Overview of Healthcare in BC

All Canadian citizens and permanent residents must enroll in the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

crossWhat is MSP? The medical services plan is the healthcare insurance required by all people in Canada who are citizens, permanent residents, government assisted refugees, temporary workers with work permits for six months or longer, and post-secondary international students with a study permit.

After arriving in Canada and registering for MSP, new immigrants have 90 days during which they are NOT covered by MSP. During this time, it is often suggested to buy private insurance.

MSP covers many health care costs such as: primary care visits (your doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic), hospitals and most medical tests and treatments.

Registering with Medical Service Plan:

  • Registering with the service plan once you arrive in BC is important. It takes 3 months before you can use the medical service plan, so ask about private insurance for that time frame. If you do not have medial insurance, you will need to pay for doctor and hospital visits yourself.
  • When MSP begins, you will receive a BC service card with your photograph, name and health number
  • Always take your card with you when going to the doctor, clinic or hospital


You can choose to have your BC Services Card and your Driver’s Licence in one card or in two separate cards!

B.C Medical Service Plan:

  • Pays for health expenses, including doctors, most medical tests and treatments.

MSP Costs:

  • MSP coverage is not free
  • As of January 1, 2017, the fees you are charged (premium rates) will be determined by the number of adults on an MSP account; usually this is the MSP account holder and their spouse
  • Minors (people less than 19 years olds) and dependent post-secondary students do not have to pay for MSP premium charges.
  • MPS rates are paid monthly, the amount depending on your income
  • You can pay MSP through:
    • Pre-authorized debit
    • Bank or financial institution
    • Online using your credit card
    • At government office
    • By mailing a cheque
  • Assistance paying premiums is available for Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents who have lived in Canada for one whole year.
  • Sometimes, employers cover the cost of MSP.  Talk to your work to find out.


What MSP provides for you:

  • Medically required service provided by a physician
  • Maternity care provided by a physician or a midwife
  • Medically required (emergency) eye examinations provided by an ophthalmologists or optometrist
  • Diagnostic service: X-ray, when orders by registered physician, midwife, podiatrist, dental surgeon, or oral surgeon
  • Dental and oral surgery, in medical emergencies to be performed in the hospital
  • Orthodontic service related to facial abnormalities

Services NOT covered by MSP:

  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Dental services
  • Routine eye examination for ages 19-64
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids
  • Prescription drugs
  • Acupuncture, chiropractor, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy

To pay for services not covered by MSP, many Canadians also have private insurance which is often obtained through their employer.

PharmaCare is availble to BC residents, which can cover the costs of medications. Getting PharmaCare depends on need; people with lower income may be eligible for this coverage.

For more in-depth information on MSP and PharmaCare, please follow this link to the BC Government’s website: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage