Introduction to Medical Insurance

As we all know, Canada provides free medical services for all, but in the implementation process, the policies of each province are different.


BC’s MSP health insurance plan requires certain premiums to be paid (low-income families can apply for a premium waiver. The BC government will waive this premium from January 2020). Insureds are generally required to be BC Canadian citizens for at least a year. Permanent residents for more than 6 months can also apply for long-term work permits and student visas. New arrivals from outside Canada are not eligible for insurance on the month of arrival and the following two months.


The government does not require families and individuals to pay any premiums. Only citizens, PR immigrants, some with work permits and refugees can enjoy the provincial government’s health insurance. New arrivals from outside Canada must wait 90 days before they can enjoy the medical insurance.


The AHCIP medical insurance plan in Alberta requires the insured person to pay a certain premium each month, however new immigrants that don’t have medical insurance have a waiting period before they can be insured. Foreigners who can prove that they will live in the province for more than 12 months can also enjoy the said insurance.


In Quebec, there is a waiting period of up to 3 months. The insured person is generally required to be a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. Non-residents and citizens are only those who will work in Quebec for more than six months and are funded by provincial government scholarships. Only students and scholars can enjoy provincial government medical insurance.


In Saskatchewan, there is a waiting period of up to 3 months. The insured person is generally required to be a permanent resident or a citizen of Canada to live in Saskatchewan for more than 6 months each year. International students who travel directly to Canada from other countries will be covered by the medical plan insurance on the day of arrival. However, if they are from other Canadian provinces, they will not be covered by the medical plan during the first three months of arrival.


There are two cases when moving from outside Nanaimo. One is from abroad, the second is from another province. We will discuss in each case, how to apply for a medical insurance card, and how to settle your expenses if medical treatment is needed before the effective date of the medical insurance card.

How to Apply

The application is the same in both cases. The family insurance application for medical insurance, including the applicant and his relatives, must be a resident of British Columbia. The relatives include:

(1) The spouse or common-law spouse of the applicant (except for divorced spouses) or

(2) Unmarried children supported by the applicant must be 18 years of age or younger, such as between 19 and 24 years old, and must be full-time students studying at school or university.

There are two application methods: online application and application at the BC Service counter.

  1. Online application – the URL is as follows:

After clicking the link, the following page appears, click the blue button Apply for MSP, then follow the page prompts to fill out the form step by step, upload the ID card, and submit it.

It should be noted that because the BC medical insurance card, also known as the Service Card, is a photo ID, adults in family members need to take pictures at the Nanaimo ICBC or BC service counter.

  1. Apply at the BC Service counter

(1) Request forms from BC Service.

(2) After completion, bring along with relevant supporting documents, such as immigration paper, maple leaf card front and back or citizen card, to the BC Service counter to submit and take pictures.

BC Service Nanaimo office address:

460 Selby St

Nanaimo, BC V9R 2R7

Phone: 250 741-3636

Fax: 250 741-3663

Operating hours:

Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Holiday break

If the applicant’s medical insurance premiums are paid by the union, employer or from their pension, they should check or apply with the relevant departments themselves. If you leave the company, you should immediately notify the BC Medical Insurance Office and switch your premiums to your own payment to avoid interruption of health insurance.

Medical Card Validity

After the application is completed, the medical card will be mailed directly to you. The waiting period for the validity of the medical card starts from the first month you move in, plus the next two months, the first day of the fourth month takes effect.

So, the critical question is, what happens with our medical insurance during this waiting time? There are two cases:

  1. Moving from abroad to Nanaimo – If you are migrating from abroad to Nanaimo, BC, the first month of arrival and the next two months are not covered by BC’s medical insurance. It takes more than two months to buy additional commercial insurance to solve this problem. The medical service here includes all examinations and medical expenses for having a child. In other words, if you have migrated to Canada in August and lived in B.C., the medical card is not yet effective before you have a child, and you must pay for your own costs. The good news is that as an immigrant, this cost is much lower than that of international maternity. My friends have experienced this. The final cost settlement is estimated to be less than one-half of the international maternity costs.
  1. Moving from another Canadian province to Nanaimo – from the first month and the next two months, before the BC health insurance card takes effect, the province where you moved in to will be responsible for medical expenses.

For this reason, I called the BC Service phone and got an official answer, and the operation is straightforward. As long as the province’s medical card is used to see a doctor, the hospital will directly settle with that province. The only thing to note is that if a BC medical fee is different from the original province, it doesn’t matter if it is lower. If BC is higher, the difference will be sent to you by the hospital for another bill. But in any case, significant expenses will be avoided, and you may need to pay a little money yourself.

What if it is a student status or a work permit moving from another province to us? The staff told me that if you have a valid medical card moving out of the province, then the above situation applies. But if you think your situation is more complicated, you can call BC service for more information.