MSP and Pharmacare

Medical Services Plan (MSP) Coverage

Government assisted and privately sponsored refugees who settle in BC are eligible to apply for MSP immediately upon arrival. Refugee claimants can apply once they have a work permit and meet the residency requirements.

Enrolment is not automatic. This form must be completed and sent to Health Insurance BC with copies of each individual’s immigration documents. For GARs who are in the Resettlement Assistance Program, settlement workers through Immigration Services Society of BC help individuals apply for MSP coverage, typically when GARs are living at Welcome House in their first few weeks in Canada. Sponsors are responsible for assisting privately sponsored refugees with registration. Call HIBC and ask for an enrolment specialist with any questions.

There is no mandatory wait time for MSP for refugees, but the processing time is approximately 8-12 weeks. In extenuating circumstances (e.g. pregnancy, HIV) a phone call can expedite the process.

IFH, if active, provides health insurance while the patient waits for MSP to come into effect. For some refugees, after MSP is activated, IFH still covers the cost of supplemental services (such as dental and vision care) and prescription drugs for one year.

Refugee Claimants who hold work permits must keep their work permits active in order to continue to qualify for MSP.  They do not receive a physical MSP card but rather are given a PHN. 


PharmaCare provides eligible British Columbia residents with the costs of some prescription drugs and designated medical supplies.

PharmaCare coverage is potentially available once refugees have MSP coverage, and requires a separate application.

A patient with IFH coverage (i.e. for the first year in Canada) is not eligible for Pharmacare, even if they have MSP. A Pharmacare application must be filed at the end of the first year. Refugee patients need to be directed to do this, by their settlement worker, sponsor or primary care provider.

Registration for PharmaCare can be done in two ways: 

  1. Online
  2. By phone with Health Insurance BC from 8am - 8pm Mon-Fri or 8am - 4pm Sat.

Refugees who have not yet filed a tax return with the Canadian government are still eligible for PharmaCare if they meet income requirements.

To determine whether a patient with MSP is registered for Pharmacare, enter the PHN here: 

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Translated patient handouts on how to apply for Fair Pharmacare here.