Montreal

Quebec health-care fee starts July 1

Quebec's new health-care charge, which starts at $25 a year, will come into effect Thursday.

Quebec's new health-care charge will come into effect Thursday, starting at $25 a year and rising progressively to $200 per person by 2012.

The flat fee was announced as part of the provincial budget tabled in March and will be calculated when taxpayers file their income tax returns next spring.

It will apply to all Quebecers over 18 years of age, with the exception of more than a million on very low incomes.

Quebec Finance Minister, Raymond Bachand, said the cost of health care is ballooning so fast he had no choice but to seek new funding.

Bachand is not ruling out future increases, but he said it is not in the provincial government's plans at the moment.

"You are talking about a budget that would come down three years from now. … All sorts of things could happen in the economy," said Bachand.

The finance minister said the cost of health care is forecast to rise faster than the economy and Quebecers will have to pay the difference.

Opposition angry

The opposition Parti Québécois said the health fee is unnecessary and charging almost everyone the same amount is unfair.

"It's going to have quite an impact on lower-income families," said PQ finance critic Nicolas Marceau. 

"One dollar is worth more to somebody who is on a low income than someone who has a larger income," Marceau said.

"If you take $25 or $100 or $200 from a low-income person, then you're going to reduce the well-being of a low-income person more ... ."

 He said the Liberal government could have found savings within the health-care system by giving more power to pharmacists and favouring home care instead of institutional care.

Bachand said more than a million people in the province on very low incomes won't have to pay the annual health-care tax.