As a new immigrant to BC, one of your first jobs should be to apply for a BC health card. This card is your record of your BC Personal Health Number (or PHN) and is proof of your eligibility for free healthcare under BC’s Medical Services Plan (known as MSP).
You will need to provide your health card whenever you need to access healthcare. You will also need this when registering with a family doctor. You should apply for a BC health card as soon as possible.
In this post, we will give you an overview of the Canadian and BC healthcare systems and explain in simple terms how to apply for a BC health card.
For more information on Canadian health care and other provincial health cards, refer to our article on applying for health cards in Canada.
Canadian Healthcare – An Overview
Canada’s excellent healthcare system provides free primary care to eligible residents. Healthcare is publicly funded and administered at the provincial level. The provincial systems operate similarly, but there is some variation in coverage.
Your provincial plan will also provide basic coverage while travelling within other provinces and territories. However, if you move province permanently, you will need to re-register for healthcare with your new province.
How To Apply For A BC Health Card – The Basics
The following sections fully explain the steps to apply for a BC health card, but some basic facts about the process are provided below:
|BC Health Plan Name||MSP|
|Cost of Application||Free|
|Ongoing Insurance Cost*||Free|
|Application Methods Stage 1||Online or Via Mail|
|Application Method Stage 2||Only In-Person at ICBC Office|
|Processing Time||4-6 Weeks|
|Wait Period||2-3 Months|
*International Students must pay a monthly fee
Who Is Eligible For BC Medical Services Plan?
You are likely to be eligible for BC provincial health coverage if:
- You are lawfully entitled to be or remain in Canada (e.g. Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or on a work or study permit) and,
- You make your home in and are ordinarily present in BC. Ordinarily present means you are physically present in BC for at least 6 months out of 12.
Note that international students may be eligible but must pay a monthly health fee.
Who Isn’t Eligible For BC Medical Services Plan?
If you are a student from another province or territory and plan to return to your home province after your studies, you won’t be eligible for British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan. However, you will still receive coverage from your home province while in BC.
What Is The Wait Period For BC Medical Services Plan?
All new and returning residents of BC will have to wait 2-3 months for their coverage to start. You will become eligible for MSP on the 1st day of the 3rd month following the date you became a resident.
For example: if you become a permanent BC resident on July 12th, your coverage will start on October 1st.
If you have moved from within Canada, you will continue to receive basic coverage from your previous province or territory in the interim period.
If you moved from outside Canada, you won’t receive government-funded coverage. Therefore, it is advised that you take out 3rd party insurance to cover you until your MSP coverage starts.
Are You Planning A Move To Canada?
Are you wondering whether to make the move and have endless questions?
We have the answers to these and many more questions.
We have the answer to these and many more questions.
What Documentation Will I Need To Apply For A BC Health Card?
To apply for a BC Health Card, you must provide a primary ID confirming your right to reside in Canada. You must provide copies of these documents for all family members. Some examples of acceptable ID are:
- Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship card/certificate
- Canadian birth certificate
- Permanent Resident Card
- Canada entry documents, such as a work permit/study permit
What Is The Difference Between A BC Health Card & BC Services Card?
The quick answer is that they are the same document. All residents of BC must obtain an ID card called a BC Services Card. This card also proves your eligibility for BC’s Medical Services Plan. Therefore this card is a combined ID and health card.
Additionally, you can combine your BC Services Card with your BC Driving Licence if you choose. Some people find this convenient, while others prefer to have separate cards which can act as 2 forms of ID.
How To Apply For A BC Health Card / BC Services Card
To apply for a BC health card (also called a BC Services Card) is a 2 stage process. The first stage is to submit your application for the Medical Services Plan (MSP).
The second stage is to attend an ICBC Driver Licensing Office to provide details for your BC Services Card. Your BC services card (which also acts as your BC Health Card) will then be mailed to you.
Submit MSP Application
The quickest method is to submit your application online. According to the BC website, this will take around 15 minutes. You will be required to complete an online form and upload copies of your documentation.
Alternatively, you can fill out an application form and mail it with copies of your ID to Health Insurance BC, Medical Services Plan, PO Box 9678 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC V8W 9P7.
Visit the ICBC Driver Licensing Office
To complete the process of applying for a BC health card, you must visit an ICBC driver licensing office. At this appointment, you will need to:
- Provide 2 pieces of ID.
- Declare that you are a BC resident.
- Have your photo taken.
Then wait for your card to be mailed to you.
What Is Covered By The BC Medical Services Plan?
MSP WILL cover you for medically necessary healthcare services such as:
- Visits to general practitioners, surgeons and other doctors
- Hospital services
- Medically required diagnostic tests such as X-rays
- Laboratory services (e.g. blood tests)
- Obstetric services
- Medically necessary dental surgery
Some supplementary benefits are available to those in BC on a low income. To access these benefits, you will need to submit a separate application. If accepted, you will be eligible for partial payment of services such as:
- massage therapy
- physical therapy; and
- non-surgical podiatry
What Isn’t Covered By The BC Medical Services Plan?
MSP generally WON’T cover you for the following services:
- Prescriptions (apart from during a hospital stay)
- Routine eye exams for anyone between 19 and 64
- Dental care, unless medically necessary
- Alternative treatments such as naturopathy
- Complementary treatments such as massage therapy, physiotherapy & chiropractic services
- Counselling & psychotherapy
- Cosmetic procedures
Many Canadians have private supplementary insurance for medical services that aren’t covered by the provincial plan. Employers often provide supplementary health overage in employee benefit packages, or you can acquire your own coverage.
How Do I Register With A Family Doctor In BC?
Once you receive your BC Services Card, you can register with a family doctor. You are free to register with any doctor in your area that is accepting new patients. Some options for finding a doctor would be:
- Ask for a recommendation from someone you know.
- Search online for doctors in your area (you may also find some helpful reviews).
- Contact BC’s free information health line on 811.
- Contact your local family doctor’s division.
- If you visit a walk-in clinic, ask the doctor if they would be willing to take you on.