How Does British Columbia’s Health System Actually Work?
May 21st, 2012
When seeking healthcare in Canada it’s important to understand the Canadian healthcare system and healthcare insurance to avoid being left with a lack of coverage.
The Canadian healthcare system has two components. The publicly funded component includes primary care, family doctors, hospital care and care from medical specialists. The private component includes dentists and allied health professionals.
In British Columbia the public system is covered by an insurance program called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). This article will help explain how to utilize MSP and what to do about healthcare that isn’t covered by MSP
Applying for MSP
BC residents must enroll with MSP to utilize the coverage. There are some small premiums associated with enrollment. Enrollment can be done through the MSP website
. Once enrolled in MSP, you will obtain a BC CareCard. With this CareCard you will gain access to fully covered healthcare throughout the public system.
Finding Public Healthcare Providers
With MSP you can visit any family doctor or hospital in BC and receive full coverage. Unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to find healthcare. There is a shortage of General Practitioners in Canada which means that many Canadians do not have a dedicated family doctor. As a result many patients rely on “walk-in clinics” which will see any patient but on a first-come-first serve basis. There are dozens of walk-in clinics in Vancouver but there are often still long waits. The best way to avoid these lines is to call ahead to nearby clinics and ask about the wait. For a list of walk-in clinics in Vancouver try searching on Clinicbook
Finding a Family Doctor
As indicated, it’s difficult to find a family doctor who is accepting new patients. There are two strategies that can work for this. The first is to use the BC College of Physicians and Surgeon’s website
. The second is to look for a hybrid walk-in family practice clinic. Often these clinics will see you initially as a walk-in patient and later as a formal family practice patient.
Finding Dentists and Allied Healthcare Providers
There is no shortage of dentists and allied healthcare providers in BC and they are not covered by MSP. If you have a supplementary healthcare benefits plan provided by your employer or purchased separately it will likely provide coverage for some or all of these services. Typically dental plans cover 20%-100% coverage up to a maximum dollar amount each year. All dentists in BC will accept all insurance plans (if they are an assignment clinic as described below).
If you’re on a tight budget you’ll probably want to find an “assignment clinic.” Assignment clinics are clinics which accept insurance and will deal with the insurance company on your behalf. These clinics will only make you pay your portion of the fees as opposed to asking you to pay the full amount up-front and wait for reimbursement. Call ahead to ask about insurance policies if this is a concern of yours.
Medical and Dental Emergencies
For medical emergencies patients can dial 911 or visit their nearest emergency centre or hospital. For immediate dental care you can call around to local dental offices to see who can see you quickly or look for the earliest appointment on Clinicbook’s list of Vancouver Emergency Dentists