In the lead-up to the 2015 provincial budget, Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver is calling for a thoughtful and serious look at how B.C. funds its health care system.
The deputy leader of the B.C. Green Party is asking that the provincial government explore ways in which Medical Services Plan premiums can be transitioned to a more progressive and equitable approach to financing health care.
Currently, anyone living in B.C. for six months or longer pays a monthly premium for health care services. While some individuals can apply for assistance in paying the premiums, the subsidies only exist for people earning less than $30,000 a year. This means that an individual earning $30,000 a year pays the same $72 monthly fee as someone earning $3 million a year.
“$72 dollars a month is significant to many low-income British Columbians and small businesses who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Weaver. “When we continue to rely on regressive taxes like this, it is easy to see why British Columbia has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada.”
Over the past 15 years, as MSP premiums have gone up, personal and corporate income tax rates have been cut. This shift has resulted in the provincial government bringing in almost as much revenue from MSP premiums as it does from corporate income taxes. In the 2014/2015 budget, revenue from MSP premiums was expected to be $2.271 billion, whereas corporate income tax revenue was estimated to be $2.348 billion.
“Increasing reliance on MSP premiums and other forms of regressive taxation are the result of the choices that successive governments have made,” said Weaver. “It’s a choice to favour regressive over progressive taxation. It’s a choice to put the interests of the wealthy over the interests of British Columbians with low and fixed incomes, and ahead of small businesses. I think it’s time we made a different choice.”
When the Alberta government announced its plans to eliminate their health care premiums in 2008, B.C. was left as the only province to continue to charge individual flat-rate premiums. In contrast, other provinces like Ontario and Quebec have begun charging health premiums through income tax systems, rather than flat-tax levies.
“I think it is past time that the B.C. government comes to the table with serious proposals to address poverty in our province,” said Weaver. “MSP premiums are an important starting place and one where reforms could have important and immediate impacts on the welfare of British Columbia.”