Basic medical coverage extended for absent snowbirds

B.C. snowbirds who holiday out of the province will be able to stay away longer without losing their basic medical coverage, the government said Wednesday.

The proposed change would allow residents — who can currently be out of the province for up to six months and still maintain coverage under B.C.’s medical services plan — an additional 30-day absence, said Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid as she introduced a new bill in the legislature.

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“There are many British Columbia seniors who enjoy winters away each year, and this change makes it possible to allow them some extra time away without worrying about losing their MSP coverage,” said Ralph Sultan, minister of state for seniors, in a statement.

The proposed amendment to the Medicare Protection Act would permit an additional 30-day absence — if the time out of the province is used for vacation.

The move aligns B.C. with Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador in allowing residents to maintain their medical coverage while out of the province for more than six months.

The Canadian Snowbird Association welcomed the move and said it would let B.C.’s estimated 144,000 snowbirds travel south during the cold months without fear of losing their medical coverage.

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