Health & Drug Coverage

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Balanced Budget 2017 Update

Medical Services Plan premiums will be cut in half for British Columbians with annual family net income up to $120,000, effective Jan. 1, 2018. This is the first step as the Province begins the process of eliminating MSP premiums.

The changes mean annual savings up to $900 for families paying full premiums and up to $450 for individuals paying full premiums. As a result, two million British Columbians will see their premiums reduced by half, in addition to the two million British Columbians who don’t pay premiums at all. Changes to MSP premiums included in Budget 2017 will leave $953 million in the pockets of British Columbians.

The MSP Premium Assistance Calculator will help you see if you qualify for premium assistance or the 50% reduction (note: Balanced Budget 2017 MSP changes take effect January 2018).

For more information see

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Premium Assistance

Assistance with Medical Services Plan payment of premiums is available to Canadian citizens or holders of permanent resident status (landed immigrants) who have held that status and been resident in Canada for the past 12 consecutive months.

To find out if you qualify for premium assistance, use our online eligibility calculator.

Learn more about two premium assistance programs that offer subsidies to those in financial need:

Medical Services Plan of B.C.

The Medical Services Plan insures medically-required services provided by physicians and supplementary health care practitioners, laboratory services and diagnostic procedures.

British Columbia’s economic strength and ongoing spending discipline mean we are able to keep MSP premiums at current rates in 2017, cancelling the planned 4% increase, and reduce rates for those eligible for Regular Premium Assistance by an additional 4% beyond what was announced with Budget 2016.

The changes are possible because the government is in a stronger fiscal position than forecast in Budget 2016, with the First Quarterly Report showing strong economic performance compared to other provinces and stronger than forecast revenues across the three-year fiscal plan.

For information on MSP services for B.C. residents, group plan administrators, and medical and health care practitioners, please see the following sections.


PharmaCare provides coverage of eligible prescription drugs and medical supplies through several drug plans. The largest is the income-based Fair PharmaCare plan.

For most PharmaCare plans, you must be actively enrolled in B.C.’s Medical Services Plan. General coverage policies apply to all PharmaCare plans.

Once you have PharmaCare coverage, any portion of your prescription cost covered by PharmaCare is calculated at the time of purchase. You pay only the costs not covered by PharmaCare.For more information about health and drug coverage in British Columbia, visit


1. Why does B.C. charge a health care premium?

Although MSP premiums only make up about 13% of B.C.’s overall health care spending, they are an important source of revenue and a reminder that health care is not free in this country. Total B.C. spending on health care will be over $19.6 billion this year (nearly 8 times the amount raised by MSP premiums) and the highest investment ever made in B.C.

All provinces must choose a mix of revenue sources to fund health care services. In British Columbia, this mix includes MSP premiums. Other provinces may choose not to levy healthcare premiums, but instead increase taxes.

When all taxes, including income taxes, consumption taxes, property taxes, and payroll taxes, as well as health care premiums are considered, B.C. families generally have one of the lowest overall tax burdens in Canada.

2. Why isn’t MSP rolled into income tax?

Integrating MSP premiums into the income tax system would require a change in the structure of MSP premiums, from a premium based on family income to a premium based on individual income. MSP premiums are administered on a per family basis, while the income tax system is administered on an individual basis. Changing premiums in such a manner would result in significant distributional impacts on B.C. families that would have to be carefully considered.

3. Do we all pay the same rate?

No, we don’t all pay the same rate. Premium Assistance helps B.C. residents with the cost of premiums based on their income level.

As a result of the changes made in Budget 2016 and announced with the First Quarterly Report, by January 2017 approximately 40% of B.C. families will pay reduced premiums or no premiums at all. Once the changes have been implemented, an estimated two million British Columbians will pay no premiums.

In 2017:

•     A single adult earning up to $42,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A single parent with one child earning up to $45,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A couple earning up to $45,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A single senior earning up to $45,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A single parent with two children earning up to $48,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A couple with two children earning up to $51,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.

•     A senior couple earning up to $51,000 may qualify for reduced premiums.  

Find out more here: or by phone at: 1 800 663-7100.

Or try the premium assistance eligibility calculator to see if you qualify:

4. Why are you advertising on Facebook?

We have a responsibility to let people know about the services and opportunities available to them. Once the changes from Budget 2016 have been fully implemented in 2017, nearly two million British Columbians will pay no premiums at all – and we need to ensure they know about these changes.

5. How much are the Facebook ads costing?

As we’re in the midst of this service promotion, we don’t have final numbers. That being said when the campaign is complete, all ad costs will be reported and available publicly here:

6. What is MSP?

The Medical Services Plan (MSP) is the provincial health insurance program that covers required medical services for B.C. residents. These include medically necessary services provided by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, eye examinations if medically required and some orthodontic services. In addition, MSP pays for diagnostic services including x-rays.

7. What is MSP premium assistance?

MSP premium assistance is a program that assists B.C. residents with the cost of premiums based on their income.

Premium assistance is based on an individual’s net income (or a couple’s combined net income) for the preceding tax year, less deductions for age, family size, disability status and any reported Universal Child Care Benefit and Registered Disability Savings Plan income.

In some cases, premium assistance may be provided retroactively for up to six years from the date of application.

Find out more here: or by phone at: 1 800 663-7100.

8. How do I know if I qualify for MSP premium assistance?

B.C. has launched an online calculator to people determine whether they may be eligible for premium assistance today, as well as in 2017 when the program changes take effect. The calculator can be found online at the following:

9. How do I apply for MSP premium assistance?

Applying for premium assistance is straightforward and requires a one-time application:

For British Columbians who believe they may have qualified for assistance in recent years but didn’t submit an application, premium assistance may be provided retroactively to a maximum of six years.

British Columbians with questions about MSP premium assistance can contact Health Insurance B.C. at: 604 683-7151 (in the Lower Mainland) or toll free: 1 800 663-7100 (elsewhere in B.C.)

10. I applied for MSP premium assistance and was denied. Can I appeal?

If you’re unsatisfied a decision from Health Insurance B.C., you can request a review of the decision by stating your case in writing and sending your letter and any supporting documents to:

Attention: Operations Director
Health Insurance B.C.
PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E3
Fax: 250 405-3595

Here's a link to the appeals webpage: