Leaving British Columbia
» Leaving B.C. pamphlet (June 2011) (PDF 685K)
Temporary Absence from British Columbia
Residents who will be absent from B.C. for six months or more in a calendar year, should contact Health Insurance BC to confirm continued eligibility and discuss options for continued coverage that may be available during an absence. Please note: having a residential address does not qualify you as a resident for MSP coverage; you must also be physically present in B.C. for six or more months in a calendar year.
You may be eligible to receive coverage for up to 24 consecutive months of absence while temporarily outside B.C. Approval is limited to once in five years for absences that exceed six months in a calendar year.
Note: If you leave B.C. you will continue to be billed for premiums, unless you notify MSP that you are moving away permanently.
When you stay outside B.C. longer than the period for which you are entitled to coverage, you will be required to fulfill a waiting period upon return to the province before coverage can be renewed.
You should be aware that your provincial coverage may not pay for all the health care costs you may incur outside the province, and the difference can be substantial. For example, B.C. pays $75 (Cdn) a day for emergency in-patient hospital care, while the average cost in the U.S. often exceeds $1000 (US) a day, and can be as high as $10,000 (US) a day in intensive care. For this reason, you are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance from a private insurer before you leave the province, whether you are going to another part of Canada or outside the country - even if you plan to be away for only a day. See Medical Care Outside B.C. for more information.
Studying Outside British Columbia
If you leave B.C. temporarily to attend school or university, you may be eligible for MSP coverage for the duration of your studies, provided you are in full-time attendance at a recognized educational facility.
Beneficiaries who have been studying outside B.C. must return to the province by the end of the month following the month in which studies are completed. If you do not plan to return to B.C. within that timeframe, contact Health Insurance BC to discuss your situation.
Permanent Move from British Columbia
Within Canada - coverage is provided for the balance of the month in which you leave the province plus two consecutive months. If required, coverage may be extended for up to three extra months to cover you while in transit. Upon arrival, you should immediately apply to the health plan of the new province or territory.
Outside Canada - coverage is provided for the balance of the month in which you leave the province.
You should advise MSP of your move as soon as possible - use one of MSP's online Address Change Forms or contact MSP.
Cancelling Your Coverage
If you will no longer be a resident of B.C., you must notify MSP of the date of your departure and your new address; otherwise, premium billing may continue. If possible, use one of MSP's online Address Change Forms. (Note: failure to pay premiums does not constitute notification to cancel your coverage.)
Medical Care Outside British Columbia
If you are eligible for coverage while temporarily absent from B.C. (see Temporary Absence from B.C.), MSP will help pay for unexpected medical services you receive anywhere in the world, provided the services are medically required, rendered by a licensed physician and normally insured by MSP. Reimbursement is made in Canadian funds and does not exceed the amount payable had the same services been performed in B.C. Any excess cost is the responsibility of the beneficiary.
MSP does not cover the services of health care providers other than physicians (e.g. chiropractors or physical therapists) outside the province. Similarly, PharmaCare does not provide coverage for prescription drugs or medical supplies when obtained outside B.C. (see PharmaCare Plans and What is not covered by PharmaCare?).
It is also important to be aware that the Ministry of Health does not subsidize fees charged for ambulance service obtained outside B.C. If you require ambulance service while in another province or outside Canada, you will charged the fees established by the out-of-province ambulance service provider. Fees range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. When purchasing additional out-of-province insurance, you are advised to obtain insurance that will cover emergency transportation while you are away and, if necessary, the cost of transportation back to B.C.
Out of Province Emergency Medical Care
Most physicians in other Canadian provinces and territories (except Quebec) will bill their own provincial health plan for services provided if you present your valid B.C. CareCard. The provinces recover the funding monthly between each other.
When travelling in Quebec or outside of Canada, you will probably be required to pay for your medical services and seek reimbursement later from MSP (use an Out of Country Claim Form).
B.C. residents are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance when travelling to other Canadian provinces to cover the cost of services not included in the reciprocal agreement between provinces.
Out of Country Emergency Medical Care
The cost of medical care outside Canada can be much higher than the amounts payable by MSP and extended health care plans. For complete protection, additional medical insurance should be purchased from a private insurance company, even if you only plan to leave the country for a day. Check the exclusions and limitations of your private insurance policy carefully to ensure that the policy meets your personal needs.
If you have extended health benefits through your employer you should contact them to determine the policy provisions prior to purchasing additional medical insurance.
When you receive medical services outside Canada (or in some instances outside B.C.), you will need to claim reimbursement from MSP using an Out of Country Claim Form. The completed form should be returned with:
Payment for physician services will be issued in Canadian funds only and will be paid at the same rate that would have been paid if the services were received in B.C.
Seeking Elective (Non-Emergency) Medical Care Outside Canada
If you leave Canada specifically to obtain medical or hospital care (and you would like to have your provincial coverage help pay for it), the medical specialist looking after your care in B.C. must write to MSP and provide information regarding the medical necessity for a referral outside of Canada. The specialist needs to provide information about what other treatment options have been explored elsewhere in B.C. and/or Canada. In cases where cancer is the diagnosis or treatment involves radiation or chemotherapy, MSP requires a recommendation from the B.C. Cancer Agency.
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