Health premiums: 4 things to know

The Manitoba government is floating the idea of introducing health care premiums in an effort to supplement federal funding cuts to health care, the premier said.

What you need to know as Manitoba considers introducing health premiums

The Manitoba government is floating the idea of introducing health premiums. (CBC)

Roughly 77 per cent of Manitobans saw a doctor last year, and while those people didn't pay directly for medical services, that could be changing. 

The Manitoba government is floating the idea of introducing health care premiums because Ottawa is scaling back the growth rate of health transfers next year. This means Manitoba will receive approximately $2 billion less than the province hoped for from the federal government over the next decade, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday. 

Provinces across the country have experimented with health premiums as a revenue source.

Here's what you need to know:

What are health premiums and how do they work?

In one word, health premiums are a "tax."

"It's most certainly a tax increase there's no doubt of that and I don't think we should couch it in any way different from that," Pallister said.

Premium rates can be based on annual income and help the cover a portion of the cost of a province's health care services.

In some provinces people whose annual income is below a certain threshold do not pay the premiums. 

Which provinces pay premiums and how do they work?

Right now British Columbia and Ontario residents pay health care premiums. Alberta eliminated health premiums in 2009. A plan to bring those premiums back to Alberta in 2015 was derailed when the PC government was defeated. 

In B.C. residents pay monthly premiums based on annual income. People are sent a monthly invoice for what they owe and they are able to make those payments through pre-authorized debit, online using a credit card, through your bank, by mail or in person at a government office.

In Ontario the premium is deducted from pay and pensions as part of income tax.

How much will you pay?

If you live in Ontario the premium ranges up to $900 if your annual taxable income is more than $20,000. Individuals with taxable income of $20,000 or less are exempt.

In B.C. the monthly premium rates are calculated based on the number of adults per family. Individuals or families with net incomes more than $42,000 pay $75.00 per adult, per month. There are no premiums for children under 19 or dependent post-secondary students enrolled in full-time classes. Individuals or families who earn less than $42,000 are eligible for subsidized rates. Annual incomes below $24,000 are are exempt from monthly health premiums altogether. 

B.C.'s new NDP government announced Wednesday it plans to cut health premium payments by 50% in 2018.

What would Manitoba's model look like?

There is no word yet on how much Manitobans could be paying if health premiums are introduced here. 

The premier said the rate would be based on income and paid when Manitobans file their income tax — similar to Ontario.