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  • 'I Only Paid For Parking When I Gave Birth In Canada'

    Canada has universal healthcare for permanent residents, citizens, and in some cases, even work visa holders.
    by Loraine Balita-Centeno .
'I Only Paid For Parking When I Gave Birth In Canada'
PHOTO BY courtesy of Shirley Solis
  • “I don’t remember seeing any receipts,” Shirley Solis says with a chuckle as she remembered what it was like to be pregnant and to give birth in Vancouver, Canada, where she has been residing for the past six years. She did not pay for anything when she gave birth. “I only paid for parking when we left the hospital.”

    “You don’t have to pay for OB checkups and things like ultrasound when you’re pregnant here,” the Filipina nurse who’s also a mom of two recalls. “Save for prenatal vitamins, those ones I had to buy on my own.”

    Canada has universal healthcare for permanent residents, citizens, and in some cases, even work visa holders. The specifics, however, will vary based on the province. In Toronto, for instance, residents can apply for an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), its counterpart for those in British Columbia is the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

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    While British Columbia’s MSP covers essential and vital medical services like childbirth, chemotherapy, organ transplant, and consultations with specialists, Shirley still uses her private insurance benefit from her husband’s employer.

    “You’ll have to pay additional for vision [treatments] like laser or to have glasses made. But if you have private insurance like the ones given by an employer, those become free, too,” she explains. Basic dental procedures are covered by MSP, but if you have private insurance, you can have more services like getting crowns and a root canal procedure for the whole family. “You’ll also get a percentage off if you need braces,” Shirley shares.

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    After you give birth in Canada, you’ll go online to register and apply for benefits using your child’s birth certificate. “The benefits per child will vary depending on the province,” Shirley clarifies.

    Often, the amount of support will also depend on the family’s income and financial capacity. Lower-income families are given more support, Shirley says. “Widows and solo parents get extra if they need it. People can even get food from food banks to help provide their needs,” she explains.

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    Babies born with complex needs that need extra care are supported by the government too. It will pay for a nurse who will be assigned to the baby’s home. In fact, Shirley is a nurse to one of those babies.

    “I work for a government-funded organization based in Ontario. The referral will come from the children’s hospital here and a specialist who will assign nurses to a baby with complex needs. Aside from child benefits given to the parents, the government will pay for a nurse who will take care of the baby 56 hours per week,” she explains.

    “Babies that need extra care need nurses like me for monitoring. They may have been born with heart problems or those that can be taken home but need a ventilator.”

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    The government benefits like free education, and health care come with a price. Since the government needs funds to keep this system going and benefits flowing for its residents and citizens, they need to collect funds in the form of taxes.

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    “Yes, mataas ang taxes [we pay a lot for taxes] here,” Shirley shares. Taxes, however, vary per province. In Ontario, for example, the total tax rate for goods and services is at 13%, which means whenever you see an item in the store, you’d have to add 13% of that amount to the price — that’s what you pay at the cashier. It’s even higher for other provinces like Nova Scotia, where total tax can reach up to 15%.

    “Here in BC for groceries, I pay up to 12% for taxes, there’s also a percentage taken from my salary, which is mostly for my employment insurance. There’s also the yearly income tax,” she enumerates.

    There are also other taxes she needs to pay yearly, like her property tax and city tax. “For my property tax, I pay CAD$1500 (P56,600) and CAD$656 (P24700) for city tax every year. People in Canada are also required to have insurance, which can also be expensive. “The car insurance for our two vehicles costs us CAD$4000 (P151,000) per year,” she shares.

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    Moving to a different country may seem exciting when you hear about the benefits and support of their government. However, there are still many things you need to consider before you decide to move there permanently. Aside from taxes, insurance for everything, and other costs, you’ll be dealing with the drastic difference in weather, especially in Canada, where winters can be brutal.

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