All BC residents are required to enroll in BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) which provides which covers most medically required services such as hospitals, doctors, diagnostic tests, etc. Once you apply, coverage starts at the beginning of the third calendar month after the month of your arrival (e.g. arriving any time in August means MSP starts November 1). Once registered you receive an MSP card, and can access health services like all BC residents. Health Insurance BC (HIBC) administers BC MSP – contact at 1-800-663-7100.
Premiums for MSP were initially eliminated in 2019 and replaced with an Employer Health Tax (EHT). Nine months later, the government then started charging premiums to those residents in BC on study permits an International Student Health Fee (ISHF) for BC MSP. TSSU members in positions covered by the Collective Agreement, including TAs, TMs, Sessional Instructors, Graduate Facilitators, can enroll to have SFU pay the costs of their ISHF during the period of their employment. This right was hard won by generations of TSSU members who came before.
SFU will pay 100% required premiums for MSP for you, your spouse and any dependents via a “group plan”. This is not automatic, and you need to apply. While you can apply in any month of the term, your application will only be backdated to the first of the month you apply (i.e. SFU will only pay for MSP back to this date).
To opt into SFU’s group plan:
SFU will then automatically:
If you've enrolled per the above process, then SFU should be paying your International Student Health Fee (ISHF) for the term, beginning on the 1st of the month SFU received your group enrollment form. Unfortunately, SFU and Revenue Services BC are behind on processing payments and people are concerned about how this impacts them. For months you are enrolled in the group plan, please do not pay bills sent directly to you as Revenue Services BC may not issue a refund.
Here are some ways you can ensure that you are enrolled in the MSP Group Plan so that SFU is paying your ISHF. You can verify that SFU is making these payments by logging into myinfo.sfu.ca and looking at your paystub. If you are enrolled, once per month you will see a line marked "Int'l Sdnt Health Fee" in the “Employer Paid Benefits,” which is confirmation SFU is paying on your behalf. More information on your paystub can be found here. If you submitted your group enrollment form and do not see this line on your paystub and are seeing overage balances in your ISHF, please email SFU Human Resources at email@example.com and cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you confirm your enrollment, you can ignore the bills/balance owing. You may also contact Health Insurance BC to confirm your group enrollment status; however, in many cases their agents are not yet trained on the group enrollment process and may give incorrect advice. For months you are confirmed to be enrolled in the group plan, please do not pay bills sent directly to you as Revenue Services BC may not issue a refund.
SFU will stop paying your ISHF if you had a break in employment (e.g. a semester off) of work as a TA, TM, Graduate Facilitator and/or Sessional Instructor. If you have a break in employment and have work in one of these jobs for Fall 2022, you should opt-in to SFU's Group Plan before the end of September 2022 to ensure you are covered for the full term. If you miss completing these steps in January, you can still opt-in, however, the coverage will only take effect from the month you’ve opted in. RAs don't yet have this right, but it is one of our top bargaining priorities to win.
If you have finished a TSSU Appointment: If you do nothing, SFU should drop you from their group plan and Health Insurance BC (HIBC) will create an individual account and begin sending you bills – a process which can take several months. You can speed up this process if you phone HIBC (1-800-663-7100) and ask them to transfer your account. You may also choose to stay on the SFU group plan, if you prepay 100% of the costs per semester to SFU before your appointment ends. This saves you from reapplying to the group plan if you get an appointment in the next semester, but does not save you any money. To enroll, complete the TSSU Request for Continued Benefit Coverage at: sfu.ca/human-resources/tssu.html and follow the payment instructions on it.
If you are not in a TSSU (TA/TM/Sessional/Graduate Facilitator) Appointment or are a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident: You will need to apply for an individual MSP account, including all necessary information, such as a copy of your study permit. Apply directly online at: my.gov.bc.ca/msp/enrolment/check-eligibility or search for: MSP Application form 102.
If you are an international student enrolled in Guard.me, allow for a few weeks for processing your form then phone HIBC at 1-800-663-7100 and request a letter confirming enrolment. Once you receive this letter, upload it at guard.me/sfu to opt-out and receive a refund. If you receive your MSP card, the card can be used to opt-out.
You will then need to upload the letter at guard.me/sfu to complete the opt-out process, and potentially receive an additional refund.
The BC Government announced it would eliminate MSP fees for BC residents, effective January 1, 2020. In August 2019, they announced that international students would still have to pay for MSP, and it would be branded as the “Health Coverage fee” and billed individually to students.
This portion of the premium for MSP was phased in:
The Government told us that the fee is just one part of a total premium for MSP, this is confirmed by the written regulation. The government also published a FAQ. TSSU has a history of fighting for free public health care for all residents of BC, including international students.
After a long campaign, SFU Admin agreed to a system to pay the required premiums for MSP that international students are being charged, which means hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to international student TAs, TMs, and SIs. Let's fight in the future to get all TSSU members, including RAs and GFs, covered too. This victory came because we used our collective power through both organizing and advocacy.
We did it together!