Finance Minister Carole James is beginning to phase out Medical Services Plan premiums, which accounted for 17 per cent of B.C. health care spending in the past year. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

End is near for B.C. medical premiums

Break of $900 a year for average working couple, other taxes going up

The B.C. government takes its first step toward eliminating Medical Services Plan premiums on Jan. 1, slashing single adult rates by half and eliminating the need for new residents to register.

The NDP government is implementing an election campaign promise first made by the B.C. Liberals, who tinkered with Canada’s only user fee for medical services for years before announcing plans to phase it out last spring.

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation calculates that the reduction will save an average household with two adults $900 per year, and applauds the NDP government’s promise to eliminate MSP entirely within four years.

Kris Sims, B.C. director for the CTF, notes that the MSP break will soon be offset by tax increases, including the first increase in five years to B.C.’s carbon tax. That tax rises to $35 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions as of April 1, translating to an increase from seven to 8.5 cents on a litre of gasoline and more than 10 cents per litre on diesel fuel.

Finance Minister Carole James announced in September that the NDP government is going beyond the 50-per-cent cut to MSP promised by both parties in the May 2017 election. She said the B.C. Liberal pledge to apply the rate cut only to those with household incomes below $120,000 is “unworkable,” and announced plans to scrap the income-tested application form.

Single adults with income above $26,000 and couples with two children earning more than $35,000 will still have to pay the reduced rate in 2018, on a sliding scale based on household income.

Phasing out MSP leaves a large hole in the province’s health care budget. The finance ministry estimated last year that income from medical premiums covers 17 per cent of health costs, by far the largest operating expenditure in the B.C. government, and James has yet to say how the revenue will be made up.

Eliminating MSP also means the phase-out of its administration and bill collection, which was contracted out to U.S.-based back-office specialist Maximus Corp. in 2005. Maximus took over existing administration staff represented by the B.C. Government Employees’ Union, and had to add more staff after B.C. assessed penalties on the contractor for slow service to the public.

The NDP has long opposed MSP as an unfair tax that has the same rate for people earning $45,000 and $450,000 a year. For government and large corporation employees, it is generally a payroll tax paid by their employers, while self-employed and small business workers have to pay it out of pocket.

BC legislatureHealthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Planned upgrades didn’t go as planned

CityWest said a fibre-line break caused outages to all customers

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

BC Ferries Sailing Cancellations

Prince Rupert - Haida Gwaii - Northern Adventure

Month-long water quality advisory still in effect for Rupert residents

The City of Prince Rupert recommends those with weakened immune systems boil water prior to use

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read