BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)
About BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)
The British Columbia (BC) government Medical Services Plan (BC MSP) is a mandatory public health insurance plan for everyone who lives in BC for six months or longer. The BC MSP is an important part of benefitting from the health care available to all BC residents. The plan covers the cost of basic medical care within Canada, including most physician and hospital services. If you are not enrolled, you will have to pay for medical expenses independently.
See health insurance for international students to learn about the differences between iMED, MSP, and the UBCSUO Health and Dental Plan.
Who is eligible and how do I apply?
If you will live in BC for six months or longer, you are required by law to enroll in MSP. If you are a study permit holder, you’re required to pay the plan’s health-care coverage fee.
You must apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in BC. You cannot apply for MSP before you arrive.
Please review the MSP Application Step-by-Step Instruction Guide before you apply
When am I covered?
There is a three-month waiting period before MSP coverage begins: this is the balance of the month in which you arrive in British Columbia (BC), plus two full calendar months. For example, if you arrive in BC on August 25, you are eligible for MSP coverage starting November 1.
To cover the waiting period for MSP, most new-to-UBC international students are covered by iMED health insurance for their first three months in Canada. Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and returning international students whose iMED insurance policy has already expired and are not re-enrolled for iMED are advised to join the Global Campus Health Plan during the 3-month waiting period.
BC MSP coverage will be provided to the same expiry date as your status in Canada (e.g., study permit, work permit, visitor record, etc.), unless you leave BC for an extended period.
If you extend your study permit or get a Post-Graduation Work Permit, you must apply to extend your MSP, otherwise you will not be covered.
If your study permit expires before you receive your new study or work permit, you will have maintained status. It’s very important to get temporary MSP coverage while under maintained status.
MSP coverage fees
As of January 1, 2020, all study permit holders are assessed a $75 health-care coverage fee per month. You must pay the British Columbia government directly.
If your family is with you in Canada, they will only be assessed the new health-care coverage fee if they also hold study permits. If they hold work permits or are here as visitors, they will not be assessed the fee.
The fees are subject to change. Check the MSP website for the most up-to-date information.
Changing from study permit to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
Even if your MSP coverage has not expired, once you get your PGWP, contact MSP by phone to update your account and request to have your fees changed. As a work permit holder, you do not need to pay the health-care coverage fee.
Getting your MSP card
When your application is processed, your MSP card, or BC Services Card, will be mailed to the address you provided in your application. Your BC Services Card will indicate your coverage period, which should match the expiration date of your status in Canada (e.g., study permit, work permit, or visitor record).
Using your MSP insurance
In most cases, you will not have to pay at the time you seek care for medically required services when you show your BC Services Card.
MSP does not cover dental care, prescription drugs, routine vision care such as eye examinations or corrective lenses, or travel. The UBCSUO Extended Health and Dental Plan is designed to cover these costs. Once you have MSP, you might need to register for the BC Fair PharmaCare Plan to enhance coverage for prescriptions.
See a full list of your medical and health care benefits provided by MSP.
In general, you should go to clinics for non-urgent medical care and hospitals for emergencies. For emergencies and for an ambulance, call 911. To learn about accessing medical services in BC, see services and resources in BC or explore the BC Newcomers’ Guide, which is available in 8 languages.
UBCO’s Student Wellness offers a range of health assessments and treatments on-campus.
Register for BC Fair PharmaCare
It is recommended for most students to register for the BC Fair PharmaCare program, which may provide additional coverage for prescription drugs, medical devices and pharmacy services. PharmaCare registration may be required for prescription coverage through the SUO Health and Dental plan.
Since coverage is based on income, the application requires proof of your previous income based on taxes filed in Canada 2 years ago. If you are a new resident of Canada, recently turned 19, or were exempt from filing taxes in Canada 2 years ago, you might be able to submit a Fair PharmaCare Proof of Income Affidavit—contact MSP for assistance.
As of October 2022, you can register for the BC Fair PharmaCare plan at the same time you apply for MSP. It is also possible to register for Fair PharmaCare separately.
You need to provide a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to apply. If you don’t have a SIN yet, consider applying for MSP separately as soon as you arrive in BC, then register for PharmaCare once you have your SIN.
If you have questions about enrollment with Fair PharmaCare, contact MSP.
Once your MSP coverage begins
MSP will send you an invoice in the mail each month. You need to start making payments after you receive the invoice.
Remember to tell MSP if you change your address, change your name, leave BC permanently, or need to add/remove dependents to or from your coverage (for example you get married, divorced, have a common-law partner, or have children). See the Managing your MSP Account page.
Remember to keep your MSP valid by extending your MSP coverage each time you extend your temporary residency in Canada (for example, when you extend your study permit or get a post-graduation work permit). Be sure to understand how having maintained status can affect your coverage, if your study or work permit will expire while you are in Canada.
Maintaining your MSP coverage
Generally, your MSP coverage will have the same expiry date as your status in Canada, such as the expiry date of your study permit or post-graduation work permit.
If you extend your immigration documents, make sure you extend your MSP coverage as soon as you get your new study or work permit.
How having Maintained status impacts your MSP coverage
You will have “maintained status” (formerly called ‘implied status’) if all of the following applies to you:
- You applied for a new immigration document, such as a study or work permit, before the old one expired
- You remain in Canada
- You won’t receive a new immigration document before your old one expires
If you are waiting for your study permit or Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
Before you get your new immigration document
If you have applied to renew your study permit or applied for a PGWP before your study permit has expired, you have “maintained status” and can legally stay in Canada. You should call MSP to request temporary coverage for an initial 6 months while you are on maintained status. During the initial 6 months, the on-going application for a new immigration document should reach a decision. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing condition that may not be covered by private health insurance, such as pregnancy.
As of May 1, 2022, temporary health insurance coverage with MSP is available to those on maintained status who meet MSP’s eligibility requirements. This also applies to your dependents who are currently residents of BC.
If MSP approves your request for temporary coverage, ask them to confirm what your coverage start date will be and when the coverage will be provided. If you and your family members are study permit holders, you will continue to be charged the monthly health-care coverage fee.
You will need to submit an MSP extension application and provide all of the following documents instead of a copy of your study or work permit:
- A letter written by yourself explaining your status and your request for temporary coverage, such as, “I would like to request temporary coverage of BC MSP as I applied to extend my immigration documents before my BC MSP and immigration status expired and was advised by a Health Insurance BC agent that I am eligible for coverage during maintained status”, and
- A copy of the IRCC submission confirmation (PDF) confirming that IRCC received your immigration application. To find your confirmation, log in to your IRCC online account.
If it has been 4 weeks or longer since your previous study permit expired, you must provide recent documentation from IRCC from within the past 4 weeks showing that your study or work permit application is still being processed. Examples of supporting documents include:
- A screenshot or PDF of your IRCC online account webpage showing the current status of your study or work permit application and timestamp of the current date (must be from within the past 4 weeks). Click “check status and messages” under the “View my submitted applications or profiles” section.
- The most recent correspondence received by IRCC regarding your study or work permit application status issued within the past 4 weeks, such as a PDF letter in your IRCC online account under “messages”.
If MSP is not able to provide temporary coverage, purchase temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover you until you can reinstate your MSP coverage.
After you get your new immigration document
Once you get your new immigration document, you will need to extend or reapply for MSP.
If you were approved for MSP temporary coverage, apply to extend your MSP online with a copy of your new study or work permit.
If you were not approved for MSP temporary coverage, depending on the length of the gap in MSP coverage, you will either be able to get an extension of your MSP, or you will need to reapply for MSP. You must contact MSP by phone to confirm your eligibility as it will depend on your individual circumstances.
If you will need to reapply for MSP and serve the 3-month MSP waiting period again, you must get temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover you during the 3-month waiting period.
If you can extend your MSP and you hold a study permit, you will continue to be charged the monthly health-care coverage fee.
MSP coverage outside of BC
Maintaining your MSP eligibility
If you’re leaving British Columbia (BC) temporarily due to a co-op placement or travel plans, you will continue being billed for your health-care coverage fee.
To remain eligible for MSP, you need to live in BC for a minimum of 6 months in one calendar year. If you are absent from BC for more than 6 months, you may need to re-apply when you return to the province and go through the approximately 3-month waiting period again. Be sure to get temporary health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, for your waiting period.
For example, if you live outside of BC between May and December in 2022, you may need to reapply for your health insurance. However, if you are away from BC between September 2022 and April 2023, you remain eligible for MSP because you are only absent from the province for 4 months in each calendar year.
For more information, visit the Leaving BC Temporarily website.
BEFORE LEAVING BC
Make sure you understand MSP’s residency requirements and call MSP to discuss how your coverage could be impacted by travel plans. It will help you know the exact dates when you will be travelling outside BC.
IF YOU WILL BE IN ANOTHER CANADIAN PROVINCE OR TERRITORY
You might be able to continue to use MSP coverage for 3 months outside of BC, which could be used to cover your waiting period in another province or territory. To confirm your eligibility for coverage outside of BC and options to cancel your MSP, contact MSP by phone.
Different provinces and territories in Canada have their own health insurance plans and they do not all provide coverage for international students. Check with the province or territory’s health insurance plan if you are eligible to join and how to apply. If you are not eligible, be sure to purchase private temporary insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan.
IF YOU WILL BE OUTSIDE OF CANADA
If you will be outside Canada for less than six months, you have the option to keep or cancel MSP.
If you will be outside of Canada for more than six months, contact MSP by phone to confirm your eligibility. You might need to cancel your MSP coverage, or you might be given the option to keep MSP.
If you’re eligible and you decide to keep MSP, you do not have to reapply or have a three-month waiting period when you return.
If you cancel MSP, you have to reapply when you return to BC and get temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, during the MSP 3-month waiting period.
Ensure you have health insurance outside of Canada. If you are purchasing health insurance, make sure you will have adequate coverage as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses.
UPON RETURN TO BRITISH COLUMBIA
If you aren’t sure whether or not you are eligible for coverage, you must call MSP to confirm , particularly if you have been outside of BC for more than 6 months.
If you must re-apply for MSP and go through the 3-month waiting period for MSP again, be sure to obtain temporary private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover you until you are covered under MSP.
Before purchasing temporary private health insurance, make sure that you will have adequate coverage as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses.
Enrolling your family
If your family members plan to reside in BC for more than six months, they may also be eligible for MSP.
If your family members arrive in BC with you within the same calendar month, you can all apply for MSP at the same time.
If your family members arrive in BC at a later date (outside of the same calendar month), use the MSP Account Change form to add them to your existing MSP.
Remember to include photocopies of every family members’ Canadian status document (such as a study permit, visitor record, or work permit) valid for six months or more in the application. Some visitors will only have an entry stamp in their passports; use this as their status document.
Also remember that your family members will need to go through the three-month waiting period and should purchase a temporary health insurance, such as iMED (if you are still covered), or the Global Campus Health Plan, for that period.
If your child is born in BC, you can add them to your MSP.
See adding or removing dependents to learn more.
Health and wellbeing resources
Visit UBCO Health & Wellness to learn more about the health and wellbeing resources available to you.
International Student Guide
Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
If you have questions
To confirm your eligibility and coverage, contact MSP.
For all other questions related to international health insurance, contact The Global Engagement Office.