Leaving B.C. Temporarily
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 without suspended coverage 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 $1,000 (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.
Studying Outside British Columbia
Residents of B.C. who leave the province temporarily to attend a recognized educational facility 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 an educational facility recognized by the Medical Services Commission.
Upon completion of studies, 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.