Canada.......Is Health Insurance Mandatory ?

I remember when I was younger, changed jobs and forgot to sign up to pay for health insurance premiums for 9 months. When I had an unplanned hospital visit and got a rather large bill, I was given the opportunity to pay up the missing premiums and referred the bill to the provincial Medical Services Plan.

I never had the sense that health insurance was mandatory.

But is it ?

I believe it depends on the province. In B.C. you can opt out by filling out a form and sending it in. Though I can’t imagine why you would want to.

Well, you pay for it, but IIRC, you do need to apply for your OHIP card in order to receive coverage in Ontario. But there’s no way of opting out of it that I know, you can only buy supplemental coverage on top of it.

So…I’m going to venture out on a limb and say yes?

In Alberta you can opt out, but you still have to register. I echo the earlier poster and don’t know why anyone would opt out.

Interesting. I wasn’t aware that you could opt out of the public system, if you were eligible for it. Maybe you can’t in Ontario. (Health insurance is a provincial affair in Canada, though there are supposed to be reciprocity agreements between the provinces.)

I must note that OHIP doesn’t cover a lot of things. Dental, for one. People get private insurance for that, often through their employers, or pay out-of-pocket. This lets us experience a US-style health care system right here at home, both its highs and lows: dentists (private) are easier to find than family doctors (public), but much more expensive. But at least we won’t go bankrupt from medical bills from road accidents. On the other hand, OHIP sometimes does penny-wise pound-foolish things like delisting routine optometry visits. (I had to pay for my last one.)

I’m confused by the OP. Does the event described (changing jobs and missing premium payments) predate the Canada Health Act? Or does it refer to supplementary insurance? Because so far as I know, there’s nothing you have to do when changing jobs in any jurisdiction in the country to maintain basic coverage which includes hospital stays, nor are premium payments (aka taxes) optional. Actually I guess in provinces with special health taxes that allow you to opt out, you might get out of the special tax, but you’d likely have to fight with your company payroll dept to prevent them from being auto-deducted.

Was it in Alberta? Because we used to have provincial health premiums.

Yes, and British Columbia still has monthly premiums.

I moved to British Columbia in 1979 with a national company that covered my medical premiums Two years later I took on employment with a local firm that did not pay the Medical Services Plan premiums for me. So for 9 months I was without health insurance, had to go to the hospital, and then got a whopping bill. Fortunately, by paying the missing premiums I was able to dodge the bullit.

I remember many years ago, when I was living and working in Ontario, you paid health care premiums in addition to taxes. Some employers provided health care premiums as a benefit, so you didn’t have to pay them yourself. Some deducted premiums at source and remitted them on your behalf. Some didn’t do anything, and you paid premiums yourself. Confusion as to what was owed by whom in premiums could occur when one changed jobs, especially from a job that paid them to one that didn’t; and I’m guessing this, or something similar, is what happened to the OP.

Of course, it’s much simpler now that Ontario has switched to an Employer Health Tax (and some other provinces have similar programs), but there was a time when premiums were paid either by or on behalf of the insured somehow.

ETA: Looks like this is what happened.

Well consider my ignorance fought then. I knew there were separate premiums in some provinces (which are just taxes by another name imo), but I didn’t realize you could just not pay them anywhere.

When did we stop? I thought we still had them.

Not paying the premiums puts you in arrears, and as the OP discovered, catching up the missed payments is all that’s required to have health costs covered that you incurred even when you weren’t paying the premiums and people who genuinely can’t pay the premiums get an exemption. So technically everyone has health insurance, which is probably the answer the OP was after, although it isn’t exactly mandatory.

Opting out requires more than not paying, you have to actually fill in a form that declares you are opting out. I used to get a list of Alberta patients who had opted out when I used to do my husband’s billing and it was only a few pages, so it’s pretty rare that anyone opts out.

Alberta eliminated monthly premiums as of Jan 1, 2009.

Two or three years ago? It was one of the first things Stelmach did when he got in.

Huh, you’re both right. They’ve been deducted automatically from my husband’s paycheques for the last six years - we just assumed they still were.

Yeah, if you were paying premiums through an employer you probably never noticed.

Just to clarify for anyone following this thread, the monthly premiums that a few provinces use are/were about $100 a month and only account for approximately 10% of the total cost of health care. The remainder is funded from taxes and you can’t opt out of taxes so it makes no sense to opt out of universal health care.

Alberta’s were $44 per person or $88 per family, FWIW.

Raygun99 has Alberta’s premium correct.

My recollection of those long-ago days in Ontario is sketchy, but I seem to recall getting bills from OHIP for just over $300 a quarter, when I was working for a place that did not pay premiums. That would be about $1200 a year, which would fit with your $100 a month scenario.

It differed between provinces, to be sure. Mind, Ontario got rid of those $100 a month premiums in the late-80s, while Alberta didn’t get rid of its small premiums until 2009. Not sure what that means, but there you go.

Not to us Canadians who live here, certainly; but I can see where Americans up here on visas allowing them to take short-term work assignments (for example, six to twelve months) at the Canadian branch of their US employer, would not want to give up their employer-supplied medical insurance–they will need it when they return to the US, and a gap in coverage might mean going through the whole process from the start. To the best of my recollection from the time I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Health, health-care providers here in Canada will accept out-of-country insurance plans; so such Americans might opt out of the provincial plan, knowing that their American private plan will be accepted. It seems a plausible reason, anyway.

I Quebec, it is not considered insurance. You pay taxes and you get medical care. There is no “opting out” (although a doctor may and a few do, in which case they can never receive any money from the province–with a minor exception for emergencies).

You can still get (completely voluntary complementary coverage from your employer. I choose it because they pay half and also because it is not really insurance. They pay what they pay directly, although they do employ an insurance company to administer, but any payment comes directly from them.