Navigating Canadian Healthcare with UHIP: A Comprehensive Guide for International Students

Exploring a foreign healthcare system can be a complex process for international students, eligible dependents, and employees in Canada. Understanding how to effectively utilize the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) is essential for accessing healthcare services in Canada.

Activating Your UHIP: The Essential First Step

As an international student beginning your academic journey in Canada, one of your first priorities should be to activate your University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). Typically, enrollment in UHIP happens automatically when you register at your Canadian university. However, it’s good to be proactive and verify your enrollment status in the program.

Possessing a valid UHIP card is more than just a formality; it's an essential tool for accessing a range of healthcare services in Canada. This card is your gateway to medical care and should be with you at all times, akin to carrying a student ID or driver's license.

Understanding UHIP Coverage

UHIP, or the University Health Insurance Plan, acts like a basic health insurance for international students in Canada. It's similar to what Ontario residents have with OHIP, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. UHIP covers important health needs like going to the doctor, getting emergency care at the hospital, surgeries, and important medical tests. But it's key to remember that UHIP might not cover everything. So, it's a smart move to look over your UHIP plan details to know exactly what's covered. This way, you're better prepared and know what to expect if you need any health services while studying in Canada.

Locating Healthcare Providers

Identifying healthcare providers that accept UHIP is a vital step. Most university campuses offer health services compatible with UHIP, providing a convenient option. Additionally, Cowan Preferred Provider Network is a resource for locating clinics that bill directly to UHIP, thereby minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. Walk-in clinics within this network can facilitate an efficient healthcare experience.

Lab Testing and Diagnostic Services

Navigating the coverage of lab tests under UHIP can be challenging. Typically, lab services (such as bloodwork) and diagnostic services (including x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs) are covered. It is recommended to verify coverage with your healthcare provider or consult UHIP coverage details in advance to prevent unexpected costs.

The Reimbursement Process

In instances where upfront payment is required, such as visits to specialists outside the preferred network, UHIP offers a reimbursement process. Keeping all receipts and submitting a claim through the UHIP online portal is essential. It is important to anticipate a waiting period for reimbursements, usually spanning a few weeks.

UHIP members can submit claim online at or by email at with the following documents attached:

  • UHIP claim form filled out and signed.
  • A copy of your healthcare bill.
  • The receipt for the services you paid for.
  • A copy of your UHIP card.
    This will help in addressing your issue and ensuring you're reimbursed appropriately.

Emergency Room Experiences under UHIP

In emergencies, UHIP covers significant medical situations akin to OHIP for Canadians.

When admitted to the emergency room with UHIP coverage, promptly notify Cowan by emailing or calling 1-833-377-8447. Present your UHIP coverage card to the hospital staff and ensure the hospital bills Cowan directly at UHIP rates. If the hospital is not a Preferred Provider Network member, Cowan might transfer you to a network hospital with your doctor's consent, only if the attending physician approves. Remember, physicians may bill separately from the hospital. For non-emergency treatments like dialysis or cancer therapy, obtain Cowan's pre-approval. Always sign the hospital's consent form to avoid personal billing issues and ensure Cowan can process your claim. Before leaving, verify the hospital has your UHIP information and signed consent.

Telehealth Services: A Convenient Option

Telehealth services like TeleTest offer virtual consultations for non-emergency conditions, including prescription refills, lab tests, and general medical advice. This service is particularly beneficial for international students with busy schedules, allowing for health management from home and assistance in the claim process.

Routine Medical Needs: Cost Considerations

For routine medical services, such as walk-in clinic visits, international students may encounter initial costs ranging from $75 to $100 per consultation, not including lab test charges. These expenses are typically reimbursed later, a process that may be time-consuming and financially burdensome. Telehealth services may present a more affordable and convenient alternative for routine healthcare needs.

What's Not Included?

  1. Treatment Aimed at Medical Tourism : UHIP does not cover treatment or surgery if you travel to Canada specifically to seek medical care, even if recommended by a physician.
  2. Medical Tests for Immigration or Third Parties: Examinations and tests required for immigration purposes or requested by a third party are not covered.
  3. Cosmetic Surgery: Cosmetic procedures are generally not covered, unless they are necessary due to an accident that occurs while you are covered by UHIP. In such cases, if the procedure would be covered by OHIP, UHIP may cover it too.
  4. Non-Medical Expenses in Hospitals: Expenses like out-of-hospital food or accommodation aren’t covered.
  5. Charges Covered by Another Plan: If the costs are eligible under a different insurance plan or would have been provided without cost if not insured, UHIP won't cover them.
  6. Administrative Services: Costs associated with court testimony, preparation of records, reports, certificates, or communication are not included.
  7. Dental Care: General dental services are excluded, except for specific conditions noted in the coverage details.
  8. Supplemental Health Services: This includes services like prescription drugs, dental cleanings, eyeglasses, and acupuncture, which are not covered.
  9. Drugs Outside of Hospital Stays: Medications administered outside a hospital stay are not covered. This also includes hospital visits solely for drug administration.
  10. Non-Medical Professional Charges: Charges for travel time, mileage, or telephone advice are not included.
    11.Specific Lab Services: Only certain lab services or clinical pathology are covered, as specified in UHIP coverage details.
  11. Travel Emergency Medical Services : If you exceed the maximum trip duration during an approved leave of absence, travel emergency medical services are not covered.
  12. Excess Charges: Charges beyond what UHIP defines as reasonable and customary, or in excess of UHIP limits, are not covered.
  13. Screening and Research Examinations: Physician services for screenings or research processes are excluded, except those covered by OHIP.
  14. Private Nursing and Home Care: Private duty nursing is generally not covered, except under the home care benefit.
  15. Services Outside OHIP Coverage: Services not covered by OHIP are generally not included in UHIP, unless specifically stated otherwise.

It's important to be aware of these exclusions to avoid unexpected expenses. Always check the UHIP official website for the most up-to-date information and details regarding coverage and exclusions. This knowledge is crucial for exploring the healthcare system in Canada effectively and avoiding surprises when it comes to medical bills.