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)

EDITORIAL: Fingers crossed for benefits from lower MSP premiums

Residents in Victoria, across B.C. may have more in their pockets at the end of the month

We’ve known for several months that the province would be reducing medical services plan premiums by a healthy amount – 50 per cent – but the strategy was put in place as of Jan. 1.

Call it a late Christmas present, but it’s the gift that may keep on giving for B.C. residents and companies. Estimations are that the average two-adult family will save approximately $900 a year, while singles are expected to save roughly $450.

In Greater Victoria, a significant number of people have their premiums paid fully or partially by their employer, a payment classified as a taxable benefit. So both taxpayers and companies will appreciate the change.

We’re waiting to see how plans to recoup the lost revenue will affect taxpayers, especially when the province has committed $100 million a year to the fentanyl crisis and will spend about $200 million more on health care in general in each of the next three years.

One such revenue boost comes in the form of an increase to B.C.’s carbon tax on fossil fuels on April 1. The move will add 1.5 cents per litre to gasoline and slightly more for diesel fuel, for example.

The elimination of MSP altogether within four years will save the government payments to program administrator Maximus Corp, which signed a five-year deal in 2013 for $264 million. The flip side is that an estimated 360 jobs in B.C. – the number of employees listed on bctechnology.com – would be lost, including many in Victoria.

We ascribe to the fact that nothing in life comes for free, and for the drivers among us, there’s a good chance the lower MSP premiums and the higher gas prices will cancel each other out.

But we’re keeping our fingers crossed that for the majority it translates into a few extra dollars in our pockets at the end of the month, a scenario that would benefit more than simply individuals or couples.

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