Understanding Health Care in Ontario

Ontario's health care system is one of the best in the world. Ontarians who qualify can access a variety of health care services in their community. Read through the sections below to discover how to access the system, and to learn about the many health care options in Ontario.

 
Getting Started
 

Getting Started

If you live in Ontario or plan to move here soon, you may have questions about how to get medical help.

 
 
Getting medical care
 

Getting medical care

In many cases, people who look for medical care do not have an emergency. They may simply be sick or injured and need help.

 
 
Getting emergency care
 

Getting emergency care

This website is for information about getting urgent care. If you have a life-threatening medical emergency, go to a hospital emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.

 
Finding home care
 

Finding home care

For many people, a time comes when they need help to keep living in their own homes. It may be due to illness. It may be due to age. The reason does not matter. What matters is that they get the help they need.

 
 
Getting prescription drugs
 

Getting prescription drugs

You may need to take medicine if you are sick or injured. In some cases, you can buy medicines in a drug store without ever seeing a doctor or nurse. These are called over-the-counter drugs.

 
 

Getting Started

 

If you live in Ontario or plan to move here soon, you may have questions about how to get medical help. If you do, you're in the right place. You'll find answers here to all the common questions people in Ontario ask about health care. We've organized the information under two main headings:

  • About the health care system in Ontario
  • How to sign up and start getting medical help.

We've also provided links where you can learn more about these topics.

Do you need help in another language? You can find information about health care in Ontario in 27 languages.

About the health care system in Ontario

Who pays for health care in Ontario?

If you live in Ontario, many of the health care services you need are publicly funded. This means that the government pays all or part of the cost for you. Services include:

  • visits to your family doctor and specialists
  • most basic and emergency health care services, including surgery and hospital stays.

To pay for these services, Ontario has set up the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Most people in Ontario call the plan by its short name: OHIP. When Ontarians pay taxes, some of the money goes into this plan to pay for their health services. To be covered by OHIP, you need to sign up to join. Doctors and other health care providers then bill OHIP for the services they provide to you.

Tip: If you do not qualify for OHIP, you must pay your own health care costs while in Ontario. Or, you could consider buying private health insurance. With private insurance, you pay a monthly fee to a company so that they will cover certain health care costs. Even if you qualify for OHIP, you can use private insurance to pay for some services that OHIP does not cover.

Who pays for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)?

OHIP is the government-run health plan for Ontario. It is funded by money from taxes paid by Ontario residents and businesses.

Learn more about OHIP

What medical care does the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) cover in Ontario?

OHIP pays for most basic medical and emergency services you receive in Ontario – as long as you need them for medical reasons. Learn more about coverage in Ontario.

What medical care does the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) cover outside Ontario?

OHIP pays for most basic medical and emergency services you receive anywhere in Canada – as long as you need them for medical reasons. For people travelling outside Canada, OHIP pays a set rate for emergency health services. Learn more about coverage outside Ontario.

Note: Certain rules apply about the length of time you may be away from Ontario and still qualify for OHIP.

How to sign up and start getting medical help

Can I join the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)?

To apply for OHIP, you must be able to answer 'yes' to the three questions listed below:

  • Is your main residence or home in Ontario?
  • During the first six months that you lived in Ontario, were you away less than 30 days?
  • Are you in Ontario for at least 153 days in any 12-month period?

Certain other conditions also apply. Learn more about who can apply for OHIP.

Tip: If you are new to Ontario, there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP will cover your medical costs. It is still a good idea to apply for an OHIP card as soon as you get here. To cover the waiting period, you could consider buying private health insurance.

How do I apply for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)?

You must apply in person at your nearest ServiceOntario office. You must bring:

  1. A completed form for Registration for Ontario Health Coverage (form 0265-82).
  2. Original documents to establish your identity, prove that you live in Ontario and show that you meet the immigration requirements.

Questions? Need help finding a ServiceOntario office? Call the ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff are ready to help you in English, French and 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282

What should I do when I need help through Ontario's health care system?

You must show your Ontario health card when you go for medical help. The card proves that you are entitled to have your health care services paid for by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). You will receive your card when you join the plan. Always have your card with you.

Where should you go for help? It depends on the kind of help you need. Learn more now about your Health Care Options.

I have questions about using the health care system in Ontario. Who can I call?

Contact ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff are ready to help you in English, French and 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282

Learn more

Health care for newcomers to Ontario

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Getting medical care

 

In many cases, people who look for medical care do not have an emergency. They may simply be sick or injured and need help.

There are many ways to get non-emergency medical care in Ontario. There are trained medical staff who can answer your questions by phone. There are family doctors, nurses and other health care providers. In most cases, they are the first to check out and treat your medical problems.

To understand your choices, read on. We've also provided links where you can learn more.

Do you need help in another language? You can find information about health care in Ontario in 27 languages.

Understanding your health care choices

Is there someone I can call to get medical advice?

Yes. Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. This is a free, confidential phone service that you can call any time, night or day. You can get health advice or general health information from a nurse. The nurse will help you decide if you should:

  • take care of yourself at home
  • make an appointment with your doctor
  • go to a clinic
  • go to a hospital emergency room.

Who can help me with a non-emergency problem?

You will most likely see:

  • A family doctor: A family doctor is also called a general practitioner (GP) or medical doctor (MD). He or she can help diagnose and treat more complicated health problems or refer you to see a specialist if you need further help.
  • A nurse practitioner (NP): An NP is like an advanced nurse. He or she can assess and treat basic illnesses and injuries, and order lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

Looking for a doctor or nurse practitioner? Sign up for Health Care Connect. You can register for this free service online or call 1-800-445-1822. Make sure you have a valid card for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

When I need to get medical care, where do I go?

It depends on the kind of help you need. Learn more now about your Health Care Options.

Do you have a life-threatening medical emergency? Go to a hospital emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.

Where can I get help if my health problems make it hard to live at home?

Contact your local Community Care Access Centre. They help people live on their own at home or move to a long-term care home.

I have questions about using the health care system in Ontario. Who can I call?

Contact ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff will able to help you in English, French or 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559.
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282.

Ready to learn more?

Health care for newcomers to Ontario

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Getting emergency care

 

This website is for information about getting urgent care. If you have a life-threatening medical emergency, go to a hospital emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately. The 911 operator can get an interpreter for you, if you need one.

A hospital is only one place to get emergency care. Sometimes people go there because they don't know where else to go. To help you understand all your choices, you'll find information here on:

  • Where to get help for urgent but non-life threatening problems
  • Where to get help for life threatening problems.

We've also provided links where you can learn more about these topics.

Do you need help in another language? You can find information about health care in Ontario in 27 languages.

Where to get help for urgent but non-life threatening problems

Who can help me if I'm sick or injured and not sure what to do?

Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. This is a free, confidential phone service that you can call anytime day or night. You will get health advice or general health information from a Registered Nurse.

Where do I go if I need to see a doctor right away, but my problem is not life-threatening?

Call your family doctor, Family Health Team or Nurse Practitioner Clinic to see if you can be seen without an appointment or during extended hours. If you don't have a family doctor, you may want to visit a walk-in clinic. You can get for problems like flu, coughs and colds, minor injuries, and more long-standing medical problems. Find a doctor, a Family Health Team, Nurse Practitioner Clinic or Walk-in Clinic now

Where do I go if I have an urgent medical problem that my family doctor cannot treat?

Go to your nearest walk-in clinic or Urgent Care Centre or call your Family Health Team if you are enrolled in one. You can get help during the day, in the evening and on weekends. These centres can help with problems like eye injuries, wounds, broken limbs, X-rays and laboratory tests. You don't need an appointment – just go if you need help. Find health care options near you.

Where to get help for life threatening problems

When should I go to a hospital emergency room?

An emergency room is also called an ER. An ER provides urgent medical and surgical care to patients at a hospital. You would only go to an ER for potentially life-threatening illness and injury. Find an Emergency Room near you

Can I call an ambulance to take me to an emergency room (ER)?

Ontario provides air and land ambulance service for the most urgent health emergencies. Ambulances can bring you to the ER quickly and provide trained people to help you during the ride. On the road, their sirens clear a path through traffic by warning other cars to move out of the way.

If you need to take an ambulance to a hospital, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will pay for most of the cost. You will have to pay a small fee ($45).

Note: If the doctor who sees you at the hospital thinks that your ambulance ride was not medically necessary, you must pay $240.

How do I call an ambulance?

To call an ambulance, dial 911 from any phone. The 911 operator can get an interpreter for you if you need one. They will ask you about your health problem and send an ambulance if you need one. Your call is free from any phone.

Do I need an OHIP card to use an emergency room (ER)?

In an emergency, hospitals will treat you without seeing your card first. But you will have to show your card later if you want the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) to pay your hospital bills.

What happens when I visit an emergency room (ER)?

This is what will likely happen after you arrive:

  1. First, you need to sign in at the front desk of the ER. This lets staff know that you are there and what your problem is. If your medical problem needs immediate action, a nurse or doctor may see you right away.
  2. Next, you will see an ER nurse. This nurse makes sure that the sickest people get to see the doctors first.
  3. If you have to wait, you will likely be asked to sit down in the waiting area.
  4. Staff will call your name once an exam room is ready. The exam room will likely have a bed and a chair in it. It may also have some medical equipment. You may have to wait here awhile to see the doctor.
  5. When the doctor arrives, he or she will talk to you about your medical problem and check you over. At this point, the doctor will decide what should happen next. For instance, you may need an X-ray or a test. You may have to wait for your results.

Once the doctor knows more about your problem, you may be treated and sent home. Or, if your case more serious, you will stay at the hospital for further tests or treatment.

If I go to an emergency room (ER), how long will I have to wait?

Many things may affect how much time you will spend in an ER:

  • How serious your condition is
  • The time and day you go to the ER
  • The size and location of the hospital you visit
  • How busy the ER is due to things like major accidents or a flu outbreak
  • If you need to stay in the hospital for surgery or other treatment.

Learn more about wait times at a hospital near you.

I have questions about using the health care system in Ontario. Who can I call?

Contact ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff will able to help you in French, English or 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559.
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282.

Learn more about wait times at a hospital near you.

Ready to learn more?

Health care for newcomers to Ontario

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Finding home care

 

For many people, a time comes when they need help to keep living in their own homes. It may be due to illness. It may be due to age. The reason does not matter. What matters is that they get the help they need.

What should you do if you or a loved one needs home care? This web site is a good place to start. You'll learn here about many of the home care services you can get in Ontario. We've organized the information on these pages into two sections:

  • How home care works
  • How to arrange home care services.

We've also provided links where you can learn more about these topics.

Do you need help in another language? You can find information about health care in Ontario in 27 languages.

How home care works

What is home care?

Home care services help people maintain their health and independence at home. Many of these services are funded by the Ontario government.

What kind of services can I get through home care?

This list sums up four main types of home care services:

Visiting Health Professional Services
These services can help you after a stay in hospital, or if you need help due to illness or injury. Help includes visits to assess your needs, planning for and/or providing care for you. You may also receive supplies and equipment that you need.

Personal Care and Support
These services can help you with many daily living activities. Examples include bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and more.

Homemaking
Homemaking services help you with routine household activities. These include menu planning, shopping, preparing meals, light housekeeping and more.

Community Support Services
These services help you live safely and independently at home. They include services such as meal delivery, transportation, help for your caregivers, adult day programs and more.

Who pays for home care services?

Home care services are funded in many different ways:

  • by the government (Ontario and/or local governments)
  • by non-profit organizations who receive donations to deliver these types of services
  • by your private insurance or benefit plans (for example, private health insurance)
  • by you (for example, when you pay for services yourself).

Many people who want to stay in their own homes will arrange a mix of services funded in a number of different ways.

How to arrange home care services

How do I find home care services for myself or a loved one?

Your local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) will help you:

  • Identify your care needs
  • Explore the services that will best meet your needs and situation
  • Gather information about who can provide these services to you
  • Set up the services you request.

To take the first step, use the CCAC Locator to find a CCAC near you.

How can I find out if I qualify for government-funded home care?

You will need to contact your local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). Your Centre will determine if you qualify for government-funded home care. Use the CCAC Locator to find a CCAC near you.

How do I get help if I do not qualify for government funding?

You will have to pay for the services you need. You can apply directly to the people or companies that you choose. Your local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) can help you find services. Learn more about finding a home care provider.

Have a question?

Contact ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff are ready to help you in English, French and 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559.
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282.

Ready to learn more?

Health care for newcomers to Ontario
Find home care services in Ontario

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Getting prescription drugs

 

You may need to take medicine if you are sick or injured. In some cases, you can buy medicines in a drug store without ever seeing a doctor or nurse. These are called over-the-counter drugs.

For other drugs, you will need a doctor or nurse to give you a prescription. A prescription is like a list of steps to follow for your health care. It tells you what drug(s) you will need to take, how often and for how many days.

What do you do with a prescription? Is there any drug plan to help cover the costs? The information you find here will help you understand:

  • how to get drugs with a prescription
  • who pays for prescription drugs in Ontario.

We've also provided links where you can learn more about these topics.

Do you need help in another language? You can find information about health care in Ontario in 27 languages.

Prescription drugs in Ontario

My doctor gave me a prescription. What do I do with it?

You need to have your prescription filled by a drug store (also called a pharmacy). You may choose a store based on factors like the location and hours of operation.

Staff will check the prescription and your personal information such as your name, address and phone number. If you have a drug plan that will help pay for your medicine, you need to provide that information. The pharmacist will tell you how to take the medicine safely. If you have any questions about taking the medicine, be sure to ask.

Does the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) pay for my prescription drugs?

No. OHIP does not pay for prescription drugs. But if you need help paying for your medication, there are other plans that may help you. For instance, you may be covered by one of Ontario's drug plans. These include:

  • The Ontario Drug Benefit Plan. This plan pays for over 3,200 drug products, including nutrition products and diabetic testing agents. All Ontarians over the age of 65 are automatically covered by this plan.
  • The Trillium Drug Plan. This plan is for people living in Ontario who spend a large part of their income on prescription medicines.

Or, if you work, your employer may offer a drug plan which will pay some or all of your drug costs. If not, you will have to pay for your prescription drugs on your own.

How do I apply for the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan or the Trillium Drug Program?

You must meet certain conditions to qualify for these plans.

To apply to the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan: You will likely join this plan through another Ontario health care program, such as long-term care or home care. The person who helps you apply for that program will also help you apply to this drug plan.

If you are over age 65: If you have a valid Ontario health card, you do not need to apply to this plan. You simply take your prescription and your health card to your drug store. Tell the pharmacist that you are now eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan. The pharmacist will check that you qualify through the government's Health Network System.

To apply to the Trillium Drug Program: You can pick up an application kit at your local drug store. Or, call 1-800-575-5386. You can also get a copy of the application form and guide on-line:

Have a question?

Contact ServiceOntario, Infoline between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Staff are ready to help you in English, French and 20 other languages. Call:

  • 1-866-532-3161
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559.
  • In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282.

Ready to learn more?

Health care for newcomers to Ontario
More links and resources

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For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at:
1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free)
In Toronto, (416) 314-5518
TTY 1-800-387-5559.
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm