Your clients in British Columbia are required to pay an annual fee, or premium, for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP), the province’s health care plan. If you have clients who are unable to afford to pay that premium, help may be available through premium assistance or refunds.
Two types of premium assistance are available to British Columbian taxpayers: regular assistance and temporary assistance. Temporary assistance involves a short-term waiver of MSP premiums because of approved financial hardship situations. To get either regular or temporary assistance, your clients must apply to the MSP. The application asks for income information since the approval of assistance is based on the applicant’s adjusted net income for the preceding tax year.
Once your client signs the application, the Ministry of Health may verify income with the Canada Revenue Agency. In fact, the Ministry continues to verify income as long as assistance is requested, automatically adjusting the amount of assistance provided based on the ups and downs of your client’s income. When premium assistance has been approved, your client becomes automatically eligible for supplementary benefits that include acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy.
If you or your client suddenly realizes past eligibility for premium assistance was possible but didn’t apply for it, your client may be able to apply retroactively. The MSP is able to refund up to seven years of overpayments. Your client must request that refund specifically, as typically the MSP will otherwise apply the refund to future MSP premiums as they come due.
Your clients may need guidance in calculating their MSP premiums, and they may not be aware the assistance is available. By alerting them to this possibility, you can help them make wise financial choices.