Health Insurance Coverage for Expats in Vancouver & British Columbia
All residents of British Columbia, temporary or otherwise, are required to enroll in the Medical Services Plan (MSP) of British Columbia, which pays for medically required services provided by physicians and supplementary health care practitioners, laboratory services and diagnostic procedures. Persons not considered residents are visitors and tourists. All essential services are covered under MSP and are free at the point of use. Other medical services (naturopathic, dental, vision, etc.) are sometimes covered through private supplemental health insurance, available either through your local employer or through a self-administered account.
If you are coming to Canada on a work visa, you may receive MSP coverage through your employer, who will deduct the monthly payment from your salary. If you are coming to Canada for other reasons, or have not secured employment yet, you should apply directly to MSP for a self-administered account. Forms can be accessed here: https://www.health.gov.bc.ca/exforms/msp/enrolment.html. You should complete the forms and mail them to MSP. Residents of BC are no longer required to pay for Medical Service Premiums as there is a health tax that is collected by the provincial government on businesses with payrolls over $500,000.
After you arrive in Canada, there is a waiting period of the balance of the month in which you arrived, plus two full months, before you are eligible for coverage. However, you should not wait to apply but should go ahead and apply as soon as possible because it can take quite a while to process your application. By the time the application is processed, you should be eligible for coverage. Once everything is processed, you will be mailed your CareCard, which will display your Personal Health Number, your name, and your date of birth. You must carry your CareCard with you at all times and must present it whenever you visit the doctor or need medical assistance. All essential services are covered under MSP, and you will generally not pay anything when you visit the doctor. MSP does not cover alternative medical care (unless you are eligible to receive premium assistance), so if are seeking alternative care, you must pay for the cost of the visit out of pocket, unless you have private supplemental health coverage (more about this in the next paragraph), in which case you may be reimbursed for the cost of the visit, depending on your plan.
There is a lot to know about MSP and how it works; the best way to familiarize yourself with it is to read up on the information provided by the Ministry of Health Services: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/insurance/bcresidents.html.
Private Supplemental/Extended Health Insurance
Pacific Blue Cross is the largest provider of supplemental health insurance in British Columbia. You may be eligible for group coverage through your employer, but if not, you can sign up for an individual plan. Further information can be found here: https://www.healthcover.ca
Waiting for Provincial Coverage
During the waiting period, you won’t be covered for medical services, should anything happen or should you need a doctor’s care. For the uninsured, medical services are very expensive in BC. You can expect to pay, upfront, a fee of anywhere from $75 to $120 or more just to see the doctor at a walk-in clinic. Treatments or tests are an additional charge. If your former health coverage (in your home country) can be extended until provincial care begins, it would be wise to arrange this before arriving in Canada. Otherwise, interim coverage can be purchased from private health insurance companies. You can request coverage via our international health insurance quote page: