New Partnership to Deliver Improved Health Benefits Program to First Nations People in BC

Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) announced today that it has partnered with Pacific Blue Cross to administer a suite of health benefits to First Nations residents of BC.

Starting this September, Pacific Blue Cross will administer benefits on behalf of the FNHA for dental, vision, medical supplies and equipment, and drugs not covered by Pharmacare. Currently, approximately 144,000 First Nations people in BC receive these benefits through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) – a national program that provides coverage to registered First Nations for a specified range of medically necessary items and services that are not covered by other plans and programs.

“This migration off the Health Canada system is another step forward in self-governance over health services in British Columbia‎,” said Joe Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FNHA. “It offers us an opportunity to review and re-design the delivery of non-insured health benefits to improve coverage and make the system more efficient and effective – for clients and health care providers alike.”

Gallagher said partnering with Pacific Blue Cross will allow the FNHA to draw on the experience of a health benefits provider that has a successful track record of working with both health care providers and clients.

“We are confident Pacific Blue Cross will be an excellent partner. It has a comprehensive and effective health claims infrastructure and it has demonstrated a collaborative approach as well as a strong commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility.”

John Crawford, the President and CEO of Pacific Blue Cross, said his organization is excited to be part of  an interconnected system evolving to support the health and wellness needs of First Nations people across the province.

“As BC’s largest health benefits provider, serving 1 in 3 throughout the province, Pacific Blue Cross is in a unique position to champion the role of benefits in helping to achieve healthy, self-determined communities. We are humbled to join the First Nations Health Authority in furthering a wholistic vision of wellness,” he said.  “The success of this partnership is one that will have reciprocal accountability, a recognition that our work is rooted in collaboration, and a shared vision of improved wellness for all our Members.”

At a signing ceremony held today at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, the two CEOs signed a declaration of commitment to cultural humility and cultural safety. They also signed the five-year services agreement.

The first phase of the benefits transition from Health Canada to the FNHA took place in October 2017 with the transfer of non-insured pharmacy benefits to PharmaCare (Plan W – for Wellness). The second phase is expected to take place in mid-September. Already, the FNHA and Pacific Blue Cross have been carrying out a comprehensive consultation effort with health regulators, individual health care providers, clients, and other individuals and organizations involved with the delivery of First Nations health care.

Any clients with questions about the benefits transition are encouraged to contact FNHA at