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Healthcare Basics for Albertans



Healthcare is all about caring for you with the services available. After all, you use the healthcare system because you need a healthcare service. Here you'll learn all about the healthcare services that are available to you. You’ll also learn:

  • What is the difference between public and private services?
  • How are public and private services funded and how do I know what services I have to pay for?

Healthcare services are given in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and even your home. There are both public and private healthcare services.

Public services th​at are offered by government partners are paid for by the Government of Alberta.

Private services are offered by partners that aren’t connected to the government. You have to pay for these services or they are paid for through a private insurance plan, like Alberta Blue Cross.


​​​​​Select a service type below to learn more.


Public Services​


Private Services​​​​​​​​​​

​​​​​​Public Services

​​public se​​rvices are paid
for by:

​the government
(tax dollars)

​​some examples of public health services include:


emergency services




acute care​


primary care


continuing care




specialty care


lab testing


diagnostic imaging

... and mo​​​re​​​

Public services are paid for through your taxes and are funded by the government. The biggest public healthcare service provider in Alberta is Alberta Health Services. Alberta Health Services partners with other health providers like Covenant Health to provide publicly funded healthcare services. There are many types of public healthcare services. You’ll be asked to show your Alberta Personal Health Card before you can access public healthcare services.

Primary care is the care from your family doctor or other healthcare provider that works with your doctor such as a nurse or dietitian. Your family doctor may not be connected with Alberta Health Services or Covenant Health, but most of the services they give are publicly funded.

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of family doctors and other health professionals who work together to develop programs and services designed to meet your everyday health needs. These teams may include nurses, dietitians, mental health counsellors, and pharmacists.

Acute care is the care for an injury or illness, such as staying in a hospital after surgery or when you’re being treated for a medical problem like a heart attack.

Emergency services is the care you get in the emergency room at a hospital or the care you get when an ambulance is called. You may need to pay part of the cost of calling an ambulance, even if you don’t need a trip to the hospital, unless you have government or private insurance coverage.

Learn about your options to emergency care like calling 811 or Community Paramedics, who can be called before emergencies begin. Community Paramedic teams are available in many parts of Alberta.

Medical procedures include surgery and tests that are done by the doctor or healthcare provider such as a colonoscopy or Pap test.

Support Services include laboratory services (such as blood and urine tests) and diagnostic imaging (such as x-ray, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans).

Continuing care is made up of 3 levels of care: home care, supported living and long-term care. Some Continuing Care services are publicly funded by the provincial government, but some are not (privately funded).

  • Home Care is care you get in your home or where you live in your community.​ The types of care you can get include nursing, rehabilitation services, and other things like cooking, cleaning, bathing, and personal grooming. You may need to arrange for the services you need yourself.
  • Supported Living includes a place to live as well other supports and care that you may need. Often these support services are arranged through Home Care. Other support services can include meals, housekeeping, and social activities.
  • Long-term Care includes a place to live and health services for people with more complex health needs who can’t live at home or in supported living. The healthcare services in Long-term Care are publicly funded, however, residents of these facilities pay fees to cover the cost of living in the facility, meals, and other living expenses.

Cancer Care and other Specialty Care is the care you get from doctors and other healthcare providers who specialize in certain areas of medicine. This includes care from oncologists (cancer doctors), rheumatologists (arthritis doctors) and cardiologists (heart doctors). Their services are usually public and covered by your Alberta Personal Health Card unless there’s a service or treatment that hasn’t been approved for funding by the Government of Alberta yet.

Go back to learn about other services.

​​​​​​​Private Services

​​private se​​rvices are paid for by either:​​​​




you (out of pocket)

​​some examples of private health services include:


oral health


eye exam​






continuing care


diagnostic imaging​​


doctor's note

... and mo​​​re​​​

Private healthcare services aren’t funded by the government and are delivered by a variety of healthcare partners.

Some examples of private services include:

Doctor’s notes and forms filled out by your doctor – Most of the services given by your doctor are publicly funded but sick notes and filling out forms aren’t. You’ll have to pay for these services.

Continuing Care helps people with healthcare services and personal care in their home or where they live. Some Continuing Care services are paid for through your Alberta Personal Health Card, and some will be covered through your own insurance or you’ll pay for it yourself.

Some types of diagnostic imaging services can be private, such as MRIs, if you choose to pay to get one sooner than through a public healthcare service. MRIs are a public healthcare service but some people don’t want to wait to have the test.

Being Healthy types of services include gyms, yoga classes and massages. Some private insurance plans, through your work or that you buy for yourself, will pay for these services. Check your plan to see if they cover preventative health services.

Oral health services are given by your dentist and dental hygienist, and eye examinations given by your optometrist (eye doctor) are privately funded for most people. Sometimes, for young children, these services may be paid for by your Alberta Personal Health Card.

Addiction and Mental health services are publicly funded but there are also many privately funded services available such as counselling​. Talk to your healthcare provider to see which type of service may work best for you.

People who don’t have access to private funding can sometimes still get help with healthcare bills. Talk to your healthcare provider or call 811 to find out more.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Go back to learn about other services.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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