In the Know: Health Insurance

UVic Global Community Newsletter: September 9, 2019

In the Know: Advice for International Students is a section of the UVic Global Community Newsletter that includes valuable information and important dates for undergraduate and graduate international students in the following categories: degree-seeking, incoming exchange, and incoming study abroad/visiting.

Why is health insurance so important?

The cost of health care in Canada is very high for those who do not have health insurance.

Without coverage, you could be denied treatment or pay thousands of dollars each day for medical services. As a result, all UVic students are required to have comprehensive coverage for the entire duration of their studies.

For example, you might visit Goldstream Provincial Park. This is not considered a dangerous activity, but on the trail you could accidentally fall and break your wrist. If this happened, you would need to visit the hospital. Without comprehensive coverage, the treatment from start to finish would probably cost you more than $3,000. However, you would not need to pay this amount if you have health insurance coverage. 

What is primary health insurance?

Primary health insurance covers the cost of required medical services provided by physicians, specialists, diagnostic facilities, laboratory facilities, and hospitals.

The type of primary health insurance you can get depends on how long you plan to stay in the province of British Columbia (BC).

University Health Services (UHS), located in the Petersen Health Centre, provides primary medical care for UVic students. For other options, please see How to access health care in the community.

Guard.me

The guard.me@UVic plan covers required medical services to address new and unexpected illness or injury during the BC MSP waiting period.

Most new international students are automatically enrolled in the guard.me@UVic plan upon registration at UVic, and assessed the Mandatory Temporary Medical Insurance (MTMI) fee of $265 in their UVic student account, and sent an ID Card by email which allows access to required medical services.*

* Incoming exchange students do not need to pay tuition fees to UVic, but must pay the MTMI fee by September 30, 2019. The options available for paying tuition fees, listed on the UVic website, are also available for paying associated students fees, including the MTMI fee.

BC MSP

If you are staying in British Columbia for longer than 6 months, it is mandatory to enrol in the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) when you arrive in BC.

For information on how to apply, please visit this page. The application for enrolment is available online

There is a waiting period before your BC MSP coverage begins, typically three months. For example, if you arrive on September 1, your coverage will begin on December 1. 

If you have difficulty submitting the online form, visit or contact International Student Services or try one of the other application options.

After you apply, you will receive in the mail a Non-Photo BC Services Card with a personal health number (PHN) which will allow you to access required medical services.

You will also receive  an invoice for your fees and instructions for how to pay.

Effective September 1 to December 31, 2019, international students will begin paying a new monthly health fee of $37.50 per student in addition to their MSP premiums, which are generally $37.50 per person.  Effective January 1, 2020, BC MSP premiums will be eliminated; however, the health fee for international students will continue to be charged and increase to $75 per month per student.

I am already covered by primary health insurance.

All international students who intend to stay in the province of British Columbia (BC) for more than six months must enrol in the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP), regardless of any coverage they already have.

Enrolment in the guard.me@UVic plan is also mandatory unless you are covered by one of the following:

  • BC Medical Services Plan (BC MSP)
  • Canadian provincial or territorial public health plan
  • Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau-sponsored plan
  • Libyan-North American Scholarship Program-sponsored plan
  • African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Program-sponsored plan
  • Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange & Fellowship Program

If you are already covered by one of these plans, visit the guard.me/uvic website, click Opt Out and follow the instructions to submit the form. The pot-out deadline is September 22, 2019. 

  • If you miss the opt out deadline, or have difficulty submitting the form, please visit or contact International Student Services.

How do I get extended health insurance?

Extended health insurance covers a portion of the cost of medical services that are not already covered by primary health insurance. This includes vision care, dental care, travel benefits, and prescription drugs.

Some examples of extended health insurance benefits:

  • If a doctor writes you a prescription for medicine, and you buy it at Heart Pharmacy, a portion of the cost may be covered.
  • If you visit the Campus Dental Centre to have your teeth cleaned, a portion of the cost may be covered.
  • If you visit Victory Therapeutics for an appointment with a chiropractor, a portion of the cost may be covered.

Please note that the businesses mentioned above are conveniently located on the UVic campus, but there are many other pharmacies, dentists, and health practitioners in Victoria. 

The University of Victoria Students' Society (UVSS) provides extended health insurance for undergraduate students throughout their program of study at UVic.

The Graduate Students' Society (GSS) provides extended health insurance for graduate students throughout their program of study at UVic.

Most students are automatically enrolled in either the UVSS health and dental plan or the GSS health and dental plan upon registration at UVic.*

Note: The coverage offered by these plans does not replace the need for primary health insurance. Without the guard.me@UVic plan or the BC Medical Services Plan you may not be able to access all the benefits associated with your UVic extended health and dental plan.

* Incoming exchange students are not automatically enrolled for the UVSS or GSS health and dental plans but may be eligible to opt in during the change of coverage period if they choose to purchase a UVSS or GSS membership package.

I am already covered by extended health insurance.

You may be able to combine your UVic extended health and dental plan with your existing plan, adjust the level of your coverage or opt out.

Undergraduate students should visit the StudentCare office in the Student Union Building before September 22, 2019 to discuss options.

Graduate students should contact the GSS Health Plan Coordinator at gsoc@uvic.ca or 250-721-8816 before September 30, 2019 to discuss options.

More information about health insurance is available on our website. If you have questions, please visit or contact  International Student Services.