BC Health Insurance Plan (MSP): All You Need to Know in 2024

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Alexandre Desoutter updated on 27 February 2024

MSP, short for the Medical Services Plan, is the public healthcare system in British Columbia. Covering about 70% of healthcare expenses, it plays a crucial role in providing universal access to essential health services for Canadians.

This comprehensive system ensures that individuals receive necessary medical care without financial barriers, making it a fundamental service for the well-being of the population in British Columbia.

If you're new to MSP British Columbia or need to review your information on it, read this complete guide to discover eligibility, application process, coverage, and more.

What is MSP coverage?

Under the public healthcare system, MSP provides coverage for a variety of medical services, including visits to doctors and specialists, diagnostic tests, hospital stays, surgeries, and medically necessary procedures.

What is 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
  • Birth Control
  • 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.

What is 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

Good to know

How is MSP dental coverage? The Medical Services Plan in British Columbia provides limited dental coverage. Basic dental services are covered for children aged 19 and under, while eligible individuals receiving MSP premium assistance may also have supplementary dental coverage.

However, it does not cover comprehensive dental treatments for most adults and seniors in the basic MSP plan, and private dental insurance is commonly used for more extensive coverage.

Services not covered 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 health insurance plan. It helps you access better care when you need it but also offers peace of mind considering you will be covered for large, unexpected expenses.

While finding the right health insurance plan might be a time-consuming task, we've made it simple for you. You could use our comparator tool below to compare prices, coverage, and also get quick quotes in no time from Canada's best health insurances.

Compare The Best Health Insurance Plans in Seconds


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

After applying, you will be required to obtain a Photo BC Services Card at an ICBC driver licensing office. Pick a time and location on the Driver licensing section of ICBC. You must 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. You can check your MSP application status through the MSP Portal.

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 do I contact the MSP?

You can get in touch through the MSP contact number 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 benefits and services.

  1. Lower Mainland MSP phone number: 604-683-7151
  2. Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-7100 (toll-free) (You can inquire about coverage, eligibility, or any other related questions. This is the main Enquiries line)
  3. Email general inquiries to: [email protected]
  4. If you prefer to communicate through mail, you can send your inquiries or correspondence to: Medical Services Plan PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC V8W 9P7 Canada

MSP Login

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 MSP address change in BC, updating or correcting personal information, adding and/or removing a spouse or children, and updating or confirming your status in Canada.

No password is required for your BC MSP login. Your Personal Health Number (PHN) will be used to verify your account. Here you will find relevant information about your individual coverage, eligibility, and other related services.

Keep in mind that there might be information regarding new changes or updates, so it's best to regularly visit the official website for the most up-to-date information and any associated online accounts or services.

What is MSP blue book?

The MSP Blue Book, also known as the "Health Insurance BC Coverage Summary," is a comprehensive document that provides detailed information about the Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage in British Columbia, Canada. It outlines the range of medical services and treatments that are covered under the MSP for eligible individuals in the province.

The Blue Book includes information about various healthcare services, such as doctor visits, diagnostic tests, hospital stays, surgeries, and medically necessary procedures that are funded by the government. It also clarifies the eligibility criteria for MSP coverage, the enrollment process, and any applicable premiums or fees.

The MSP Blue Book is an essential resource for individuals in British Columbia to understand what medical services they are entitled to under the publicly funded healthcare system and what additional coverage or BC private insurance they might need for services not covered by MSP.

Keep in mind that the specific content and name of the document may vary over time, so it's advisable to refer to the most current version available on the official website of Health Insurance BC or the British Columbia government. Here's the most recent blue book you can download for free.

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
  • MSP 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 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 health insurance BC plan to maximise coverage and give them the support they need.

Many private health insurances offer comprehensive coverage regardless of your age. You could quickly find a plan that suits you and your family's needs using our comparator below and get quotes from the best health insurance providers for policies tailor-made for your budget.

Compare The Best Health Insurance Plans in Seconds


What is PharmaCare BC?

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)

It must be noted that Fair PharmaCare does not cover costs from previous years, or from times when MSP coverage was not active. The services offered by Fair PharmaCare are 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?

Individuals and families no longer need to pay monthly premiums to access medical services under MSP. Registration for MSP, Fair PharmaCare, and MSP Supplementary Benefits is free for B.C. residents. To apply for Fair PharmaCare and/or Supplementary Benefits, you must be enrolled in MSP already or applying for MSP at the same time.

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

Good to know

BC MSP Premium Assistance Form, also known as the "MSP Application for Regular Premium Assistance" form, was used to apply for reduced or no monthly premiums for their Medical Services Plan coverage. It was required for individuals and families who meet specific income criteria and need financial assistance to pay for their premiums. However, the premiums have now been eliminated.

How do I pay for the 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: You can use your Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Debit Mastercard or Visa Debit to make a payment through Revenue Services of British Columbia or by calling 1-877-405-4909
  • Pre-authorised 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.
  • Mail the Debit form 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. You need to add a payee for MSP under the payee name “MSP-RSBC” to your bank account along with your account number. You will find your MSP account number 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. You can make direct payments in cash, debit, credit card, cheque, bank draft or money order 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 account number on your payment and send it to: Medical Services Plan, PO BOX 9085 STN PROV GOVT, VICTORIA BC V8W 9E4

What happens if you do not pay MSP?

If you do not pay your 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

What is MSP Card or 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 must renew enrollment by the card expiration date specified on their BC Services Card. There is a BC MSP renewal online option and you can even 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 you can find 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.

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.

How long does it take to get MSP in BC?

All eligible residents who are living in BC for six months or longer, including international students, must enrol in the MSP. MSP in BC is effective on the fourth month of a newcomer’s arrival so you must 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 MSP address.

Many private health insurance plans offer instant coverage and do not have waiting periods for several services. You could find out more on prices, coverage, and even exclusions, and get quotes from various health insurance providers using our comparator below.

Compare The Best Health Insurance Plans in Seconds


How is MSP for low-income individuals?

MSP 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 10 visits each year for services mentioned above.

How do I apply to the MSP for international students?

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 must 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, you can either apply online or mail by completing the paper Application for Enrolment form. The application process involves providing accurate information, such as study permit details and program duration.

You can mail the above completed application to: Health Insurance BC, Medical Services Plan, PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria BC V8W 9P7.

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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.

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Is the removal of skin tags covered under MSP?

author-profile-picture Alexandre Desoutter Our expert

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

Have a nice day,
The HelloSafe team

Donna T.

Is cataract surgery covered by MSP?

author-profile-picture Alexandre Desoutter Our expert

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


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

author-profile-picture Alexandre Desoutter Our expert

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

Have a nice day,
The HelloSafe team