British Columbia

B.C. health-premium hike draws broad criticism

The medical insurance premium increase announced by the B.C. government Tuesday is generating criticism from stakeholders on both sides of the political spectrum.
MSP costs to British Columbians have risen steadily over the past 10 years. (CBC)

The four-per-cent hike in Medical Services Plan premiums announced by the B.C. government in Tuesday's budget is generating opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

The B.C. Liberals often speak of their record of keeping taxes low, but according the 2012/13 budget figures, the province's residents will pay more than $2 billion in MSP premiums over the next year, more than double the amount they paid a decade ago.

A decade ago, those premiums generated about $900 million per year for the government and covered 9.5 per cent of the expenses for the Ministry of Health.

In the coming fiscal year, MSP premiums will bring in more than $2 billion, covering more than 12.5 per cent of healthcare costs.

Critics, such as Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation call it a regressive tax.

"There are a lot of families, a lot of small business owners, a lot of self- employed people who are really struggling under these ever-increasing MSP increases."

The opposition NDP, the B.C. Conservatives and the healthcare advocates have all expressed similar concerns.

But Finance Minister Kevin Falcon argues MSP premiums are one way for ordinary British Columbians can share the cost of the health care system.

He also noted more than 800,000 low income individuals and families with a net income of less than $22,000 pay no MSP fees, and more than 1 million individuals and families pay subsidized rates.

Those making over $30,000 pay the full rate of $64 for individuals, $116 for families of two, and $128 for families of three or more.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies