International Teaching Assistants
This page is regularly reviewed and was last updated on December 1, 2021
Note: In Canada, there are two types of medical insurance: primary and secondary. At SFU both Primary and Secondary Medical Insurance are required.
This page provides a general overview of medical insurance for International Teaching Assistants. For a detailed description of how to get medical insurance coverage as a current TA/TM/Sessional, please visit the SFU Human Resources TSSU website.
Are you a Research Assistant?
Benefits for Research Assistants depend on grant holder approval. To be eligible for benefits, your grant holder must provide written authorization to SFU Human Resources stating that the grant will be responsible for 50% of the monthly premiums.
Primary medical insurance covers services that require medical attention, such as visits to doctors, hospital stays and diagnostic medical testing. Primary medical insurance is legally required for all residents of British Columbia (including international students) and is provided through the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). An interim solution for the waiting period during the coverage gap is a short-term medical insurance plan called guard.me.
Staying in BC for 6 months or longer?
Under the Medicare Protection Act, enrolment with the Medical Services Plan (MSP) is mandatory for all eligible residents and their dependents.
If you are in BC and have not done so already, apply for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) right away.
If this is your first term at SFU and:
- you already have valid coverage through BC Medical Services Plan (MSP), or
- you are studying at SFU under a government sponsored scholarship program, or
- you are outside Canada,
If this is not your first term at SFU and you opted out of the guard.me@SFU plan, because you were not in Canada:
When you travel to Canada, please contact International Services for Students to learn about medical insurance options to cover your BC MSP waiting period.
Moving to BC from another province?
If you are currently covered by another provincial medical insurance plan, you may be able to opt out of the guard.me@SFU plan. Ensure you contact your Provincial or Territorial health plan provider to inquire about coverage while in British Columbia (BC). Please note that SFU and guard.me will not review your home insurance plan.
If you are not able to remain on your home province or territory plan, you cannot opt out from guard.me@sfu and must apply for the BC's Medical Services Plan after your arrival in BC.
Cost: $281 for your first term at SFU*
Enrolment: Automatic (upon enrolment in classes) for your first term only
*Prices are subject to change without notice. If the TSSU member is covered by guard.me, they should should notify Human Resources (HR). HR will reimburse the TSSU member 85% of the guard.me fee paid to the maximum of the cost for two persons.
What is guard.me@SFU?
Guard.me@SFU is a short term primary medical insurance coverage for your first term at SFU. The goal of guard.me@SFU is to help you transition while you are waiting for your BC MSP. If you plan to live in BC for more than 6 months, under the Medicare Protection Act, you must enrol with the mandatory BC Medical Services Plan.
How do I get the policy/ certificate number?
You will receive a welcome email from guard.me@SFU at the beginning of semester. This email will include a link to log into your account to view your policy details. You can view and download your Healthcare Access Card (HAC) which is your proof of insurance and will have your name, student number, policy number, and policy start and end date. You can also log in via Guard.me@SFU website.
This card can be used for direct billing at some pharmacies, medical clinics, and dental offices. Make sure to keep this for future reference as you will need it for direct billing or to submit a claim. If you have not received an email from guard.me@SFU, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How and when can I opt out of guard.me@SFU?
You should opt out of guard.me@SFU once you have applied and received proof of your BC MSP enrolment (scan copy of your valid BC Services Card, a current invoice or a letter confirming coverage). If you are a TA, you may contact email@example.com to request a confirmation letter.
- Letter that was issued with the MSP card showing the effective date of your MSP coverage: click here to see a sample letter
- Current MSP bill showing effective coverage
- Health Insurance BC confirmation of MSP enrolment letter
Please note the following:
- Your BC MSP card must be valid the day you opt-out from the guard.me plan. Expired BC MSP card will not be accepted as a proof of coverage
- A Collections Notice cannot be used to opt-out
- The name and date of birth on your BC MSP card must match SFU records.
- If your MSP card is issued more than 3 months prior to the start of the semester, no additional document is required. You only need to submit a photo of your MSP card to opt out.
How can I make claims?
When visiting any of the SFU Health Clinics, print out a copy of your Healthcare Access Card (HAC) from guard.me@SFU website. The HAC is your proof of insurance containing your coverage information. They will collect a copy for each visit and will directly bill guard.me@SFU on your behalf. No additional claim is required. You can search Guard.me preferred clinics near your location here. These clinics will allow direct billing.
For clinics that do not allow direct billing, you will need to pay upfront for the visit. Keep copies of all your payment receipts. To submit a claim, please visit guard.me@SFU to create an online account and upload copies of your receipts.
I received my BC Services Card (MSP card) before the end of my first term. May I apply for a partial refund of the 4 month policy?
You may be eligible for a refund of the unused portion of your insurance if you have not made a claim and there is more than 1 month of coverage remaining when you apply through guard.me@SFU. Your application for a partial reimbursement must be received by guard.me@SFU before the last month of the term (that is, before April 1, August 1 and December 1). If approved, your partial refund will be applied to your SFU account.
If you are a TA, in addition to the above, SFU HR will reimburse you a portion of the Guard.me@SFU fees you paid for the months while you waited for your MSP to become effective. For example, if your BC MSP becomes effective on November 1, SFU HR will reimburse you for September and October. This is a separate process from the cancellation of your Guard.me@SFU coverage. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions.
Cost: $75 per month*
- Apply through Human Resources upon arrival.
- Complete MSP Group enrolment Form
More Info: SFU Human Resources TSSU website
*Per the Letter of Agreement between TSSU and SFU, the University will pay the fee (International Student Health Fee for BC MSP) for eligible TSSU members and their dependents.
What is the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)?
Students staying in BC for 6 months or longer are required to enrol in the British Columbia Medical Services Plan under the Medicare Protection Act. There is a wait period of 2-3 months for new residents. In order to be covered during the wait period you may purchase a private medical insurance plan or please contact International Services for Students to learn about medical insurance options.
If you are a new international student at SFU, you will be automatically enrolled in guard.me@sfu plan for your first term while you wait for your BC MSP.
BC MSP provides primary medical coverage such as:
- services provided by a doctor
- X-rays, lab tests (as required by a doctor)
- emergency dental and oral surgery in hospital
How and when can I apply for MSP?
You must apply to enrol yourself (and any dependent family members) in the group plan upon arrival through SFU Human Resources. You can start the application process as soon as you receive your TSSU appointment. Please follow the instruction here (page 2).
As a new resident of Canada, there is a three month waiting period before MSP coverage can begin (the balance of the month of arrival in BC plus two full calendar months). The guard.me@SFU plan is designed to provide medical coverage during the waiting period, until you obtain MSP coverage and opt out. Guard Me coverage is automatic for international students. Dependent family members (i.e. spouse and/or dependent children) can be added by applying online.
How does BC MSP work?
When visiting a health clinic or hospital, you will be asked to show your BC Services Card as proof of enrolment. You will not be required to pay for the visit, they will bill BC MSP directly for eligible expenses.
Who is entitled to have their International Student Health Fee (ISHF, BC MSP fee) covered by SFU?
Only members of TSSU and their dependents on study permits are entitled to have their International Student Health Fee (ISHF) covered by SFU.
Can I enroll my spouse/dependent in SFU’s Group BC MSP Plan for the International Student Health Fee (ISHF, BC MSP fee)?
If you are an eligible TSSU member, you can enroll your spouse/dependents onto SFU's Group BC MSP Plan. Please note that they are only being charged the international student health fee if they are on a study permit. If they are on a study permit, the member can apply to add them to SFU’s plan to receive the benefit coverage.
If they are not on a study permit, you do not need to join your group plan and no action needs to be taken as they are not being charged the ISHF.
How can I contact BC MSP?
No longer a Teaching Assistant?
Cost: $75 per month*
Employees and dependents enrolled in SFU’s Group MSP will be automatically transferred by Health Insurance BC to self-administered MSP accounts and continue to receive health care benefits.
- No action is required on your part; your Personal Health Number will not change.
- Health Insurance BC will send a letter with information pertaining to your individual account once created
More Info: SFU Human Resources TSSU website
*prices are subject to change without notice. If you have any dependent (e.g. spouse, common-law partner, and/or children) each study permit holder must pay the fee.
Secondary medical insurance generally covers vision care, prescription drugs, dental and extended health care. Eligible SFU students receive secondary medical insurance through the SFSS/GSS Extended Health and Dental Plan and also If you have an active TSSU appointment, you may also choose to opt into a private extended health plan (Pacific Blue Cross).
GSS Health and Dental Plan (Graduates):
- $465* from Sept 1, 2021 - Aug 31, 2022
- $310* from Jan 1, 2022 - Aug 31, 2022
- $155* from May 1, 2022 - Aug 31, 2022 for students eligible to enrol themselves*
SFSS Health and Dental Plan (Undergraduates):
- $254.36 (Enhanced Plan) or $197.52 (Basic Plan)* from Sept 1, 2021 - Aug 31, 2022
- $169.58 (Enhanced Plan) or $131.68 (Basic Plan)* from Jan 1, 2022 - Aug 31, 2022
- $84.79 (Enhanced Plan) from May 1, 2022 - Aug 31, 2022 for students eligible to enrol themselves*
Enrolment: Automatic (except if entering in summer term). May-start students can self-enrol for their first semester at SFU during the Change-of-Coverage Period.
More Info: SFSS/GSS Health and Dental Plan website
*prices are subject to change without notice
What is the GSS Health and Dental Plan?
The Graduate Student Society (GSS) health and dental plan is in place to complement primary medical coverage (ie. BC MSP). Services not included by primary coverage (ie. vision and dental care) are included in the GSS plan.
Eligible students are automatically covered by and billed for applicable portions of the student plan (except if entering in summer term). Note that plan benefits are only accessible within Canada.
How and when can I opt out of the GSS Health and Dental Plan?
You may opt out of the GSS extended health plan if you have existing secondary coverage in BC. To opt out, you will be required to upload proof of coverage on the GSS Health and Dental website during the Change-of-Coverage Period. This will be during the first two weeks of each term.
Please visit their website for more information.
How can I make claims?
You can submit health and dental claim forms directly to the insurance company. You may also file claims online through the ihaveaplan mobile app. For more information, and to download the app, click here.
I would like to speak to a representative about my secondary medical insurance. Who should I contact?
You can reach a representative by calling the Care Centre at 236-427-8123, Mon. - Fri. from 9 am to 5 pm. Or you can visit Studentcare Care Office in-person which is located at the Student Union Building (SUB) 2301 on SFU Burnaby campus, Mon. - Fri. from 9 am to 5 pm.
I am a TA, how does the GSS/SFSS Health and Dental plan differs from the TSSU extended health and dental plan?
As a student at SFU, you are automatically enrolled into the GSS/SFSS plan for the entire academic year whereas the TSSU plan is not automatic and it is for the duration of your TSSU appointment only.
Should you opt in for the TSSU benefits, you will have to be enrolled through SFU Human Resources.
Can I have both the GSS/SFSS health and dental plan and the TSSU extended health and dental plan? What are the benefits of having both plans?
Yes, you can have both. One benefit is that you can claim eligible medical and dental expenses to both plans and receive higher amount of reimbursement.
However, you will need to compare the two policies and all the information to make an informed decision that fits your individual needs.
If I enroll in the TSSU extended health and dental plan, can I opt out of the GSS health and dental plan?
Yes, you can opt out of the GSS/SFSS plan if you have the TSSU plan. However, before you make this decision, please note the duration of these plans first.
Once you opt out of the GSS/SFSS health and dental plan, you cannot re-enroll in the plan for the entire academic year. Hence there is a risk of having no secondary medical insurance coverage if your TSSU appointment ends in the middle of the academic year. Also, there is a 3-month waiting period for the TSSU dental plan.