How does a US senior citizen deal with insurance and health care while living in Canada?
July 29, 2010 9:39 PM   Subscribe

My 83-year-old mom is thinking of moving to BC to be near me, which I would love. She's a US citizen. (I'm a US citizen, too, but I'm a Permanent Resident of Canada) Does anyone know how my mother would deal with issues such as insurance and health care? I don't think she'll ever be eligible for health care in Canada, so she would have to have something to fall back on if/when she needs health care.
posted by otfence to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you plan to sponsor your mother to become a permanent resident, then of course she would be eligible for BC MSP, just as you are. If you aren't planning to sponsor her to become a permanent resident, you should let us know how she intends to deal with the immigration issues, because that determines how her health care will be handled.
posted by ssg at 10:24 PM on July 29, 2010

Are you near the border? Could she go to a US doctor in Blaine, WA?
posted by spinifex23 at 10:30 PM on July 29, 2010

ssg's right; permanent residents get health care. If the idea is to move permanently to BC (i.e. longer than a few months) she needs to immigrate, i.e. become a permanent resident. Fortunately permanent residents like yourself can sponsor a parent. Unfortunately, there is a medical requirement in order to prevent excessive demand on on Canada's health care systems; and to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The wording on the government website seems to suggest there is no path to immigration if you can't pass a medical. This page seems to suggest that it is possible for elderly candidates to pass the medical, though, as long as they're not already in poor health. You should consider retaining the services of an immigration specialist to determine if this true, and the likelihood of success, and to help you through the process.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:13 PM on July 29, 2010

In BC, anyone who resides here for more than six months (for example, foreign students) MUST enroll in the BC Medical Services Plan. Also, there is a six month waiting period for new residents of BC (regardless of whether or not you are a Canadian citizen). However, your mother, if on a visitor visa, would have to depart Canada every three months.

Apparently, it is possible (so is climbing Mt Everest) for a Canadian permanent resident to sponsor a family member. Here's what a quick Google search turned up:


"The goal of the immigration process is to sponsor your parents so they eventually attain Canadian ‘permanent resident’ status. Canadian citizens and permanent residents living in Canada, 18 years of age or older, may sponsor parents from abroad who want to become permanent residents of Canada under the Family Class application. The process and all forms are available online at The rules are specific:

To sponsor a relative or family member you must sign an Undertaking with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that you will support the person you sponsor and their family members for a period of three to ten years so that they will not need to apply for social assistance. Note that provision is made for dependent parents; ‘the person you sponsor promises to make every effort to become self-supporting (unless they are elderly.)’ You may have to meet certain income requirements to be able to support all family members that you have sponsored in the past; if you have previously sponsored relatives who have received social assistance, you may not be allowed to sponsor another person. Complete the Application to Sponsor and, once approved as a sponsor, send your parents a Family Class application that they complete and send to a Canadian Visa office in their country.

Many families choose to use an immigration consultant to facilitate the process. Both families and consultants report that it saves time to know the pitfalls – medicals must be done by Ministry-approved doctors; any errors in the forms result in everything being sent back and starting again; if a parent is ill, they may be deemed medically inadmissible; your family income must cover all your parent’s expenses, even if they are financially independent. Consulting fees range from $2,000 for a consultant to $6,000 for a lawyer, for seeing the application through to acceptance. Check your Yellow Pages for immigration lawyers and consultants and be sure to check their references carefully."
posted by KokuRyu at 11:15 PM on July 29, 2010

Riffing on spinifex23's comment, does she need to move to Canada to be near you? Would moving to Blaine, or Point Roberts, put her within comfortable visiting distance, yet allow her to retain whatever access to medical treatment she has now?
posted by birdsquared at 12:27 AM on July 30, 2010

Not exactly parallel but 4 years ago my then 86 year old father-in-law fell and broke his hip while visiting my sister-in-law in Toronto. He had travel insurance - Medicare will NOT cover you out of the country - and the Canadian system absolutely couldn't cope with the paperwork issues of his care. This had extremely adverse impacts on the quality of his medical care - as in - practitioners/hospitals not willing or able to handle his care because they couldn't figure out how they would get reimbursed for it. It was a long, tedious situation that ultimately led to a poor long term outcome for the last few years of his life. I mention this to say that finding additional insurance to cover your mother if she moves to Canada may not solve her coverage needs and this is something you need to find out about in advance so that you're not in an ER with her discovering that the coverage you thought she had won't actually be accepted.

Subsequent to this his widow determined that at 90 there was no way for her to move to Toronto and have health care coverage. I hope you have better luck on this front than we did - your mother is a bit younger and perhaps in better health as well.
posted by leslies at 5:12 AM on July 30, 2010

Following up on leslies' statement, above: my wife has lived with me while going through the permanent residency process, and we opted to get her private health insurance coverage from a company in Canada. Companies like ETFS provide insurance coverage for visitors to Canada as well as for Canadians leaving the country, and it's (apparently) far easier to arrange for decent coverage in the event of a problem if you're insured by an in-country company as opposed to a U.S. company.
posted by Shepherd at 5:42 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the input. To clarify, I had assumed that it would be difficult to get Permanent Residence status for my mom, or that it would take at least a couple of years. If all goes well, I'll certainly begin that process for her, but it's the meantime that we would need to cover.

I believe the immigration attorney that I used a few years back said that we could get her a six-month visitor's visa and easily renew that every six months, without her having to be away for any length of time. At worst she would have to leave and re-enter Canada twice a year. But - I'm not sure I'm remembering this info correctly - it sounds like it could be too good to be true. Does anyone know whether this is correct?

As for whether she needs to be in the country to be near me, I'm in Victoria, so I'm quite close to the States, but it's not a quick trip to Washington because it means crossing the water. What we hope for is being able to get together as often as we'd like, (or possibly sharing living space) plus me being available quickly in an emergency.

I'll follow up on the suggestion about private health insurance coverage through a Canadian company. That sounds like a good prospect and something I should research. I'd be interested to hear anyone else's experience with that, too.

A move is hard enough on anyone, but her being 83, I want to be sure to avoid mis-steps so it's as stress-free as possible for her, if we choose to go this route.
posted by otfence at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2010

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