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What is Covered in MSP? Useful Things to Know About Health Coverage



Since we are not sure at what point of your international student journey you are, let us start with the basics. MSP stands for Medical Services Plan, and it is provincial health insurance that is available for all British Columbia residents.


As you can see in the image, the MSP card has 5 basic elements to it.

  1. Name of the program

  2. Your name

  3. The date when they gave you the card

  4. The date when it expires

  5. Your date of birth


An interesting fact here is that the government gives this ID to people with temporary status in the country (like you!), minors, and other select groups. Otherwise, people with PR and Citizenship who are adults under the age of 75 have IDs with their pictures on them.


And although those cards may look awesome, they do not give you any extra benefits. Therefore, let’s get to the coverage information! What can you do with this card, and is it really for free?


I’ll start by answering the second question. As an international student, MSP has a cost for you, and you can read all about it in our article: Getting your MSP as an international student in Vancouver. This card will be your lifesaver, though, as you will be able to use it in hospitals and walk-in clinics as many times as you need.


According to their website, MSP pays for “medically required services of physicians and surgeons, and dental or oral surgery performed in a hospital.” Emphasis on the hospital because if you go to a dentist, they WILL charge you, and it is super expensive. Believe me, people in Canada buy packages that include flight, hotel + dentist in Mexico, and it’s still cheaper than here (if their work does not give them extended health benefits). Crazzzyyy!


Now, let me break down for you what that weird statement means. Here are the 5 things that MSP covers.




1. Visits to walk-in clinics. Walk-in clinics are medical clinics where you can make a quick appointment (no more walk-ins… thank you, COVID!) on the same day to go see a doctor. Very helpful when you have a cold or think you might be getting sick with some virus.


When you make your appointment, simply give them your Personal Health Number (PHN) located on the back of your card.


2. Visits to hospitals. Understand that visits to the hospital can mean many things. Normally hospitals are reserved for more severe illnesses or to go see a specialist. Specialist appointments in hospitals normally happen after you have seen a doctor at a clinic, and they think you need to see someone with more specialized experience.


The other scenario is when you go to the emergency room because you have symptoms that have to be treated right away. If you end up in the emergency room, you’ll have to queue and get registered. That’s when you’ll be asked to provide your card.


3. Appointments with specialists. Once you go to a walk-in clinic or a hospital, they will probably refer you to a specialist if they think you need it. The way it works is that the first doctor you see in the clinic will send a request to the specialist. You will have to wait to receive their call to book an appointment.


4. Dental surgeries performed in the hospital. This one is important to know because it’s very different from going to a dentist. The surgeries covered by MSP are mostly related to accidents where you lost teeth or cut your mouth in some way and ended up in the emergency room.


5. Diagnostic services. Diagnostic services can include blood tests, ultrasounds, x-rays, and all the medical services that can give a doctor additional information about you and how you are feeling. The way you will end up in one of these medical centres is if your doctor sees you first and then thinks you need to do that test to further narrow down what is happening to you. For this one, the doctor will give you a paper or send you an email after your appointment containing instructions on where you can go to get your test done. Call the place, book an appointment, and provide your PHN.


Do you see now why getting your MSP is better than getting private insurance? You will never have to pay from your own pocket if you are covered under this provincial service. Just make sure you don’t miss your monthly payments to prevent any problems.


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