One of the benefits for newcomers moving to Canada is access to publicly funded health care, which has a reputation of being world-class. Health care is delivered through each of Canada’s provinces and territories. In British Columbia, this is known as the Medical Services Plan (MSP). Here’s what you need to know about the Medical Services Plan in British Columbia and how to apply.

Want to learn more about healthcare in Canada?
See Healthcare in Canada: Basics for newcomers for an overview of provincial health insurance, understanding health coverage provided by the government, and to learn how to find a family doctor.

Health care coverage in British Columbia 

In British Columbia (B.C.), MSP covers the cost of all medically-necessary services for residents. Once you enroll in the plan, you’ll receive a Personal Health Number (PHN). 

What’s covered under MSP?

B.C.’s plan covers the following medical services:

  • Visits to a family doctor or physician enrolled with MSP
  • Diagnostic services and tests, such as x-rays, at an approved facility 
  • Maternal care provided by a midwife or physician
  • One annual eye exam for children aged 0-18 years or adults aged 65-years and older
  • Medically required eye examinations for adults aged 19-64 by an ophthalmologist or optometrist
  • Medically required dental surgery that needs to be performed in a hospital
  • Orthodontic services related to severe facial abnormalities. 

Other services, including chiropractor, acupuncture, massage, naturopathy or physical therapy, may be covered by MSP for individuals who are eligible, such as residents receiving income assistance. 

What’s not covered under MSP?

MSP only covers medically necessary basic services, such as visits to a doctor or specialist and medical tests. There are a number of health services the B.C. health program does not cover: 

  • Medically unnecessary surgery or treatments, such as cosmetic surgery
  • Dental care
  • Routine eye examinations for anyone between 19-64 years old 
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other medical devices 
  • Complementary or alternative medical treatments, such as chiropractor, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, or non-surgical podiatry services
  • Psychotherapy or counselling 
  • Preventive screening medical tests or services not deemed medically necessary 
  • Medical examinations for immigration application, life insurance policy, or employment 

Who is eligible for MSP?

To be eligible for health care in British Columbia, you need to be a resident in British Columbia. A resident is defined as a person who is either a Canadian citizen or lawfully allowed to be in Canada (e.g. permanent resident), who has chosen to live in the province and is physically present for at least six months in a calendar year. If you qualify, your dependents are also eligible to receive MSP. Depends includes a spouse, children, and dependent students aged 19-25 who are enrolled in post-secondary education. 

When does MSP coverage start?  

New or returning residents to British Columbia will need to complete a waiting period before MSP coverage starts. The waiting time is calculated as the time in the remainder of the month in which you settle, plus an additional two months following this. For example, if you were to arrive in B.C. on January 15, you would have to wait for the remainder of January, as well as all of February and March, before coverage begins. It’s important to note that if you and your spouse settle in the province separately, each person will have their own wait time, based on the date you arrived. 

How much does MSP cost? 

There are no additional premiums or costs involved in enrolling in MSP. The Provincial government eliminated any MSP premium costs as of January 1, 2020. 

What documents are needed to apply for MSP?

If you have recently moved to Canada, you should apply for MSP as soon as possible. Your coverage will start once your wait period is over. It’s advisable to arrange for private health insurance during this waiting period. 

You will need the following to apply for MSP:

How to apply for a BC Services Card

Before applying for health care coverage in British Columbia, you will need a valid BC Services Card. This is a government-issued ID card that verifies your identity and age. It can be used to access health care, government services, or to open a bank account.

  1. You will need two pieces of ID to apply for a BC Services Card. Acceptable forms of identification include a B.C. driver’s license, permanent resident card, student, work, or temporary resident permit. A secondary piece of ID can include a photocopy of any of the items listed above or non-English language documents such as a driver’s license or driving record, or other forms of ID in a language other than English. For newcomers not born in Canada, you can contact ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) for more information on acceptable forms of ID. 
  2. Visit an ICBC licensing office. In response to COVID-19, you can make an appointment ahead of time at some locations or check to see when your nearest office accepts walk-in customers.
  3. At the licensing office, a representative there will confirm you are a B.C. resident then take your photo. Your BC Services Card will be issued to you in the mail. There is no cost involved in applying for a BC Services Card. 

Here are few more things to consider before you get started:

How much does it cost to get a BC Services Card?

There is no fee to apply for this card. However, if you are combining it with a B.C. driver’s licence, you will have to pay the fees related to that. 

How long will it take to get a BC Services Card?

Your BC Services Card will be mailed to you within four to six weeks. 

How to apply for MSP

Once you have your BC Services Card, there are two ways to apply for MSP:

1. Apply online

An online application form is available and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The data entered is saved locally on your device until you submit the form. The application form will ask you to select whether you’re a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or hold a temporary permit (such as a work permit). You’ll be asked to upload a digital image (by taking a photo or scanning it) of your ID document proving your eligibility for MSP as part of the application. If you have changed your name legally, you’ll also provide a copy of a document that supports that (e.g. marriage certificate). 

2. Apply by mail 

Print off a copy of the Application for Enrolment Form, then mail the completed form, along with photocopies of documents that support your name and immigration status or Canadian citizenship, to: 

Health Insurance BC
Medical Services Plan
PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC
V8W 9P7

Once you’re enrolled in MSP, you can use your BC services card to access insured medical and health care services.

If you have any questions about British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan, you may be able to find help at your nearest community agency or newcomer service. Alternatively, contact Health Insurance BC by emailing mspenquiries@hibc.gov.bc.ca, telephone 604-683-7151 or toll-free 1-800-663-7100, or mail:

Health Insurance BC
PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E3

 

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