Frequently Asked Questions about Registration, Income and Consent

On this page...

Registration

What if my spouse is not eligible for Fair PharmaCare?

If your spouse is not eligible for Fair PharmaCare coverage, you still need to report your spouse's income when you register yourself and, if applicable, your dependents.

What if my spouse's prescription drug costs are covered by a federal insurer?

Your spouse's coverage by the federal insurer (for example, the Canadian Forces, Veteran's Affairs Canada or the Non-Insured Health Benefits program) will not change, but you will still need to report your spouse's income when you register.

What if my spouse lives in a residential care facility?

Your spouse's drug coverage is not affected by this plan; however, you will still need to report your spouse's income when you register.

My spouse is the only person in our family born before 1940. If my spouse dies, am I still eligible for enhanced Fair PharmaCare coverage?

You would continue to receive enhanced Fair PharmaCare coverage until the end of the year in which your spouse died. In following years, you would receive the regular Fair PharmaCare coverage based on your net income.

If I have joint custody of a child, in which family should the child be registered? 

The child should be registered with the parent on whose MSP account they are included.

What happens when I become 19 years of age? 

When you turn 19 years old, you usually must establish your own Medical Services Plan (MSP) account. If you no longer qualify as a dependent for MSP, you can:

  • establish separate Fair PharmaCare plan coverage right away, or
  • remain a dependent in your family until the end of the calendar year in which you turn 19.

If you still qualify as a dependent for MSP (for example, because you are attending school full-time), you will not need independent Fair PharmaCare coverage until you get your own MSP account. 

Important Considerations:

  • To establish separate coverage, call Health Insurance BC. (As you are already registered for Fair PharmaCare, you cannot use online registration to establish separate coverage.)
  • It is sometimes better to wait until the end of the calendar year to establish your own Fair PharmaCare coverage. When you establish your own Fair PharmaCare coverage, your prescription expenses for the year are transferred to your separate coverage and no longer count toward your family's deductible. Health Insurance BC can advise if it is better for you to establish separate coverage right away or wait until the end of the calendar year.

I am a guardian/power of attorney for a friend/family member. How do I register him/her for the Fair PharmaCare plan?

As a guardian/power of attorney, you can register a friend/family member by phone or online. When you return the consent form, include a copy of the Power of Attorney (POA) or other legal documentation indicating your authority to act on the person's behalf.

Can adults be registered as dependents?

No. For Fair PharmaCare purposes, a dependent is:

  • a resident who is the legal ward or child of the registrant, and
  • is supported by the registrant, and
  • is neither married nor living and cohabitating in a marriage-like relationship, and
  • is either 18 years or younger or aged 19 to 24 and attending school or university full-time.

Dependents must be included in your family when registering and they can only be registered with one family.

How can I confirm my deductible?

Use the online Fair PharmaCare Calculator to get an estimate or call Health Insurance BC for exact information. Note that we cannot release information about your coverage without establishing your identity. 

Can I cancel my registration in the Fair PharmaCare plan?

You can cancel your registration at any time by withdrawing your consent. Write to:

Health Insurance BC
Attention: PharmaCare Services
PO Box 9655 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9P2

Can I register for the Fair PharmaCare plan if I do not provide written consent authorizing the Ministry of Health and Health Insurance BC to access my income information? Can I send a notarized copy of my tax return or Notice of Assessment or a letter from a lawyer instead?

To register for Fair PharmaCare, you must provide us with a signed consent form. PharmaCare cannot accept a copy of your tax return or other documents in place of the consent form.

My spouse and I have been separated for a number of years, but we are still on the same Medical Services Plan (MSP) account. How should we register for Fair PharmaCare?

You have two options:

  • You and your spouse can contact Health Insurance BC and establish separate MSP accounts, then register separately for Fair PharmaCare.
  • You can register for Fair PharmaCare as a family and report your combined net income.

Can PharmaCare cancel my Fair PharmaCare coverage?

If you are registered for Fair PharmaCare, your coverage will not be cancelled unless:

  • You withdraw/revoke your consent for your income to be verified annually with the Canada Revenue Agency,
  • You opt out of the Medical Services Plan,
  • You are no longer a resident of B.C., or
  • PharmaCare could not verify your income (be sure to notify us of any change in your family structure that could affect income verification through the Canada Revenue Agency)

If you have concerns about your coverage, please contact Health Insurance BC.

Income

How do you define "net income"?

Your net income is the income you reported on your tax return from two years ago (e.g., in 2010, you will use your 2008 income tax return).|

For Fair PharmaCare purposes, your net income is the amount reported on Line 236 of your income tax return minus the following two deductions:

  • Universal Child Care Benefits (UCCB) payments (on Line 117 of your return), and
  • income from a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) (on Line 125 of your return)

Why is my Fair PharmaCare coverage based on my income from two years ago?

Fair PharmaCare financial assistance is based on the calendar year (January 1st - December 31st). Your financial assistance level is determined at the beginning of each year.

Income tax returns can be filed as late as April 30th of each year. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) must then process the returns. This means that income information from the most recent tax year is not available in time for PharmaCare to determine your assistance for the following year.

However, if your net family income has dropped 10% or more, you can request that your assistance be based on a more recent year. Please see our Increased Assistance and Payment Options.

What if I'm not sure what my net income was?

You can find your net income on Line 236 of your tax return or the Notice of Assessment that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) sends after they have processed your return.

Universal Child Care Benefits and income from a Registered Disability Savings Plan are not reported on the Notice of Assessment. If you received either of these, you will have to look them up on your income tax return. UCCB amounts are reported on Line 117 of your income tax return; RDSP income is reported on Line 125.

If necessary, you can contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at 1-800-959-8281, or call your local tax services office for assistance.

I have a higher income than my spouse and do not wish to register. Can my spouse still register for the Fair PharmaCare plan?

You must register for Fair PharmaCare as a family. If you do not register, your spouse will not be able to register.

Why do I have to sign a consent form?

The federal government, through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), requires us to obtain your consent before we can access your income information. Without your income information, we will be unable to calculate your maximum level of coverage and cannot provide you with Fair PharmaCare coverage based on your income. If you register for the plan but either you, or you and your spouse, do not provide your consent, your family will be assigned the default deductible of $10,000 per family.

What if I accidentally provided an incorrect income when I registered?

If you provided the wrong income amount, contact Health Insurance BC right away so that your coverage can be calculated accurately.

If the amount you reported when registering was too high, you may not be getting the maximum coverage available to you; if the amount you reported was too low, you may be getting excess coverage. By correcting the problem promptly, you reduce the risk of having to wait for a reimbursement or having to re‑pay excess assistance.

What if my income changes? What happens next year?

Each year, we will verify your family net income with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and adjust your level of coverage automatically. Your signed consent form allows PharmaCare to access your income information in future years.

However, if your net family income has dropped 10% or more in the past two years, you can request that your assistance be based on a more recent year. Please see our Increased Assistance and Payment Options.

How can I be sure that my income information is secure and confidential?

As required by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the information will be carefully secured and access to it will be tightly controlled. Only specially designated Ministry of Health and/or Health Insurance BC staff will be able to access your information.

I am a veteran and my drug costs are covered by the Veterans Affairs Canada. Why must my income be included in the family income?

Fair PharmaCare coverage is based on a family's net income which is used as an indicator of a family's ability to pay for prescription medications. Applying this requirement to all B.C. families ensures fairness and equity for all Fair PharmaCare registrants.

Additionally, some prescription drugs and supplies that are not covered by your federal plan may be covered under BC PharmaCare. If you use any of those products, the purchases will count towards your family's Fair PharmaCare deductible and family maximum.

Consent

When registering for Fair PharmaCare, you (and, if applicable, your spouse) will be asked to sign a consent form authorizing the Ministry of Health and/or Health Insurance BC to access certain information from your income tax file.

The federal government, through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), requires us to obtain your written consent. The income information accessed is used only to determine your PharmaCare coverage.

What if I don't return my consent form?

If you do not provide us with a signed consent form, we cannot determine your appropriate level of coverage. Without confirmation of your income, your level of coverage would be set at the default level of a $10,000 deductible per family.

What if I lose my consent form?

If you have lost your consent form: Request a copy of the consent form using our online Forms Copy Request or by contacting Health Insurance BC.

Do other government programs require signed consent forms?  

Any government program that needs to access your information must obtain your written consent and sign a detailed Memorandum of Agreement with the CRA that limits their access to, and use of, information.

Within the B.C. Ministry of Health, both the Medical Services Plan and the Home and Community Care Branch require written consent from individuals who apply for benefits. Other provincial governments, such as Manitoba, also require written consent to administer benefits.

Can my information be used for any other purpose?

No. The information cannot be used for any purpose other than determining your family's level of Fair PharmaCare coverage.

What specific information is collected?

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and the CRA permits us to access four items of tax information with your signed consent, specifically:

Line 236 - Net Income: The line provides your net income and can be used only to determine your level of Fair PharmaCare coverage.

Line 117 - Universal Child Care Benefits payments: This amount is deducted from your net income when determining your level of Fair PharmaCare coverage.

Line 125 - Income from a Registered Disability Savings Plan: This amount is deducted from your net income when determining your level of Fair PharmaCare coverage.

Line 303 - Married Amount: The ministry will use this information to determine the income of your spouse or common-law partner only if:

  • both you and your spouse/common-law partner have signed a consent form; and
  • your spouse/common-law partner has not filed a separate income tax return; or
  • the demographic information you provided for your spouse/common-law partner when registering for Fair PharmaCare does not match CRA data.

GST/HST Credit Application: Used only under the circumstances outlined above for Line 303.

Can my pharmacist determine my net income?

No. Pharmacists are not given any information about your level of Fair PharmaCare coverage. Your pharmacist will know only how much PharmaCare is covering for a particular prescription.