What is BC's MSP Health Insurance?

Did you know that public healthcare systems pay for around 70% of healthcare costs in Canada? The country’s universal public health system is a major accomplishment and a critical service for Canadians.

Citizens and residents benefit from this service, but each province and territory works a little differently. British Columbia's public system is called MSP, or the Medical Services Plan.

This guide goes into detail about MSP. Learn about eligibility, how to apply, what is covered and more.

What is Health Insurance British Columbia’s medical services plan? 

Health Insurance British Columbia (HIBC) runs the Medical Services Plan. MSP stands for the Medical Service Plan. It is the provincial insurance program that pays for medically necessary services provided by physicians and midwives.

Services Covered by MSP

  • Medically required services provided by a physician enrolled with MSP
  • Maternity care 
  • Medically necessary eye examinations for adults aged 19-64;
  • Annual eye examinations for children aged 0-18 and seniors aged 65+
  • Diagnostic services, including services such as x-rays
  • Dental and oral surgery, when medically required to be performed in hospital (excluding restorative services, i.e.: fillings, caps, crowns, root canals, etc.)*

If you need coverage for one of the services or treatments not covered by MSP, you could benefit from a supplemental insurance plan to ensure you have the coverage you need.

Services Not Covered by MSP

  • Dental services
  • Routine eye examinations for adults aged 19 to 64 
  • Eyeglasses
  • Hearing aids
  • Prescription drugs 
  • Cosmetic services
  • Alternative medicine treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy
  • Preventive services and screening tests not supported by evidence of medical effectiveness 
  • Counsellors or psychologists

Services not covered under MSP can be expensive and come as an unpleasant surprise when you are least able to deal with them. This is why we highly recommend getting a private insurance plan.

It can help you not only access better care when you need it but also offer peace of mind that you will be covered for large, unexpected expenses.

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How do you apply for MSP?

BC requires all residents to enrol in the Medical Services Plan. There are several ways to apply to the insurance plan.

  • Apply online. Health Insurance BC's MSP application process takes around 15 minutes to complete. You will need to upload digital copies of documents proving your identity and Canadian citizenship or eligible immigration status.
  • Apply by mail. Send the Application for Enrolment, HLTH 102 form below to
    • Health Insurance BC
    • Medical Services Plan
    • PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt
    • Victoria BC V8W 9P7
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After applying, applicants are required to obtain a Photo BC Services Card at an ICBC driver licensing office. Pick a time and location here. You will be required to show two pieces of ID, have a photo taken and declare BC residency.

Applicants under 18 years and six months old are automatically enrolled and will receive by mail their BC Services Card without a photo.

Good to know

People who are new to Canada or who are moving from a different province have a waiting period before they are eligible for MSP. The waiting period is the remainder of the month in which they established BC residency plus two months. They should get a private health insurance plan to ensure access to medical care.

How does MSP coverage for seniors work?

Seniors are eligible for all covered MSP services and seniors 65 and older are also eligible for an annual eye examination.

Depending on income, seniors can see if they are eligible for additional coverage through programs such as:

  • Fair PharmaCare Plan
  • Supplementary Benefits

Some seniors may see significant changes in their ability to afford supplemental health insurance after retiring due to factors like a loss of employer-sponsored benefits and higher healthcare costs due to the increased risk of chronic illnesses. This can make it difficult for seniors to cover their medical expenses.

While the benefits provided by MSP do provide some coverage, a significant event or life-altering diagnosis could leave seniors emptying retirement and savings funds to cover additional costs related to treatment. 

For this reason, seniors could benefit from a supplemental plan to maximize coverage and give them the support they need. Our anonymous health insurance comparison tool offers an easy way to compare quotes in just seconds.

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What is PharmaCare for BC Residents?

PharmaCare is British Columbia’s publicly funded program that helps BC residents pay for some:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical supplies
  • Pharmacy services

These services must be prescribed by a licensed physician and be medically necessary. PharmaCare will not cover medications purchased outside of British Columbia. 

While PharmaCare will cover some drugs and medical supplies, they will not cover drugs that are dispensed and or administered in hospitals and emergency departments. PharmaCare also cannot help with purchases at pharmacies that are not enrolled in PharmaCare. 

What is Fair PharmaCare?

The Fair PharmaCare plan is based on your income and helps people enrolled in MSP to pay for prescription drugs and medical supplies. The lower your income, the more help you can get.

Fair PharmaCare covers:

  • Eligible prescription drugs
  • Some medical devices
  • Eligible dispensing fees and some pharmacy services (such as medication reviews for persons prescribed five medications or more)

Note: Fair PharmaCare does not cover costs from previous years, or from times when MSP coverage was not active.

Fair PharmaCare is for all BC residents, and you are encouraged to register.

There are no premiums to pay. You can register online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Is MSP free in BC?

Effective January 1, 2020, the MSP cost to British Columbia residents is completely free. 

Previously, adults in BC were required to pay between $37.50 to $75 per month In MSP premiums depending on being a single individual versus a family with dependents. The fees were cut in half in 2018 before being phased out entirely.

How do I pay MSP?

The elimination of MSP premiums does not allow you to avoid paying outstanding premiums owed before January 1, 2020. You can pay outstanding premiums in several different ways.

  • Online
  • Pre-authorized debit:
    • You can contact the Customer Service Centre at 1-877-405-4909 to discuss payment arrangements. After doing so, you can mail or fax the completed and signed Application for Pre-Authorized Debit Form along with a voided check. 
  • By mail to:
    • Revenue Services of British Columbia
    • PO BOX 9448 STN PROV GOVT
    • VICTORIA BC  V8W 9V7
  • By fax to:
    • 250-405-4414
  • Through your bank or financial institution:
    • Most banks offer online or in-person bill payment services. 
    • To pay your outstanding MSP premiums using a bill payment service, you need to add a payee for MSP under the payee name “MSP-RSBC” to your bank account along with your account number.  

Your MSP account number is listed on the top of your invoice (e.g. X36012345678).

  • At a Government Office

You can pay your MSP invoice in person at a Service BC Centre. To make a payment you must have your MSP account number from your invoice.

Payments are accepted by cash, debit, credit card, cheque, bank draft or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance.

  • By Mail

You can make payments by check or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance through the mail. Do not send cash.

Write your MSP account number from your invoice on your payment so your account can be easily identified when your payment is processed and send it to:

Medical Services Plan 

PO BOX 9085 STN PROV GOVT 

VICTORIA BC  V8W 9E4

How do I pay MSP online?

You can use your Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Debit Mastercard or Visa Debit to make a payment:

To make a payment you will need your MSP account number listed on the top of your invoice.

What happens if you do not pay MSP?

If you do not pay your MSP premiums owed prior to January 1, 2020, your account is considered overdue. 

Collection action may begin on overdue accounts. Collection action may include:

  • notifying the Canada Revenue Agency to apply for money it owes to you to your MSP balance
  • requiring your employer to deduct money from your paycheque
  • requiring your bank or financial institution to pay money from your account(s)
  • registering a charge against your property
  • referring your debt to a private collection agency

How long does it take to get MSP in BC?

All eligible residents who are living in British Columbia for six months or longer, including international students, are required to enrol in the medical services plan. 

MSP in BC is effective on the fourth month of a newcomer’s arrival so it is recommended that you enrol as soon as you arrive in BC.

Once you submit your MSP application online or by mail, it may take up to two months to process your application. You will receive your BC Services card by mail to the address that you wrote on your application form. If your address has changed since the time you submitted your application, you must contact MSP as soon as possible to provide them with your updated address.

How does BC’s Medical Services Plan work for low-income individuals?

Medical Services Plan supplementary benefits provide partial payment for certain medical services obtained in British Columbia. It may also provide access to other income-based programs. Supplementary benefits can cover partial costs for services such as:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage therapy
  • Naturopathy
  • Physical therapy
  • Non-surgical podiatry

For those eligible for supplementary benefits, MSP contributes $23 per visit for a combined annual limit of ten visits each calendar year for services mentioned above. 

How do I apply for MSP as an international student?

Even though MSP is now free for BC residents, international students studying on a valid study permit for at least six months of the year in British Columbia are still required to pay for MSP healthcare coverage. 

All international K-12 and post-secondary students owe a monthly healthcare coverage fee of $75 per month.

To apply for MSP, you can either apply online or by mail by completing the paper Application for Enrollment form.

You can mail your completed application to:

Health Insurance BC

Medical Services Plan

PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria BC   V8W 9P7

What is a BC Services Card?

The BC Services Card provides access to government services such as access to MSP for BC residents. It is a secure way to verify your identity and personal information.

Adults are expected to renew enrollment by the card expiration date specified on their BC Services Card. You can renew your MSP card when renewing your driver's licence. If you don't drive, you can renew enrollment at the nearest driver licensing office.

What is the Personal Health Number (PHN)? 

A Personal Health Number (PHN) is used for accessing MSP health care. It is given to each BC resident enrolled with the Medical Services Plan. It is a unique lifetime identifier that remains the same, regardless of changes to personal status and it can be found on your BC Services Card. 

You should carry your card at all times to be able to present it whenever you need health care services.

How do I log in to my Medical Services Plan?

You can log in to your MSP account by accessing their online portal. 

You can manage your account and make changes such as updating your address in BC, updating or correcting personal information, adding and/or removing a spouse or child(ren), and updating or confirming your status in Canada.

No login or password is required. Your Personal Health Number (PHN) will be used to verify your account.

How do I contact MSP?

You can find the MSP BC phone numbers below. They are available to assist you Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m PST.

An automated service is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide general information about MSP benefits and services.

Lower Mainland: 604-683-7151

Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-7100 (toll-free)

General inquiries can be emailed to: [email protected]

What is the BC Services Card app?

The BC Services Card app is a secure way to set up access to many government services. You can use it to access your health information via the Health Gateway which allows you to see things such as:

  • BC Vaccine Card
  • Proof of Vaccination
  • COVID-19 test results
  • Immunization records

In your account, you can see all mobile devices with the app set up and view all of your activity.

It is available for iPhones and Android phones.

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6 comments
Diana
on 2022-07-08

Is the removal of skin tags covered under MSP?

James rodriguez James rodriguez
on 2022-07-11

Hi Diana,
No, MSP does not cover skin tag removal.

Have a nice day,
The HelloSafe team

Donna thorpe
on 2022-06-20

Is cataract surgery covered by MSP?

James rodriguez James rodriguez
on 2022-06-20

Hi Donna,
Yes, cataract surgery os the only laser eye surgery covered by BC'S MSP health insurance.

Have a nice say,
The HelloSafe team

Robin
on 2022-03-31

How are acupuncture appointments reimbursed by B c medical if I had to pay first and have a receipt

James rodriguez James rodriguez
on 2022-03-31

Hi Robin,
Unfortunately, acupuncture appointments are not covered by BC's Medical Services Plan.

Have a nice day,
The HelloSafe team