immediate health insurance coverage.

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What Do You Need for Your Ontario Health Card Application?

To apply for an Ontario health card, you will need to visit the nearest ServiceOntario location. You will be asked to present all required documents so make sure you are prepared for that. The three documents that you will have to bring along with you are as follows.

What Three Documents Do You Need?

  1. You must present a document that proves that you are a Canadian citizen. Documents like a Canadian passport or a birth certificate will be accepted. If you are not a Canadian citizen yet, you will need to prove your immigrant status. For that, you can present your Permanent Resident (PR) card or your IMM 1000 Record of Landing.
  1. Another document you will need for the Ontario health card application process is proof of residency. For that, you can present basically anything that proves you live in Ontario. Anything from utility bills to your Ontario driver’s license will do the job.
  1. The third and final document you need to apply is proof of identity. Like proof of residency, you can bring any document as long as it clearly shows your name and signature.

Note: All documents that you bring with you must be original documents. Service Ontario Centers usually don’t accept photocopies. Just to be on the safe side, click here to find what documents will be accepted as your three proofs.

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What Is The Ontario Health Card Application Process After Getting Your Three Documents?

Once you have your three documents, what is the next step? You have to apply for OHIP in person. As of 2022, there is no way to apply for your Ontario health card online. To apply for OHIP, you will have to visit a ServiceOntario Center. Almost every municipality in Ontario has a ServiceOntario. Click here to find the nearest ServiceOntario location.

At a ServiceOntario center, you will have to fill out some forms before you can submit your health card application. After that is out of the way, you will meet with a ServiceOntario employee and present your three documents along with any forms. The employee will go through your documents and take a photo of you to go on your health card.

Once you have cleared everything, you will get a receipt that tells you when your OHIP coverage begins. Since Ontario has a waiting time on health cards, your coverage won’t begin right away. Once your OHIP coverage begins, your Ontario health card will be mailed out to you. It’s as simple as that!

A young girl laying in a hospital bed with her father and a nurse at her side. Apply for your Ontario health card to ensure your hospital visits are covered.
OHIP covers hospital visits and stays

What Does OHIP Cover?

The biggest question newcomers have about Ontario’s health card is what exactly can you use it for? OHIP covers a wide range of medical services but not everything is included. In this section, you will get a clearer sense of what your Ontario health card will cover.

Getting A Family Doctor

It is a common practice to get a family doctor in Ontario. OHIP will cover all expenses that come with a visit to a family doctor. A family doctor is the first person you make an appointment with when you have a health concern that isn’t an emergency. To search for a family doctor, click here.

Hospital Visits and Stays

If you need to stay at the hospital, OHIP covers doctor and nursing services, medical tests, medications while you’re in the hospital, accommodation and meals. However, if you want a private or semi-private room, you will have to pay some or all of the fees yourself, or through private insurance.

Dental Surgery

OHIP covers dental surgeries that take place in a hospital. Dental surgeries can be complicated and often cannot be performed at your dentist’s office. If you have to go to the hospital for any type of dental surgery, OHIP has got you covered.

Visiting an Optometrist

OHIP also covers annual eye check-ups for residents aged either 19 years and younger or 65 years and older. If you are aged between 20 and 64 years, you will only get OHIP coverage if you have a medical condition affecting your eyes. You will also get OHIP coverage if your family doctor sends in a request for you to get an eye check-up.

Northern Health Travel Grant

If you live in Northern Ontario, OHIP might cover the cost of for you to travel to a health facility. Since the northern areas of Ontario are farther from medical services, the government helps residents pay for healthcare-related transportation. If you live near the following areas, you might get OHIP coverage for transportation: 

  • Algoma
  • Cochrane
  • Kenora
  • Manitoulin
  • Nipissing
  • Parry Sound
  • Rainy River
  • Sudbury
  • Thunder Bay
  • Timiskaming.

These are just some of the basic services that OHIP covers. To get a more in-depth understanding of what your Ontario health card will cover for you, click here.

Other Facts About Your Ontario Health Card

As a newcomer, it is natural to have questions about OHIP and health cards. Let’s look into some common questions newcomers have about their Ontario health cards.

Will OHIP Cover Me When I Am Outside Ontario?

The short answer is yes, OHIP will cover you outside of Ontario. The level of coverage depends on where you are though. If you travel to another province in Canada, then you will get almost the same coverage you would get in Ontario. Quebec is a little different so you might have to pay some extra fees even with OHIP.

Will OHIP Cover Me When I Am Outside Canada?

If you are travelling outside of Canada, OHIP doesn’t become completely useless. You might still get some coverage from OHIP, especially if you travel to the United States. However, the coverage will be minimum and you will have to pay mostly by yourself. in this case, it would be wise to purchase private travel insurance. With a Canada travel health insurance plan, you avoid situations that could result in significant medical expenses if an illness or accident occurs.

What If I Lose My Ontario Health Card?

If you lose your Ontario health card, the first thing you should do is report it to a ServiceOntario representative by calling ServiceOntario. By doing this, your lost card will immediately be disabled and you will be sent a new card right away. However, If there are any information changes on your card, such as address change, you will need to visit a ServiceOntario center.

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!