Friday 20 March 2020

MEDIA RELEASE: Sanctuary Health and community partners call in British Columbia to waive the three-month wait and provide health coverage for uninsured people

Vancouver ---  This afternoon, the Ontario government announced that they are waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage and will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. In wake of the ever progressing pandemic, Sanctuary Health and community partners in British Columbia are calling on their government to do the same.

Before today’s announcement, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that enforced a three month wait period for people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This practice has been a longstanding concern of Sanctuary Health as it disproportionately affects vulnerable communities. Yesterday, BC’s Medical Services Commission announced that they will waive the Coverage Wait Period for those who are returning from impacted areas and intend to stay in BC and for those that were outside of the province for longer than the allowable period to maintain MSP Coverage. This leaves important members of our community wondering if they’ve been forgotten, including:
  • Canadian babies born to parents without MSP coverage
  • Migrant workers who arrived just before the borders closed or potentially who may start arriving in groups soon
  • Newly arrived permanent residents in British Columbia
  • People who have lived in British Columbia for many years and have finally obtained permanent residence.
“We are hoping that BC will make a clear statement as Ontario has today. It would be unconscionable that in a public health crisis, if valuable members of our community would be left without health coverage,” says Omar Chu of Sanctuary Health. “The three month wait never made sense, and we are seeing the consequences of it now.”

The wait period places individuals in a limbo period, forcing them to delay seeking care until coverage is received, placing them and the broader community at risk. Sanctuary Health recently presented the Medical Services Commission a package advocating for the removal of the wait period for all new and returning BC residents coming from outside of Canada, and for ensuring access to care upon arrival. The package had support letters from over 25 organizations including health care providers, unions representing health care workers, human rights organizations, and migrant groups.

Sanctuary Health’s call to remove the wait period is a part of our broader push for access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare. This call includes people who are undocumented, navigating the bureaucratic immigration system, international students, and people with implied status. In July 2017, the government began denying MSP coverage to people with implied status: people who applied for new work or study permits before the expiry of their previous work or study permits and are legally entitled to live and work or study in Canada.

“The current pandemic has broadly revealed what we have been arguing since we started,” Chu says. “Health care is a human right and a just society ensures that we all have it.”

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys a wide range of strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. Read the full Three Month Wait package at

Thursday 12 March 2020

Call to end the 3 Month Wait

Update: The government has announced that the three-month MSP coverage wait period will be waived for eligible individuals effective March 1, 2020. This temporary waiver is in place until July 31, 2020. This waiver shows both that it’s possible and beneficial to public health to remove the wait period. As a community, let’s continue to demand the complete removal of the wait period and expanding full health coverage for all!
Before the COVID-19 crisis, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that deny three months of health coverage to people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This exclusionary wait period prevents new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, returning Canadians and even some newborn Canadian babies from receiving health care coverage.

The three month wait period places individuals in a limbo period and forces them to delay seeking care until coverage is received. This is  evidenced in the increased physician billing rates in the fourth month after an immigrant’s arrival. The delay in seeking appropriate and adequate health care  results in poorer health outcomes and increased costs as individuals run the risk of developing more complex health concerns, which places a greater burden on our health care system.

The three month wait period was a policy decided on by the Medical Services Commission and they have the power to change it. Sanctuary Health sent the following package to the Medical Services Commission requesting that they take action to end the three month wait. We also requested an opportunity for Sanctuary Health to present to them about the impacts of the current policy and why it should be changed.