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 www.andrewweavermla.ca or email me at andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head.

 

Just Posted

Construction will begin soon on a building in Victoria designed for families and seniors with low to moderate household incomes. (Black Press Media file photo)
New building in Victoria aimed at providing more affordable homes for families, seniors

Four-storey building will provide 58 homes for residents with low to moderate household incomes

Victoria police are looking for the owner of a pink and white bike they recovered in North Park. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for owner of child’s bike

Officers recovered the pink and white bike in North Park

A report on food security in Sooke reveals that nearly 15 per cent of people in Sooke have trouble getting food on the table. (The Canadian Press)
Food security a growing challenge in Sooke

‘This isn’t going to get any better if we don’t do anything about it’

Four residents and two cats were displaced from their home in James Bay when a fire broke out Sunday afternoon. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
No injuries in James Bay house fire

Fire broke out at about 2 p.m. Sunday

A single-vehicle incident impacted the morning commute on the Pat Bay Highway. (Black Press Media file photo)
TRAFFIC: Single-vehicle incident closes section of Pat Bay

Northbound traffic down to one lane, southbound reopened

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Most Read