Province working out details of how you can apply for MSP cut
Government spending an extra $1.1 million in advertising to explain the changes
The B.C. government is advising people to talk to their employers to make sure they will be signed up for the Medical Service Plan premium reductions, which take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
It applies specifically to people who have their premiums paid for by a group plan or have their fee covered by an employer.
About one million British Columbians who fall under one of those two categories also qualify for a 50 per cent reduction in their MSP premiums, if they make less than $120,000 a year as an individual or couple.
"In some cases, group plans may want to register on behalf of employees. In other cases, employees would register themselves.
Each situation would be different," said Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
Employees advised to examine their contracts
The province is recommending employees find out if there is any language in their current work contract that ensures the benefit is passed onto them.
For example, the collective agreements between the B.C. public service employee unions include language that covers 100 per cent of employee MSP costs, including the province's largest employer, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.
The same applies to non-unionized employees.
Any changes in compensation for unionized public service employees must be negotiated between unions and their employer.
At a bare minimum, an employee that qualifies for the MSP break and has the tax paid for will receive a break on their annual income taxes because premiums are a taxable benefit.
Partly because of the complex nature of the changes, the province is spending $1.8 million to cover the costs of explaining them to the public — $1.1 million of which wasn't previously in the budget.
"If an individual's MSP is being reduced by hundreds of dollars a year on an ongoing basis, they need to know about that and know how to get that reduction," said Andrew Wilkinson, the minister in charge of spending the advertising money.
NDP calling on advertising increases to stop
B.C. NDP finance critic Carole James says the changes have left people confused and still wondering how it will benefit them.
James does not think that the government should be spending taxpayer money on an advertising campaign.
"It's another example that this government has learned nothing. Here we are going into an election and the government is increasing the advertising budget," said James.
"Money doesn't need to be spent on advertising. It needs to be spent on giving families a break."