BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)

The Government of British Columbia has a health insurance plan called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). It is only for British Columbia residents who are Canadian citizens, landed immigrants or government-assisted refugees. Post-secondary international students with study permits and people with work permits for six months or longer can also get MSP.

You will find an overview of the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) and healthcare in BC at WelcomeBC-Healthcare .  You can also read Chapter 4 of the WelcomeBC Newcomers’ Guide.

You will pay a monthly premium for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) and this pays for the cost of visiting a doctor and hospital stays.  MSP also pays for routine eye exams by an optometrist for children 18 years and under, and adults aged 65 and above. It does not pay for dental care, drugs prescribed by your doctor outside a hospital, or physiotherapy.   All BC residents must join MSP so it is important to apply for a health card as soon as you become a resident.  If you are low income, you can also apply for premium assistance, which means you pay less for many healthcare services.

You are not covered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP) for the first three-months you live in BC. During the waiting period, you can purchase private health insurance from an insurance broker (Whistler Insurance Shoppe Tel. 604-932-3888 at #109-4369 Main Street, Whistler).  If you do not purchase health insurance and you need treatment in hospital or a clinic, it may cost you thousands of dollars per day.

Once you have your MSP card, you must take it with you every time you go to a hospital or clinic, when seeing a doctor, optometrist or other healthcare professional.

Other links with useful information;

Ministry of Health: new or existing Residents of B.C., can check eligibility for MSP, how to enroll, and documents required at: MSP eligibility and how to enrol

MSP Coverage:  A full overview of MSP, links to how to enroll, change of name or address, replacement card, applying for premium assistance, FAQs and MSP forms: MSP Information

MSP Premiums: For information on the latest monthly rates for MSP, including premium assistance:  MSP Premiums

After February 2013 your MSP card and driving licence will be one card only. This is called the BC Services Card.  You need to renew your driver’s licence and MSP every five years. This can be done at the same time.  For full details see:  BC Drivers Licence and Services Card

Medical costs not covered by MSP

Normal MSP does not cover

  • prescription medicines
  • regular dental care or
  • physiotherapy.

Extra health insurance coverage (an extended healthcare insurance plan) is often offered by employers to help pay for these items, or you can buy your own extended healthcare insurance from a private company.  Each plan is different and you choose the level of benefits and what they cover.  Read the terms and conditions carefully so you understand what and how much is covered.  Check in the Yellow Pages for extended health plan providers.

If you have any questions about the Extended Healthcare Insurance provided by your employer, call or email your Settlement Worker:

Whistler Welcome Centre tel: 604.698.5960  email: info@welcomewhistler.com

Pemberton Welcome Centre  tel: 604.967.1664  email: info@welcomepemberton.com

Financial help with medication costs

The BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) does not pay for drugs prescribed by your doctor outside a hospital.  When you need medicine, the doctor will give you a prescription and you will have to pay for it at the pharmacy.  You can buy some drugs without prescription.  If you need help choosing medication, ask a pharmacist at the pharmacy.

BC PharmaCare helps residents of British Columbia with the cost of some prescription drugs and medical supplies.  There are several different ways BC PharmaCare can help. Usually, you must have an MSP health care card before you can sign up for PharmaCare help.

The largest plan is the Fair PharmaCare plan which provides help depending on your family’s net income. You only have to register once. Most B.C. residents, single people or families, qualify for some help under Fair PharmaCare.  If you qualify, part of your prescription cost is paid by PharmaCare and is calculated automatically when you buy your medications.  You only pay the costs not covered by PharmaCare.  If you leave B.C., PharmaCare coverage ends the day you leave the province.

You can register for Fair PharmaCare online.

The BC Healthy Kids Program helps low income families pay for basic dental care and prescription glasses for their children.  If you have children under 19 years old, and your family is receiving Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium assistance through the Ministry of Health Services, you qualify for the BC Healthy Kids Program. Click on the link for more information: More information on the BC Healthy Kids Program or call 1-866-866-0800 (press 4, then 2)

Financial help with MSP payments

If your income is low, you may be able to get financial help with your monthly MSP payments (premiums).  This is called Premium Assistance. You may pay less, or get free MSP.  You can only get help with these payments if you are a Canadian citizen, or a permanent resident for at least 12 months. If you only have short-term financial difficulties you can apply for temporary premium assistance. If you are having more general difficulty paying for MSP, you can ask for regular premium assistance. If you want to apply, you will need to contact Health Insurance BC (HIBC).

For information, and to apply for assistance online click the link:  MSP Premiums

For information about Premium Assistance eligibility, rates and how to apply, you can contact HIBC by phone:

In Vancouver: 604 683-7151
Toll free: 1 800 663 7100