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What is health insurance?

Health insurance is a type of coverage that may pay for your: 

  • medical expenses
  • surgical expenses
  • prescription drugs 
  • dental expenses

When you are covered under health insurance, you or your caregiver can be paid back for the expenses you have because of an illness or injury. In some cases, the care provider may be paid directly.

When you have health insurance, you are called a beneficiary.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents must apply for health insurance. In B.C., free public health insurance is called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). MSP covers the cost of services that are medically required. “Medically required” means the services must be prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner.


What services does my health insurance cover?

Services that are covered by insurance plans are called benefits. Benefits under BC MSP are:

  • medically required services provided by a doctor who is enrolled with MSP
  • maternity care provided by a doctor or a midwife
  • medically required eye exams provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist for persons aged 19-64
  • yearly eye exams for persons aged 0-18
  • diagnostic services, such as x-rays, at approved facilities, when ordered by a registered doctor, midwife, podiatrist, dental surgeon or oral surgeon
  • dental and oral surgery, when medically required to be done in a hospital
  • orthodontic services related to severe facial abnormalities present from birth


So MSP doesn’t cover all services. What is excluded?

Your MSP doesn’t cover services that are not considered medically required, such as:

  • cosmetic surgery
  • dental services, except as listed under benefits
  • routine eye exams for persons 19 to 64 years of age
  • eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other equipment or appliances
  • prescription drugs (see PharmaCare)
  • acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry services (except for beneficiaries with supplementary benefits)
  • services of counsellors or psychologists
  • medical exams, certificates or tests required for:
    • driving a motor vehicle
    • employment
    • life insurance
    • school or university
    • recreational and sporting activities

MSP does not cover services of counsellors or psychologists. But, young people ages 12-24 can access free, confidential support options at Foundry.


Does MSP cover medications?

Your Medical Services Plan does not cover drugs and medication. Your BC Pharmacare or family FairPharmaCare plan may cover medications.


Does the BC Medical Services Plan cover COVID-19 testing and vaccinations?

Yes, if you have MSP, it will cover testing and treatment related to COVID-19. If you are in BC but do not qualify for MSP, you will be covered for testing and treatment related to COVID-19 under the province’s insured health care.

For the most updated information on the MSP coverage during COVID-19, see the BC Medical Services Plan Response to COVID-19 page.


Keywords: adulting, insurance, healthcare, prescriptions, health services

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