B.C. Liberals cut MSP premiums by half in election year budget

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      With an election coming up in May, the B.C. Liberal government has announced a 50 percent reduction for health care payments.

      Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums will be cut in half starting January 1, 2018 as part of the 2017-2018 budget rolled out Tuesday (February 21) by Finance Minister Michael de Jong.

      The move is described as a step towards the eventual elimination of the MSP premiums.

      “As B.C. moves toward elimination of MSP premiums, the Province will consult with British Columbians to determine the timing and structure of the change,” according to a media release by government.

      Responding to the budget announcement, the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives indicated that the government missed an opportunity.

      “The cut to MSP premiums will help some families, but it doesn’t eliminate the fundamental unfairness of the tax,” CCPA senior economist Iglika Ivanova said in a statement.

      According to Ivanova, the MSP can be eliminated completely without having an adverse effect on the provincial budget.

      Adam Lynes-Ford, a campaigner with the B.C. Health Coalition, said in a separate statement that MSP fees should be scrapped.

      “Yes, MSP fee reductions will provide some relief for seniors and their families, but without adequate seniors services in place, these families will still face major affordability challenges well beyond those posed by MSP fees,” Lynes-Ford said.

      MSP premiums are considered as form of regressive taxation. Based on current rates, an individual who has an annual net income of $42,000 pays the same $75 monthly rate as someone who earns $420,000.

      The B.C. NDP and Green Party have previously called for health care payments based on income.

      New Democrat leader John Horgan said that the budget unveiled by the government of Premier Christy Clark is “cold comfort” for many families in the province.

      “She wants people to forget that her government doubled MSP premiums and only now, on the eve of an election, she promises to reverse that damage,” Horgan said in a statement.

      In a statement, Green leader Andrew Weaver slammed the budget as a “cynical ploy” and a “politicking with public interests”.

      “Two years ago, I brought forward a progressive way to eliminate MSP premiums through income taxes, but the government did not act. I brought it up again the next year, and the government made a few minor changes. Now they are making a substantial reduction in MSP premiums for some British Columbians – on the eve of an election,” Weaver said.

      The 50 percent reduction in MSP premiums will benefit two million British Columbians, according to the government.

      The cut is meant for people with an annual family net income of up to $120,000.

      According to the government, this means savings of up to $900 for families, and $450 for individuals.

      The government also noted that two million British Columbians already don't pay premiums.