B.C. Residents Stop Paying MSP Premiums, International Students Pay Double

Experts give advice to international students who may struggle to make the payments

The elimination of Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums came into effect on Jan 1. According to the B.C. government’s MSP website, “as per the elimination, British Columbia residents are no longer required to pay any MSP premiums. However, enrolment in MSP remains mandatory for all residents.”

“Only adult international students who formally opt out of provincial health coverage through MSP are exempt from paying the health fee. The onus for adults to enrol in MSP or formally opt out of provincial health-care benefits rests with the individual. Opting out is a serious step that should not be considered without understanding the consequences of doing so.”

The government of B.C. not only eliminated the premiums for residents but also doubled the MSP rates for international students from $37.50 per month to $75 per month.

Tanysha Klassen, chairperson of the BC Federation of Students, told the CBC that the MSP increase could likely cause hardships for many international students, who already pay up to six times more for post-secondary tuition than local students.

“There are international students living six people to a room or working jobs under the table … or their family put together their entire savings to send one kid to school in Canada,” said Klassen on CBC’s The Early Edition on Jan 6.

“The main issue is not this fee,” said Klassen. “I think it is a bigger issue of us taking advantage of international students and just using them to balance budgets.”

In the provincial government’s Q&A on MSP plan restructure, it is written that “the province is introducing the health fee to ensure international students continue to contribute to and benefit from B.C. health-care coverage.”

“B.C. Medical Services Plan coverage is not changing,” it continues.

If an international student fails to pay the fee, they will still be able to access urgent healthcare services.

“Failure to pay and provincial health-care coverage are not connected. Emergency health-care services will not be denied; however, private physicians and clinics may deny services if a payment method is not pre-approved,” reads the Q&A.

“If an international student does not have provincial health-care coverage or private insurance, they will be liable for the costs of the health-care services received.”

KPU’s international student life coordinator, Silvia Serpas, says that “the only thing that we can do is help [international students] by navigating that and sending them to the resources needed.”

“The best resource is us, any international student advisors, so if you make any appointment as an international student and you want to talk about health insurance, you can definitely do that,” he says. “They or us can help guide you through that and answer any questions.”

He also recommends that international students reach out to a “multicultural centre or any centre supporting newcomers.”

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