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Health care

B.C. Medical Services Plan

The Government of British Columbia has a health insurance plan called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). MSP pays for most health costs—for example, doctors, most medical tests, and treatments.

To access this plan, you need to be a resident of British Columbia, and one of the following:

  • a Canadian citizen
  • a landed immigrant
  • a government-assisted refugee
  • a post-secondary international student with a study permit
  • a temporary worker with a work permit for six months or longer

If you are a refugee claimant, you need to contact Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-7100 to find out if you qualify for MSP coverage. If you do not qualify, ask Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) about the Interim Federal Health Program (IFH). Phone the CIC call centre at: 1-888-242-2100 or see their website.

Important Resources

How do I register for MSP?

You should register for medical insurance as soon as you arrive in B.C. All residents must register with the Medical Services Plan (MSP). Once you apply, it may take up to three months before you can access MSP, so you should buy private medical insurance for that time. If you do not have medical insurance, you must pay the doctor or hospital yourself, which can be expensive.

To learn more and register for MSP, visit the Ministry of Health website or call Health Insurance BC at 1-800- 663-7100.If you need help filling out the forms, a settlement services worker or ServiceBC office can help you with registration.

Important Resources

What happens after I register?

When your MSP coverage begins, you will get a BC Services Card. Each card has the person’s name and a personal health number on it.
Sign your card and always take it with you when you go to a doctor, clinic or hospital. You will also need your BC Services Card for prescriptions and when you register children for school.

Please note: The BC Services Card replaces the CareCard, starting February 15, 2013. If you have a CareCard, and you are between 19 and 74 years old, you must replace your CareCard with the BC Services Card by renewing your enrollment in the BC Medical Services Plan.

Are there any fees?

MSP insurance coverage is not free. If you have a job, MSP premiums may be paid by your employer. If you do not have employer coverage, you must pay a monthly fee (premium). The costs per month are:

  • for a single person: $60.50
  • for a family of two: $109
  • for a family of three or more: $121

These costs could change. It is best to research the costs when you register.

If your income is low, you may be eligible for premium assistance. You may be able to pay less, or get free MSP coverage. You must have lived in Canada for the last 12 months (one year) as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. You need to fill out a form to apply for premium assistance.

PharmaCare Prescription Drug Program

As soon as you get your CareCard, you should register for prescription drug insurance with PharmaCare. It is a B.C. government program. It may pay some of the cost for prescription drugs you buy in B.C. You have to be a permanent resident of B.C. and already have MSP coverage. Fair PharmaCare is for all B.C. families. The lower your income, the more help you will get to pay for prescription drugs.

For detailed information, and to enrol in Fair Pharmacare, visit the Ministry of Health Fair Pharmacare website.


Dial 9-1-1 right away if there is a serious medical emergency.

If you need an ambulance to take you to the hospital, you should call 911or the emergency number in your area. The ambulance will take you to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. You will get a bill later, since ambulances are not covered under MSP. Ambulances can be covered under private or other insurance. You also might qualify for assistance, depending on your income.

The Emergency Department of a hospital can deal with emergency and non-emergency health problems. You can visit the Emergency Department without having an appointment.

Find a Doctor

There are two kinds of doctors in B.C.:

  • General practitioners (family doctors)
  • Specialists

Family doctors (general practitioners or G.P.s) take care of most medical problems. They can also refer you to a specialist, who is an expert about particular health problems. You should see your family doctor first, who will then refer you to a specialist if you need one.

To find a family doctor, visit the website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons to find a list of doctors who are taking new patients or ask a Settlement Agency for help.

Important Resources

Walk-in Clinics

Most cities and towns in B.C. have local walk-in clinics. You don’t need an appointment, or a family doctor to go to a walk-in clinic. Many are open in the evening and on weekends. To find a walk-in clinic near you, check your local yellow pages, or search on Google.

If you need help

HealthLink BC

HealthLink BC is a service that provides free, non-emergency health information. You can get help and information any time of the day or night, every day of the year. Call HealthLink BC to learn about health topics, check your symptoms, and find the services you need. They can help you or your family member in more than 130 languages.

To reach HealthLinkBC, just dial 8-1-1 on your phone.

HealthLink Online

You can find information in English on over 5,000 health topics and on 5,000 health services. You can check your symptoms, read about health topics, and find the help and services you need close to where you live. You can also find information about prescription drugs and other medications.

Important Resources

This project is made possible through funding from the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia.