Accessing Health Care Services

The Canadian Health Act is a federal legislation that mandates individual provinces and territories in Canada as responsible for providing universal health care to their residents. Each province and territory defines "universal health care" in their own terms, and uses tax money to determine what services they will cover for residents who access these health services. If you have an Alberta resident status, you will be covered by the Alberta Health Care System. In this case, you do not have to pay for upfront costs related to receiving medical care. However, health care in Canada is publicly funded, which means taxpayers pay for health coverage for most Albertans. The more tax dollars spent on the provincial health care system (sometimes unnecessarily) can compromise the overall quality of the provincial health care system.

International students can access health care services through their publicly-funded provincial health plan (e.g., AHCIP) while studying in Canada.

Seeing a Doctor

You can see a doctor as often as you wish, free of charge, for medically necessary services. However, Canadian health care is not free as each visit to a doctor costs the government money. This means that while you might not pay for a visit to a family physician today, other Albertans (or yourself) are indirectly paying for the health services through taxes.


Glossary
Drop-in/walk-in clinic
If you have a medical concern, you can visit medical centres without booking appointments (e.g., University Health Centre in SUB 2-200).
Registered nurse
A nurse who is licensed to practice after receiving 4 years of university-level training.
Triaged
This terms refers to health professionals who assess patients and determine who should be treated first. The priority in this case is not first-come, first-serve. Instead, priority is based on the severity of the medical situation.
Additional prescribing authority
Alberta pharmacists have a unique ability to obtain this type of authority. This authority allows them to write prescriptions for certain medications (e.g., antibiotics, antidepressants, inhalers, birth control drugs, heart medications, and diabetes medications) as a way to provide ongoing patient care.
Referral health care system
This means there is more than one level of health care service where, upon assessment from a health provider, you may be referred to additional medical services. In Canada, there is primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of health care services.
Ongoing medical care
Receiving ongoing medical care means that you are receiving continuous care, and/or coming back to the same doctor as other medical issues come up. This term can also indicate that you have a designated family doctor.
Private practice
Canada's health care system is publicly funded. However, some health practitioners offer services that are either partially covered or not covered at all (as outlined in your insurance plan) because they are not "medically necessary" services (e.g., cosmetic surgery). These health practitioners have a private practice.