TFW Program : Health Insurance Requirements

The Temporary Foriegn Workers (TFW) program requires the sponsor of a temporary foriegn worker to ensure that participants obtain private health insurance for the period of time that they are in Canada before being covered by provincial health care. This is to protect the employers participating under the program (and through vicarious liability the executives, managers, officers and directors of a company participating under the TFW program), because they are personally liable for the safety and care of the foreign worker while both are engaged in an employment contract in Canada.

The cost of insurance in this case (see below) is small in comparison to the value of participating in the program. The cost of having to pay a hospital bill for an uninsured worker could become a hundred times (10,000%!!) higher than the cost of the required insurance.

The type of private health insurance available from Canadian insurance companies that meets the program requirements is referred to as visitors to Canada insurance. Visitors insurance covers emergency illness and accidental injury expenses. However, unlike provincial health care, private insurance will not cover all expenses. Each policy will have certain restrictions and limitations, and medical expenses could conceivably be more than the maximum coverage amount applied for. In order to meet the requirements of the program, the sponsoring employer should purchase coverage before the temporary foreign worker arrives in Canada. Having to purchase a policy after arrival will cause a delay in benfits for a waiting period that can last from 48 hours up to seven days.

Required Coverage Amounts: No minimum amount required, but use common sense

Visitors to Canada insurance policies are available with coverage amounts stated as the 'maximum sum insured'. Canadian companies offer coverage maximums starting as low as $10,000 or as high as $300,000. The average policy is sold with $50,000 or $100,000 coverage. Prices do not drop as quickly as the premium, so a $25,000 policy will never cost 25% of what a $100,000 policy will. There is no stated amount of coverage that must be purchased under the TFW program. However, sponsors should keep in mind that the insurance requirement under the TFW program is meant to protect them, as they are responsible for any medical expenses incurred before the a worker is covered by provincial health care. $10,000 or $25,000 can be spent very quickly in the event of hospitalization in Canada, as hospital charges for foreign visitors are two or three three times higher than they are for Canadians that do not have provincial coverage.

Different provinces means different policy duration required

In Ontario, even returning Canadians must go through a waiting period of three months before they become eligible for OHIP coverage, so it should be no surprise that the waiting period is also three months for workers under the TFW program arriving to work in Ontario. Ontario has a few other eligibility requirements to be aware of (see OHIP page).

In British Columbia, the waiting period before provincial eligibility is also three months, but they count the remainder of the month in which coverage is applied for, so the waiting period is actually anywhere from 2 months and a day, to two months and 30 days. This should be kept in mind when making transportation arrangements as arriving closer to the end of the month can lower insurance costs by more than $100 depending on the age of the worker. The Welcome to British Columbia: Information for Temporary Foreign Workers in BC guide states:

"For you to qualify for coverage with B.C.’s medical plan, your Work Permit must be valid for six or more months. As a new resident to B.C., you will receive health coverage only after you have completed a waiting period. The wait period is calculated as the balance of the month in which you became a B.C. resident, plus two months. For example, if you became a B.C. resident on September 10th, 2009, you would be eligible for medical coverage on December 1, 2009. If your Work Permit limits you to a certain employer, that employer must make sure you have health insurance when you arrive in B.C."

In Alberta, SaskatchewanManitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, there is no waiting period for provincial healthcare eligibility. The employer is still responsible to ensure that the worker(s) is enrolled into the provincial health care system, but no private insurance is required to cover a waiting period.

In New Brunswick, the waiting period before qualifying for coverage under the provincial health care program is three months. eligibility. The New Brunswick Temporary Foriegn Workers Employer Guide (2011) states that:

"If an employer is hiring temporary foreign workers with lower levels of formal training, they are responsible for providing health insurance at no cost (to the employee) until the worker is eligible for provincial health insurance. Temporary Foreign workers with a work permit of 12 months or more are eligible to apply for New Brunswick health care coverage (after a three month waiting period)."

In Quebec, the waiting period is also three months.

Costs of TFWs Insurance

The costs of a visitors to Canada insurance policy can vary widely from company to company. That's why BestQuote offers instant free comparable quotes online, it makes it easier to review the information needed to make a good purchase. There are two kinds of policies: the kind that cover medical expenses related to stable pre-existing medical conditions; and: the kind that don't. Generally, buying a policy that will cover pre-existing medical conditions will be more expensive than if that coverage is not provided.

The difference is important. If your TFW has a heart attack a week after arriving in Canada and starting to work - will the policy cover it if it was a pre-existing condition? As long as the contributing condition (high blood pressure for example) was stable (each policy has a definition of stable and stability period) prior to arriving AND you bought a policy that covers stable pre-existing conditions than the answer would be Yes. If you buy the lower cost (no pre-existing medical conditions) policy to save a couple dozen dollars, the answer would be No.

The following examples are based on a 92 day policy ($100,000 maximum coverage with a $0deductible):

Age                        No Pre-ex Coverage                          With Pre-ex Coverage

29                           $196.65 - $333.37                               $201.36 - $484.93
34                           $196.65 - $333.37                               $214.24 - $484.93
39                           $284.05 - $348.73                               $226.20 - $484.93
44                           $327.75 - $440.50                               $258.40 - $608.58
49                           $327.75 - $440.50                               $324.64 - $608.58
54                           $327.75 - $440.50                               $391.80 - $608.58

Notice that rates generally go up the older the insured, but a policy that includes stable pre-ex coverage is not always more expensive. Now take a look at the same 92 day policy costs when you use only a $25,000 maximum coverage with a $1000 deductible (you have to pay the first $1000 of any claim):

Age                         No Pre-ex Coverage                        With Pre-ex Coverage

29                           $142.78 - $163.39                               $144.44 - $213.44
34                           $142.78 - $163.39                               $144.44 - $213.44
39                           $142.78 - $191.36                               $144.44 - $279.68
44                           $147.94 - $191.36                               $144.44 - $279.68
49                           $147.94 - $191.36                               $144.44 - $324.48
54                           $147.94 - $191.36                               $144.44 - $324.48

Notice that, even though you have a much lower maximum and are using a high deductible (so your policy won't offer coverage for large claims or even small ones), the policy cost doesn't change much unless the person is 39 or older - and even then the savings may not justify the higher risk of not having adequate coverage.

Generally, it's probably not in anyone's best interest to try to save a few dollars to cut costs of the premium. Remember, the policy is to cover financial risk to the employer, not the employee.

Of course, getting the best policy is not always about price. The policies available (get a quote to see all the top insurance companies in Canada to choose from) for TFWs vary widely in the secondary benefits that they provide. While the policies will all provide the same primary benefit (if they have the same maximum benefit) of paying for emergency medical expenses such as hospitalization, there are certain benefits that are standard to most policies but vary in the amount they will pay (prescription drug limits, accidental dental expenses, etc.), and some benefits are offered by some policies and are not available at all in other lower cost policies (such as accidental death and dismemberment benefits). The easiest way to compare what you are paying for, is to get an online quote where we can put all the policies side by side for you, and let you read the summary information.