Leaving British Columbia

»  Leaving B.C. pamphlet (May 2014) (PDF 555K)
»  Temporary Absence from B.C.
»  Studying Outside B.C.
»  Permanent Move from B.C.
»  Cancelling Your Coverage
»  Medical Care Outside B.C.
»  Out of Province Emergency Medical Care
»  Out of Country Emergency Medical Care
»  Seeking Medical Care Outside Canada

Temporary Absence from British Columbia

To maintain eligibility for Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage, an individual must continue to meet the residency requirements.

Residents who will be absent from B.C. for six months or more in a calendar year, need to contact Health Insurance BC to confirm continued eligibility and discuss options for continued MSP coverage that may be available during an absence.

In some circumstances, while temporarily outside the province for work or vacation, individuals may retain eligibility for coverage during an ‘extended absence’ of up to 24 consecutive months, once in a 60 month (five year) period. To qualify, the individual must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or a person lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence;
  • make his or her home in British Columbia;
  • be physically present in Canada for six of the 12 months immediately preceding departure;
  • not have been granted an extended absence in the previous 60 months (five years);
  • not have taken advantage of the seven month absence in a calendar year, available to vacationers, during the year the extended absence begins or during the calendar year prior to the start of the extended absence; and
  • not have returned to the province for more than 30 consecutive days during their extended absence.

If an individual returns to B.C. for over 30 consecutive days during an extended absence, their absence is no longer considered to be consecutive and any subsequent absence would be considered a new absence. The individual will need to contact Health Insurance BC to determine their eligibility for benefits during their new absence.

Residents who leave B.C. temporarily will continue to be billed for premiums. Although it is recommended that residents maintain their provincial health care coverage, certain individuals may qualify to suspend their coverage during a temporary absence. If a request to suspend coverage is received prior to departure, the person’s coverage is suspended at the end of the month of departure. If the request is received after the month of departure, suspension is effective at the end of the month notification is received. Coverage is renewed the first day of the month in which the person returns, provided that they remained an eligible resident during their absence.

If an individual stays outside B.C. longer than the period for which they were eligible for coverage, they will be required to fulfill a wait period upon re-establishing residence in the province before coverage can be renewed.

Residents should be aware that their provincial coverage may not pay for all the health care costs incurred 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, residents are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance from a private insurer before leaving the province, whether they are going to another part of Canada or outside the country - even if they plan to be away for only a day. See Medical Care Outside B.C. for more information.

Studying Outside British Columbia

Residents of B.C. who leave the province temporarily to attend school or university may retain eligibility for coverage for the period of their studies. To qualify the individual must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or a person lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence,
  • make his or her home in British Columbia,
  • be physically present in Canada for six of the 12 months immediately preceding departure, and
  • be in full-time attendance at a recognized educational facility.

After the first year's absence, students are required to return to B.C. by the last day of the month following the month in which their studies are completed. Students who do not return within this timeframe are required to fulfill a wait period upon their return.

Students need to ensure that they contact Health Insurance BC prior to their departure and upon their return to B.C. to confirm eligibility. Students who do not plan to return to B.C. within the required timeframe, or who decide to establish residence outside of B.C. need to contact Health Insurance BC.

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:
  • an itemized account, including the dates of service and details of services performed, and
  • either the unpaid bills or the original receipts if the bills have been paid.
Note: Out of Country claims must be submitted within 90 days of the date of service. In-patient hospital claims (and any associated medical claims) must be submitted within six months of discharge.

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.

Treatment which is considered to be experimental or still in the developmental (research) stage is not eligible for coverage.

Note: If you do not obtain MSP approval for elective out of country medical care, all costs for services received outside Canada will be your personal responsibility. Travel and accommodation costs are not eligible for coverage.

For additional information see MSP's Out of Province and Out of Country Medical Care Guidelines for Funding Approval (PDF 66Kb).

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