British Columbians will very soon be allowed to extend their out-of-country stays by an additional month without losing their eligibility for Medical Services Plan coverage, if pending legislation is approved, as it is expected it will be. BC will then join Ontario and Newfoundland as provinces that allow more than six month absences.
According to a government press release, “The maximum time a resident can stay out of the province without losing MSP coverage is six months. Changes to the Medicare Protection Act create new regulation making powers related to residence requirement. It is proposed that a new regulation will allow BC residents who are outside of Canada for holidays for six months to have an additional 30-day absence and still have their MSP beneficiary status.”
Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said in the release that the “Canadian Snowbird Association requested that we extend the six-month residency requirement for Medical Services Plan coverage. Our government listened to them, and we are making the change to permit more flexibility.”
Bob Slack, president of the CSA, expressed gratitude to Premier Christy Clark and Minister MacDiarmid for activating the legislation, and he noted that when passed, the regulation will allow the estimated 144,000 snowbirds in BC to travel south during the cold winter months and still have time to visit family and friends in Canada and around the world without fear of losing their BC medical coverage.
We must note, however, that the extension of BC’s MSP coverage in no way affects or alters the U.S. immigration law that restricts Canadian visitors to no more than six months in a year.