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. If you live in Nova Scotia, you’ll need to apply for their Medical Services Insurance Program (MSI). Here’s what you need to know about MSI and how to qualify.

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 Nova Scotia  

In Nova Scotia, the Medical Services Insurance Program is administered by Medavie Blue Cross, under the direction of the provincial government. The province covers the cost of healthcare, and there are no premiums for individuals who qualify. To access MSI, you’ll need to apply for a Nova Scotia Health Card, which you must show whenever you visit a doctor or go to the hospital. 

Can the Nova Scotia health card be used in Ontario? 

If you’re temporarily visiting Ontario from outside of the province, you can use your Nova Scotia health card. However, coverage of services needs to be in accordance with the types of insured health services available in Nova Scotia. You must also be treated at an accredited public hospital. 

When does the Nova Scotia MSI coverage start?  

There is up to a three month waiting period for MSI in Nova Scotia. Anyone arriving in Nova Scotia on a work or study permit should contact the MSI office directly for more information on whether they qualify for coverage. Individuals with a work permit that is valid for a minimum of 12 months are eligible to apply for MSI, provided they have signed a declaration. 

Whether you move to the province from another part of Canada or another country, individuals will only become eligible for health services on the first day of the third month following their residency. For example, if you arrived on January 15, your coverage would begin on April 1. Dependent children under the age of 19 will receive coverage once their parents have been approved for MRI. 

What’s covered under the Nova Scotia MSI?

MSI is designed to provide residents of Nova Scotia with medically required medical, hospital, and optometric services. Here is what is covered for eligible residents under their health care program:

  • Consultations with a family doctor, physician, or specialist when medically necessary 
  • Diagnostic services except those available under Insured Hospital Services
  • Services at a hospital including all necessary surgical services, standard accommodation, and meals 
  • Obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care 
  • Treatment for fractures and dislocations 
  • Physical examinations, pap smears, and other preventative testing
  • Medically necessary diagnostic services, such as x-rays, MRIs, CAT scan
  • Supervision of home dialysis 
  • Basic dental care for children age 14 and under 
  • Vision test for children aged nine and younger, or adults age 65 and older once every two years

What’s not covered under the Nova Scotia MSI?

While MSI covers basic, medically necessary health care, there are a number of services that are not included:

  • Cosmetic surgeries 
  • Semi-private or private hospital stays
  • Prescription medical for anyone under the age of 65 years old 
  • Visioncare for anyone between the age of 10 to 64 years old 
  • Routine dental care for anyone over the age of 14 
  • Medical examinations for employment or insurance purposes
  • Ambulance transportation, except between medical facilities 
  • Complementary or paramedical treatments, such as a podiatrist, chiropractor, physiotherapy, massage therapy, and osteopaths
  • Psychologist 
  • Hearing aids, assistive medical equipment such as crutches or wheelchair 
  • Physical examinations for employment, insurance, school or immigration purposes

Who is eligible for Nova Scotia MSI?

To be eligible for health care in Nova Scotia, you need to be a Canadian citizen,  Permanent Resident, or Landed Immigrant who has settled in the province. Individuals must be registered with MSI and present in Nova Scotia 183 days in every calendar year. 

What documents are needed to apply for the Nova Scotia MSI?

In order to apply for MSI, you will need to provide proof of your immigration status in Canada (e.g. Permanent Resident, Landed Immigrant, Work Permit) or proof of Canadian citizenship

How to apply for MSI in Nova Scotia?

To apply for a health card in Nova Scotia, you’ll need to contact the Medical Services Insurance Registration and Enquiry Department directly to start an application. Blank application forms are not available. 

Contact the MSI Registration Department at:
Telephone: 902-496-7008
Toll-free: 1-800-563-8880

PO Box 500, Halifax, NS, B3J 2S1 


230 Brownlow Avenue, Dartmouth, NS

How long does it take to get a Nova Scotia Health card?

Once you have completed your health card application and it has been received at the SMI Registration Department, it will take 10 business days for you to receive your card by mail. 

If you have any questions about applying for a health card in Nova Scotia, you may be able to find help at your nearest community agency or newcomer service. Alternatively, contact MSI at telephone 902-496-7008, toll-free 1-800-563-8880, or email  


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