Budget's small changes to unfair flat health tax a disappointment, say health advocates
Victoria – Public health care advocates hoping for a long-awaited end to B.C.'s unfair Medical Services Plan premiums are disappointed in today's budget.
The budget fails to respond to public calls to scrap the MSP and integrate it into the province's income tax system, as thousands of people in B.C. have called for in recent weeks.
Instead, the finance minister announced some adjustments to the scheme that will offer help to some British Columbians, but the changes fall far short of addressing the public's concerns about affordability and fairness.
"The Premier herself admits that MSP premiums don't make sense so why not make the real changes that are needed now rather than continue to charge the people of B.C. unfair taxes?" says Edith MacHattie, co-chair of the BC Health Coalition.
MacHattie points out that B.C. is the only province in Canada that still charges a flat rate health tax. She dismisses the province's claim that British Columbians won't understand that their income tax goes to health care programs unless they have to continue to pay a separate tax. "That is a ridiculous excuse – we don't need a special premium to remind us that our tax money pays for things like public schools and policing. There's no reason the province can't scrap the MSP all together and incorporate it into our income tax system."
Today's budget makes some improvements to MSP premiums but the flat tax remains in place.
The MSP premium rate will no longer include children, so families will see some relief in monthly rates. The household income threshold was also increased but we still see the majority of British Columbians paying a significant monthly fee.
In the past two weeks leading up to the budget 3,500 people emailed the province directly via the BC Health Coalition's website to ask them to scrap the MSP in today's budget.
Beyond the changes to MSP, the Budget 2016 saw much needed new investment to MCFD but no new money to invest in home and community care for our seniors. Our home support system is at a crisis point and we desperately need provincial leadership to ensure that our loved ones can age with dignity. The minimal lifts to health authority budgets do not provide any room for the 'modernization' of seniors' care that this province needs.
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