Get health care

British Columbia has a medical insurance plan that covers most health costs. We also have a provincially funded pharmacy program. Private health services are available as well.

B.C. Medical Services Plan

British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) covers medically-necessary services, including doctor services’ and most medical tests.

Only eligible residents of BC qualify for MSP coverage. Eligible residents can include:  

  • a Canadian citizen
  • a permanent resident of Canada (landed immigrant)
  • a government-assisted refugee
  • an international student with a study permit valid for six months or longer
  • a temporary worker with a work permit valid for six months or longer

To learn more about who is eligible for MSP, including residency requirements to qualify, see Eligibility and Enrolment.

If you are a refugee claimant, contact Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-7100 to find out if you qualify for MSP coverage. If you do not qualify, see see Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Interim Federal Health Program or phone 1-888-242-2100.

Enrol in the Medical Services Plan

Register with MSP as soon as you arrive in B.C. by submitting an application to Health Insurance BC. You can do this online, in person or by mail. If you are a minor or person with temporary immigration status, when your application is processed and your MSP coverage has been approved, you will be sent a non-photo BC Services Card.

If you are an adult Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident, you will also need to visit an Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) driver licensing office to complete MSP enrolment and obtain a photo BC Services Card.

  • To find an ICBC driver licensing office near you, please visit icbc.com.
  • At the ICBC driver licensing office, you will need to:
    • Provide two pieces of identification – one of which must be primary ID
      ​(visit icbc.com/accepted ID for more information)
    • Declare that you are a B.C. resident
    • Have your photo taken

New (and returning) residents are required to complete a wait period consisting of the balance of the month in which residence in British Columbia is established, plus two months before benefits can begin. It may take up to three months before you can use the Medical Services Plan, ask about 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.

Always take your card with you when you go to a doctor, clinic or hospital. You will also need a valid BC Services Card for prescriptions.

If you need help filling out the forms, a settlement services worker or ServiceBC office can help you with registration.

Medical Insurance Plan Costs

As of January 1, 2020, MSP premiums have been eliminated. Enrolment in MSP remains mandatory for all eligible BC residents. The structure of MSP accounts will remain the same. Accounts will still include an account holder and, if applicable, a spouse and/or children.

B.C. residents must continue to fulfill their MSP obligations under the Medicare Protection Act, including updating your MSP account due to address changes. There are easy online services you can use to keep your information and address current. To update your MSP account, visit gov.bc.ca/managingyourMSPaccount.

Effective September 1, 2019, international students enrolled in MSP with a valid study permit are required to pay a health fee to contribute to and benefit from B.C.’s health-care coverage. For more information, visit http://www.gov.bc.ca/healthfee-internationalstudents.

PharmaCare Prescription Drug Program

PharmaCare may pay some of the cost of prescription drugs you buy in B.C. As soon as you get your BC Services Card, register with PharmaCare. To qualify, you must be a permanent resident of B.C. and already have Medical Services Plan coverage.

Fair PharmaCare is the main PharmaCare program. It is for all B.C. families, and the coverage is based on your income. The lower your income, the more help you will get to pay for prescription drugs.

Get more information and enrol in Fair Pharmacare. You will need a valid BC Services Card for prescriptions.

Find a Doctor

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

  • general practitioners (family doctors)
  • specialists

Family doctors take care of most medical problems. Specialists are experts in specific health problems. You should see your family doctor first. If you need a specialist, your doctor will refer you to one. 

To find a family doctor, talk to people at your settlement agency. They may be able to help you register to find a family doctor.

Walk-in Clinics

Most cities and towns in B.C. have 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, search the HealthLinkBC Directory. You will need to present a valid BC Services Card.

HealthLink BC

HealthLink BC provides free, non-emergency health information. Call HealthLink BC any time to learn about health topics, check your symptoms, get information about prescription drugs and find the services you need. HealthLinkBC staff can help you in more than 130 languages.


Contact HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1 on your phone or visit HealthLinkBC.

Emergencies

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

If you need an ambulance to take you to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or the emergency number in your area. The ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital. You can also go to the emergency department without an appointment. There may be a charge for ambulance service.