Province’s MSP system a hardship for seniors

MLA calls for progressive version of MSP premiums to be rolled into province's income tax system

In January 2015 the Good Health Committee at the Monterey Seniors’ Centre invited me to a conversation on health care. The seniors I talked to were profoundly concerned about our province’s regressive approach of charging flat-rate Medical Services Plan premiums and the impact this policy was having on their ability to make ends meet.

I spoke publically about the issues raised in that meeting and, in the months that followed, heard from thousands of British Columbians who agreed it was time to replace MSP premiums with a fair and equitable system.

We all know health care costs money and there’s no denying that we need to support our medical services. However, MSP premiums are a regressive tax – what you pay is not based on what you make and it is hurting those who can least afford it.

Currently, anyone living in B.C. for six months or longer is required to pay monthly premiums for health care coverage. While some individuals can apply for premium assistance, these subsidies dry up as soon as a person earns a net annual income of $30,000 or more.

Indeed, those who earn $30,000 a year pay the same rate for their MSP premiums as someone who earns $3 million a year. It is also important to note that many large employers pay all or part of an employee’s MSP premium as part of a negotiated taxable benefit of employment. But many, if not most, low- and fixed-income British Columbians, as well as small business owners, are left paying the costs themselves.

Added to this, MSP premiums have been going up constantly. There has been a 40 per cent increase in MSP rates since 2010. As of Jan. 1 the new rate for a family of three is $150/month, up from $142/month.

So… what can we do about it?

My suggestion is to roll a progressive version of MSP premiums into our income tax system, much like Ontario did in 2004.

In Ontario if you earn $20,000 or more a year you pay the Ontario Health Premium (OHP). It ranges from $0 if your taxable income is $20,000 or less, and goes up to $900 per year (the standard B.C. rate) if your taxable income is more than $200,600. Instead of the mail-out system we have in B.C., the OHP is deducted from the pay and pensions of those with employment or pension income that meet the minimum threshold.

I have spoken to the minister of health and the minister of finance about moving away from this regressive system, and earlier this year I presented a petition with 65,000 signatures calling for the abolition of MSP premiums in our province. To their credit, the government has made some positive changes to MSP premiums in the province in their last budget that will come into force in January 2017, but overall we still have a uniquely unfair system.

Recently. I hosted a town hall on seniors and health care and invited B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie to join me. She was able to give a presentation on many important issues facing seniors, and the issue of MSP premiums came up. Although many seniors can qualify for premium assistance, she said, only 39 per cent even know it is an option. The discussion raised many important points on the challenges seniors face in this province, but fixing the MSP system in B.C. is an easy place to start.

If you want more information on my office’s work please visit my website at or email me at

Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head.


Just Posted

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Choir offers a capella take on Beatles hits

Soundings will perform concerts in Oak Bay and Sidney May 24 and 25

VIDEO: Scorpion found in B.C. woman’s kitchen finds new home in Victoria

The Victoria Bug Zoo welcomed the scorpion on Saturday

B.C. getting less bang for its buck

B.C.’s CPI topped 2.7 per cent in April 2019, compared to two per cent for all of Canada

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read