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Medical Services Plan (MSP) - BC Medicare equivalent

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ADHD Notes:

  • If you are staying in Canada on a Working Holiday Permit, you are eligible for the local equivalent of Medicare.

  • You need to evaluate which is best for you - Staying on Travel Insurance is easy, but if you're settling down MSP may be a better option.
  • If you decide to get MSP, apply for it as soon as you have an address and a job (you'll need a letter confirming employment), as it will take about 3 months to come through

  • If you're going to get MSP, get travel insurance to cover using the CanAussie deal those first three or four months, then you're all good after that. 

When you reach Canada, you've got a choice to make when it comes to health insurance. If you're settling down and will have a permanent job and address, then the local version of Medicare in BC is MSP (Medical Services Plan), and it's theoretically mandatory for all residents to have it.

This form of health care is actually mandatory across all of Canada in accordance with the Canada Health Act, so if you're settling down anywhere then you'll be able to get access to it. There's a list of the providers in each of the main provinces at the end of the article.

The thing to remember is that this health care, unlike Medicare, MSP and equivalents are not free. In BC it'll cost you about $50 a month for a single and $114 a month for a family. It is means tested and the fees are set accordingly, so your costs may vary. This gives you access to all the care you need, making GP visits and hospital visits free. It won't cover dental at all though.

The quandary is that travel insurance, particularly through the World Nomads deal that CanAussie has, is only slightly more expensive than MSP - at the time of writing it was about $60/month for a 12 month contract. If you're not going to be settling anywhere for longer than 4 - 6 months, then you're probably actually better off sticking with travel insurance. You don't need to fuss with changing addresses or keeping them up to date, or paying the bill on a regular basis (which you can do monthly, quarterly or yearly btw).

The problem with staying on travel insurance is that all costs will have to be paid up front, and if something serious happens then that can be a little drastic. There are free clinics available for small things (by DesignFusion in the forum"There is a free clinic in Kits on 4th and Maple called Pine Free Clinic. If you over 24 you can go there Monday to Friday between 9am to 12pm and please note ITS FREE!!!") but if you're crook and need to go see a doctor then you're up for $100+ each visit.

Here is the official word from the MSP website:

"To qualify for Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage, you must be a resident of B.C. A resident is a person who:

is a citizen or permanent resident (landed immigrant) of Canada;

makes her or his home in British Columbia; and

is physically present in British Columbia at least six months in a calendar year.

Certain other persons, such as some holders of study and/or work permits issued under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are deemed to be residents, but tourists or visitors to B.C. do not qualify. More information on eligibility is available on the MSP website." 

You won’t be eligible for any medical coverage until you have been here for three months, but think yourself very special if your form is processed within three months, so again, get onto it ASAP!!  Some work places will also offer you extended health cover through their benefits program, which may include dental and some of the standard extras such as chiropractics and massage, as this is above and beyond MSP coverage.

What MSP doesn't stipulate, but seems to apply to Australians in Canada on the Working Holiday Program is that they require a letter from your employer confirming your employment. Several Aussies have alerted us to this fact recently, and have had their applications bounced and put on hold till they get that letter. A friend who is self employed simply wrote a letter saying that he employed himself, and was granted MSP. There might be a hint there if you want to get tricky and get MSP as soon as you arrive ;).

Once you actually lodge your form with MSP, then you will be able to claim back any medical costs from them when/if you are approved. Just make sure you keep your receipts.

You can get your form and any other info from the website, don’t bother ringing, because after waiting on hold for 40 minutes or more they will just refer you back to the website.  So look at



To send with your form you will need copies (never give the Canadian government real documents, they will be lost forever) of your work permit (or if you are a returning citizen, birth certificate, passport or citizenship card) and a letter confirming employment from your employer.  Then print off the form from the website, give them all your important details, post it off, then wait, and wait and wait.  Eventually you will get your care card!

If you need any more info the MSP website has a great FAQ section.


MSP or Medicare equivalents for the other main provinces in Canada:

Alberta: Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan

Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Health Benefits

Manitoba: Manitoba Health

Ontario: Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

Quebec: Health Insurance (Note: It has come to our attention that you CANNOT get the Quebec RAMQ on a Working Holiday Permit. You can if you are sponsored, but that defeats the purpose of the permit in the first place.)


Discuss this article in the CanAussie Forum



This article was originally written by Sarah Stranan, who moved to Vancouver, BC in 2008 and started her own Osteopathy clinic, Sarah Stranan Osteopathy in Kitsilano.


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Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 July 2010 05:41 )  
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