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) pays for many health costs, including doctors, most medical tests and treatments.

To use the Medical Services 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, contact Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-7100 to find out if you qualify for MSP coverage. If you do not qualify, see Citizen and Immigration Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program or phone 1-888-242-2100.

Register with the Medical Services Plan

Register with the Medical Services Plan as soon as you arrive in B.C. It may take up to three months before you can use the Medical Services Plan, so 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.

When your Medical Services Plan coverage begins, you will get a BC Services Card with your name and personal health number on it. For a photo BC Services Card, you will need to go to an ICBC driver licensing office for identity proofing. A photo BC Services Card is the preferred card due to the benefits of increased patient safety and to help avoid both health care and identity fraud.

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.

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

Medical Insurance Plan Costs

Medical Services Plan insurance coverage is not free. View the costs per month listed on the Medical Services Plan Monthly Premium Rates page.

If you have a job, your employer may pay your Medical Services Plan premiums. If not, you must pay the premiums yourself. If your income is low, you may be eligible for premium assistance that covers all or part of your costs. To qualify for premium assistance, you must have lived in Canada for the last 12 months as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Learn more about Medical Services Plan premium assistance or call 1-800-663-7100.

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, visit the website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Check the list of doctors who are taking new patients. Or ask a settlement services agency for help.

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.


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.