a spread of medical supplies such as pills and a stethoscope

What is the difference between Medical Services Plan (MSP) and Extended Health Coverage?

Medical Services Plan (MSP) is the provincial health insurance provider specifically for residents of British Columbia (BC). If you don’t live in BC, then you need to look for your designated health insurance provider. 

On the other hand, extended health plans are additional packages that you purchase on top of your basic health plan.

Here’s a list of the main health insurance providers for each Canadian province and territory.

  • Alberta: Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)
  • British Columbia: Medical Services Plan (MSP)
  • Manitoba: Manitoba Health Services Insurance Plan (MHSIP)
  • New Brunswick: New Brunswick Medicare Plan (NBMP)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Medical Care Plan (MCP)
  • Northwest Territories: NWT Health Care Plan 
  • Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Health Insurance (MSI)
  • Nunavut: Nunavut Health Care Plan
  • Ontario: Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
  • Prince Edward Island: Health PEI 
  • Québec: Régie de l’assurance maladie (RAMQ)
  • Saskatchewan: Health Benefits Coverage
  • Yukon: Yukon Health Care

Searching up each service will provide the information and details that you need to know when signing up for insurance.

a clos-up picture of some pills

The Benefits of MSP

Let’s have a look at what MSP has to offer. It’s similar enough to the other provincial health insurance plans that we can focus on it. 

MSP is offered by the provincial government and it covers medical services such as:

  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Maternity care
  • Eye exams for minors (18 years and under) and seniors (65 years and older)
  • X-rays and other diagnostic services
  • Dental and oral surgery
  • Orthodontic services

In comparison, here’s a list of services that are not covered by MSP:

  • Non-medical surgeries (cosmetic surgery)
  • Aids such as glasses or hearing aids
  • Acupuncture and other non-surgical services
  • Therapy and counselling
  • Medical tests for employment or school
  • Prescription drugs (covered by PharmaCare)

Prescription drugs in BC have another service provider called PharmaCare. In order to be eligible for this, you’ll need to have MSP coverage and allow your income to be checked. PharmaCare will only cover the expenses they think you won’t be able to. The less your income is, the more assistance PharmaCare will provide. For example, if you are a single young professional with a solid career, they might not help you as much as they might help a single mother who only works part-time and has two children. PharmaCare can also cover some medical supplies or pharmacy services like prostheses or insulin. 

Once again, MSP is specifically for residents of British Columbia. Residents are citizens, permanent residents, or people with work/study permits. The benefits may also vary slightly between provinces and territories, but you can assume that all provincial health insurance services have basic medical coverage.

A dentist chair and dentist supplies

The Benefits of Extended Health

With that, let’s now have a look at what extended health plans look like. Extended health plans are offered across Canada. Some only offer extended insurance to residents of that province while some cover the entirety of the country. 

In short, extended health plans are offered by insurance companies. Establishments such as Manulife, Sun Life, or BCAA (for BC residents) provide insurance options for not just health, but also car, life, or travel. They offer a number of different plans. Some are paid yearly while some are paid monthly. 

Extended health plans will cover most things that MSP doesn’t. The price of extended health increases if you need more of what MSP doesn’t cover. Basic plans with third-party providers start with dental and optical, but will cost you more if you need physical therapy or counselling. It’s important to look through and compare the different plans that they offer so that you get the one that is best suited for you.

Some employers or universities will also provide the same extended benefits that insurance companies offer. Unfortunately, not all employers are able to provide this service. Most places that do offer them are usually government businesses or big corporations. 

For students, post secondary schools offer a coverage plan for a fraction of what they usually cost. UVic and other schools’ insurance is done through StudentCare and is usually included in the tuition fees. 

Which one should I get?

To answer the question, it’s not one or the other. All citizens and permanent residents have the right to provincial health plans. As a resident, it’s strongly advised that you sign up for MSP or the corresponding service for each province. Signing up for it allows you to get basic medical needs met.

For students, it’s important to sign up for private insurance first. Anyone may apply for MSP, but the wait time until approval is typically 2-3 months long. In case anything happens during this period, you will have private insurance to lean back on.

Extended health is optional for the most part. If you have a medical condition that requires regular prescription drugs or you just want to be on top of your dental appointments, then extended health is highly recommended. They’ll help cover some extra expenses. 

For as long as you can prove that you are a legal resident, it is your right to have health insurance.

Learn More about Other Provinces

Get Quick Access to Ontario’s Health Services

Applying for the Medical Services Plan in British Columbia

Disclaimer: The information is obtained directly from the Government of British Columbia website. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional advice. The information has been gathered as accurately as possible at the time of writing, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please check theGovernment of British Columbia official website and digital channels.

Source: Service Covered by MSP Medical Benefits Understand how Health Care works in Canada

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