In the Know: Health Insurance

UVic Global Community Newsletter: January 5, 2021

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 want to go hiking in 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.

In British Columbia (BC), there are two components to comprehensive health insurance:

  1. Primary health insurance
  2. Extended health insurance

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, located in the Health and Wellness Building (HWB), 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 course registration at UVic, and assessed the Mandatory Temporary Medical Insurance (MTMI) fee of $265 in their UVic student account.*

* Incoming exchange students do not need to pay tuition fees to UVic, but must pay the MTMI fee by January 31, 2021. 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 and the online enrolment application, please visit the How to apply webpage. 

BC MSP coverage does not start immediately for newcomers to BC. The waiting period consists of the balance of your month of arrival in BC plus two more months. For example, if you arrive in BC any day in December your coverage will begin on March 1, but if you arrive in BC any day in January your coverage will begin on April 1.

If you have difficulty submitting the online form, 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.

The health fee for international students is $75 per month per student. Please refer to the BC Ministry of Health’s Questions and Answers: Health fee for international students document for more information.

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 opt-out deadline is January 26, 2021.

If your BC MSP coverage expires during your first term at UVic, please contact issinfo@uvic.ca before the opt-out deadline for the opt out procedure and criteria.

Note: As an international student in Canada, your BC MSP ends when your study permit expires. Therefore, it is very important that you start the process of extending your study permit at least 4 months before it expires to avoid a lapse in your BC MSP coverage. Due to COVID-19, there is a special measure for BC MSP coverage during implied status. Contact Health Insurance BC to request this temporary coverage. This temporary coverage will be valid until April 30, 2021.

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

I am not going to be in Canada for the Spring (January-April 2021) term. Can I opt out of guard.me@UVic?

If you will be outside of Canada for the Spring term (January-April 2021), you will be eligible to opt out of guard.me@uvic, regardless of whether you are currently covered by a similar health plan. Visit the guard.me/uvic website, click Opt Out and follow the instructions.

The opt out deadline is January 26, 2021.

If you submit the form before your opt out deadline and your request is approved, the MTMI fee will be removed from your UVic student account.

If you miss your opt out deadline, or have difficulty submitting the form, please contact International Student Services (ISS).

Please note, when you arrive to Canada, it is your responsibility to ensure you have adequate health insurance coverage that is valid.

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 course registration at UVic.*

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 or I am not going to be in Canada for the Spring (January-April 2021) term. Can I opt out?

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.

If you are an undergraduate student and have questions about the coverage for this plan or opting out, please connect with the UVic Studentcare website or call 1-877-789-8714. The opt out deadline is January 22, 2021.

If you are a graduate student and have questions about the coverage for this plan or opting out, please connect with the Graduate Students Society (GSS) Health Plan Coordinator at gsoc@uvic.ca or +1 250-721-8816. The opt out deadline is February 11, 2021.

Note: If you will not be in Canada for the spring term 2021, you may be eligible to opt out from the UVSS or GSS plans if you do so before the deadlines.

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