One of the benefits for newcomers moving to Canada is access to publicly funded health care, which has a reputation of being world-class. Health care is delivered through each of Canada’s provinces and territories. In Alberta, this is delivered through the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). Here’s what you need to know about the ACHIP and how to apply.
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See Healthcare in Canada: Basics for newcomers for an overview of provincial health insurance, understanding health coverage provided by the government, and to learn how to find a family doctor.
Health care coverage in Alberta
In order to receive public health coverage, residents of Alberta need to apply for AHCIP. Once you qualify, you’ll receive a personal health care card with your photo. AHCIP provides full coverage of medically necessary services for eligible residents.
What’s covered under AHCIP?
The public health plan in Alberta covers the full cost of the following medical services for individuals registered with AHCIP:
- Visits to a family doctor or physician, as medically required
- Medically required diagnostic services and tests, such as x-rays or laboratory procedures
- Psychiatric care
- Hospital visits, including nursing services, diagnostic procedures, operating facilities, accommodation and meals in a standard ward, and medication during your stay
- Ambulance transportation from one medical facility to another within Alberta
- Annual eye examination for children aged 18 and under or adults aged 65 and older
- Midwifery services from conception to six weeks after the baby is born
- Vasectomies and some gender reassignment procedures
- Bariatric surgery for individuals eligible under the Weight Wise program
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
What’s not covered under AHCIP?
AHCIP largely covers only medically necessary services. There are a number of services Alberta’s health care does not cover, including:
- Complementary or alternative medical treatments, such as a chiropractor, massage therapist, naturopath, nutritionist, or social worker
- Cosmetic surgery (e.g. tummy tuck), unless medically required
- Prescription drugs other than those prescribed during a hospital stay
- Eye examinations for adults aged 19-64, unless medically necessary
- Eyeglasses, contacts, or laser eye surgery
- Medical appliances or mobility devices, such as wheelchair
- Hearing aids
- Dental treatments
- Ambulance services unless transferring from one medical facility to another
Who is eligible for AHCIP?
Permanent residents who arrive in Alberta with the intention of establishing residency there are eligible for provincial health coverage from the day they land. As a permanent resident, your spouse, children or other dependents would also be eligible. However, to claim coverage, you must apply for AHCIP within the first three months of residing in Alberta. Temporary workers are required to have a valid work permit for a minimum of six months and intend to stay in Alberta for 12 months to be eligible for health care.
International students over the age of 18 with a 12-month study permit at an Alberta educational institute are eligible for AHCIP. If you’re an international student with a permit for between three to 11 months, you may still be eligible to apply. You’ll need to provide AHCIP with a letter confirming your intent to live in Alberta for at least 12 months.
When does coverage start?
If you immigrate to Alberta from outside of Canada, there is no waiting period to become eligible for health coverage. Once you have applied with the proper documentation, your coverage will officially begin. Even if you wait to apply, new residents to Alberta should apply within three months of establishing residency. If you don’t apply within the three-month period, then an effective date of coverage will be determined once your application is processed.
What documents are needed to apply for AHCIP?
If you have recently moved to Alberta, you should apply for AHCIP as soon as possible. It’s advisable to arrange for private health insurance if a waiting period is applicable.
You will need the following to apply for AHCIP:
- Proof of identity (e.g. Canadian passport, Permanent Resident Card, Alberta driver’s license)
- Proof of legal right to be in Canada (e.g. Canadian passport, Permanent Resident Card, Canada entry document, Canadian citizenship card)
- Proof of Alberta residency (e.g. Mortgage or rental agreement, utility or phone bill, home insurance policy, vehicle registration, or Alberta driver’s license)
- Application form for AHCIP coverage
How to apply for AHCIP?
There are two ways to apply for AHCIP: in person and by mail. There is no payment or premiums required to register with the AHCIP.
1. Apply in person
Visit an authorized registry agent to apply in person. A full list of locations can be found here. You will need to bring a completed application form as well as your original documents that prove your identity, legal right to be in Canada, and proof of residency in Alberta. Your application will be processed within five days, and health cards are mailed directly to you.
2. Apply by mail
Send your completed application form plus photocopies of your supporting documents (both front and back where applicable) directly to the AHCIP office:
Attention: Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan
PO Box 1360, Station Main
AHCIP advises not to send original documents. Applications by mail take up to six weeks to process, and your card will be mailed directly to you.
If you have any questions about the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, you may be able to find help at your nearest community agency or newcomer service. Alternatively, contact AHCIP directly by emailing email@example.com, telephone 780-427-1432 or toll-free 310-0000, or visit their website.