Advocates for multiple sclerosis patients are raising opposition to B.C.’s harmonized sales tax, saying it will make some services to treat the neurological disease less affordable.
New Democrat health critic Adrian Dix criticized the B.C. government’s support for the HST, which could potentially increase the cost of massage therapy when the tax goes into full effect July 1.
“The principle of it is just wrong. It’s wrong for a provincial government to approve something under the Health Professions Act, and something that’s absolutely needed for many people with chronic diseases, and charge this tax,” Dix told reporters today (June 7).
The Opposition MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway said the cost for an average $88 hour-long massage therapy session is set to rise by around $6 because the service will be subject to an additional seven percent in tax.
Asked for comment, the Ministry of Health deferred to representatives from the Ministry of Finance, who could not be immediately reached this afternoon.
The NDP’s criticism was underscored by comments from two Vancouver women diagnosed with multiple sclerosis who also spoke to reporters during a press conference held in a downtown Vancouver NDP office.
Barbara Claridge, a 63-year-old retiree who faces mobility challenges because of the chronic illness, said the massage therapy she receives on a roughly monthly basis improves her quality of life.
“There’s generally comfort around moving and I have a great deal more fluidity to how my limbs move,” said Claridge, who has coverage for $7 of each $95 session she attends.
Stephanie Lett, 56, said the massage treatment she receives on a monthly basis helps relieve lower body pain. She also expressed concern about the extra cost for the service expected under the HST.
“This additional charge is a hardship,” said Lett, who is on long-term disability and is covered for less than a third of each $90 session she attends.