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N.S. government strengthens supports for international students’ MSI

Click to play video: 'N.S. updates rules on MSI coverage for international students'
N.S. updates rules on MSI coverage for international students
WATCH: The province is updating regulations to allow international students with a study or work permit to be absent from Nova Scotia for more than 31 consecutive days without losing their MSI coverage. An advocacy group for students says this is a great step to recruit more international students to the province. Amber Fryday has more – Sep 19, 2022

The province is updating regulations under the Health Services and Insurances Act (HSIA) to improve access to Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance (MSI) for international students with a study permit and individuals with work permits.

The changes allow these permit holders to be absent from Nova Scotia for more than 31 consecutive days without losing their MSI coverage for insured services received in Canada. The amendments will include spouses and dependents.

The executive director for Students Nova Scotia, an advocacy group for post-secondary students across the province, says this will help eliminate one of the “many barriers” that international students face.

“A lot of times when students are looking across the different provinces health care is one of the biggest things they’re going to be looking at, especially given all the challenges we are seeing. So, any step that the province can take to say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing to support you,’ I think, will have really big impacts in terms of folks choosing to come here,” says Lydia Houck, the executive director of Students NS.

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Houck adds this change is something that the group has been advocating for for the better part of a decade. She says many students have had to make difficult decisions in the past, such as being unable to return home over the summer months to visit family.
The policy allowed students to opt into the MSI program after 12 months in the province only if they had not left Nova Scotia for 31 consecutive days during that period.

Read more: International students caught in N.S. housing crunch

Cape Breton University international student Peter Oyedijo has been studying in Nova Scotia since 2019 but because he had to leave the province for several months during the pandemic, he does not have access to MSI.

He says the restriction has always been an issue for international students and calls the province’s decision “fantastic news.” He says Nova Scotia will be able to recruit and retain more international students.

“My twin brother studies in New Brunswick and he has access to provincial insurance and that alone has created a situation whereby most international students or potential international students would tend to go to provinces like New Brunswick as opposed to Nova Scotia just because of that barrier in accessing health care,” says Oyedijo.

“Given the fact the province is looking to double its population, looking to bring in as many people as possible and international students are very, very important and critical in helping Nova Scotia achieve this goal.”

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Students NS says this is a great first step but adds there is still much work to do.

“Folks can’t opt into MSI until 12 months after they arrive here so I think in conversations going forward, looking at how we can lessen that wait period is a big step as well,” says Houck.

The Department of Health and Wellness is working with the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Service on the necessary IT work required to administer this change.

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