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Applying for the Medical Services Plan in British Columbia

MSP is a public health insurance plan that covers medically necessary services. In fact, all residents in BC, including many international students (* see ‘Eligibility’), MUST enrol this medical service plan. As an international student on a work permit or study permit, you should enrol into MSP as soon as possible, and the coverage will come into effect 3 months later. Be aware that the coverage costs $75.00 each month.

Please note this article only covers information about the medical services in British Columbia. If you are looking for information about those services in other provinces, please see this link.

What is “Medical Service Plan (MSP)”?

In Canada, public health insurance is available to eligible residents. In B.C., public health insurance is called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). It covers the cost of medically-necessary insured doctor services.

Eligibility

Eligibility is divided into dependents, First Nations residents, other individuals in BC and residents. International students under other individuals in BC.

  • A citizen of Canada or be lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence.
  • Some holders of Study and/or Work Permits or Work Permits on Working Holiday Programs (all permits need to be valid for a period of six or more months).

Tourists or visitors to B.C. do not qualify for MSP coverage.

How to Apply

If you are new to Canada, apply for MSP as soon as you arrive. Your coverage may start three months after your arrival date in British Columbia. You should get private health care insurance while you wait.

To apply, you can do so either online or via paper format. So below are the links for both processes.

Fees for MSP

As of Jan 1, 2020, MSP premiums are eliminated, which means all of the residents in Canada are exempt from MSP fees UNLESS YOU ARE AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT. International students still need to pay $75.00 per month, per student, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Other temporary residents, such as work permit holders, are exempt from MSP fees as well. Please note that once your status in Canada changes, you need to update your information on your account online. (For example, once you receive a post-graduation work permit, you need to upload your completion letter and work permit on your account so you would be qualified for the exemption of MSP fees).

Services Covered by MSP

Below are the services that are available through MSP. Utilizing these services after 3 months after applying for MSP will mean you pay no fees for them. Familiarize yourself with the list so aren’t surprised by any charges for medical procedures that are unexpected.

  • medically required services provided by a physician enrolled with MSP;
  • maternity care provided by a physician or a midwife;
  • medically required eye examinations provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist for adults aged 19-64;
  • annual eye examinations for children aged 0-18 and seniors aged 65+;
  • diagnostic services, including x-rays, provided at approved diagnostic facilities, when ordered by a registered physician, midwife, podiatrist, dental surgeon or oral surgeon;
  • dental and oral surgery, when medically necessary in a hospital (excluding restorative services, i.e.: fillings, caps, crowns, root canals, etc.)*;
  • orthodontic services related to severe congenital facial abnormalities.

The removal of healthy wisdom teeth, even if impacted, is not a benefit. Surgical removal of a third molar (wisdom tooth) is an MSP service only when hospitalization is medically necessary, due to the extreme complexity of the extraction and where there is pathology.

Lastly, other services that may be available under MSP include supplementary benefits from other health care practitioners.

Services NOT Covered by MSP

There are a multitude of services not covered by MSP, which may necessitate enrolment in a private health insurance plan if you think you’ll require any of these services in the future.

  • services that are deemed to be not medically required, such as cosmetic surgery;
  • dental services, except as outlined under Services Covered by MSP;
  • routine eye examinations for persons 19 to 64 years of age;
  • eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other equipment or appliances;
  • prescription drugs (see PharmaCare);
  • acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry services (except for MSP beneficiaries receiving supplementary benefits);
  • preventive services and screening tests not supported by evidence of medical effectiveness (for example, routine
  • annual “complete” physical examinations, whole-body CT scans, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests);
  • services of counsellors or psychologists;
  • medical examinations, certificates or tests required for:
  • driving a motor vehicle
  • employment
  • life insurance
  • school or university
  • recreational and sporting activities
  • immigration purposes

Other Services

Ambulance Fees

While ambulance service fees are not an insured benefit under the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) or the Canada Health Act, fees are heavily subsidized for persons with a valid BC Care Card who are covered by MSP (known as MSP beneficiaries). Fees for non-MSP beneficiaries represent the unsubsidized cost of providing services. (Legislative fees effective October 1, 2007)

PharmaCare

PharmaCare covers eligible prescription drugs and medical supplies through several drug plans. So, the largest is the Fair PharmaCare plan, which is based on income: the lower your income, the more help you get.

Once you have PharmaCare coverage, at the pharmacy, you pay only the costs PharmaCare does not cover. BC PharmaCare also covers some pharmacy services.

MSP is necessary for international students studying in Canada and living in BC. So, it is best to enroll as soon as you can in order to have the coverage start as fast as possible 3 months later. In the meantime, you’ll need to purchase a private insurance plan to cover any necessary procedures during that first 3 months.

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