In January of this year I wrote about the importance of transforming our regressive approach to funding health care via flat-rate MSP premiums to a more progressive approach like that in place in Ontario. A month later I tabled a petition in the legislature of 6,662 British Columbians who agreed and then, during question period, I asked the Minister of Finance if the government would empower the Select Standing Committee on Health to examine innovative, progressive ways of revising how MSP premiums are charged in British Columbia. In his response, the Minister noted that he believed that the mandate of the committee was sufficiently broad for “members of the committee, and those that they might invite in, to have the kind of conversation that the member is alluding to”. He further offered “and it will be interesting to see what results from that conversation.”
On April 13th I followed up by formally writing to the Chair of the Select Standing Committee and asking two specific questions regarding the possibility of initiating a conversation with respect to the funding of MSP in British Columbia. Below is the text of my letter. I await a response.
April 13th, 2015
Mrs. Linda Larson, MLA and Chair
Select Standing Committee on Health
Room 224, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, British Columbia
Dear Mrs. Larson,
I am writing to you with respect to the question that I raised during question period earlier this session concerning Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums. Minister de Jong’s response suggested that this Select Standing Committee on Health’s mandate could include a discussion regarding how MSP Premiums are collected.
Every month single British Columbians earning over $30,000 pay $72 in MSP premiums. This health insurance plan plays an important role, providing funding for medically required services, however in the last fifteen years fees have doubled. Furthermore the cost remains the same whether someone makes $30,000 or $300,000 a year. British Columbia’s regressive approach to collecting MSP Premiums unfairly burdens those least able to bear it and increases pressure on small business owners.
I believe that it’s time for B.C. to replace MSP premiums with a more progressive and equitable approach to funding our health care system. Overhauling our current, regressive approach would be a positive step in addressing poverty and income inequality, and ensuring a sustainable health care system for now, and future generations.
With this in mind I stood in the house and asked the Finance Minister to expand the Select Standing Committee on Health’s terms of reference to allow for the committee to examine more progressive and more innovative ways of charging MSP Premiums. He responded,
“I think the power exists now. I think the committee, charged as it is to ‘examine the projected impact on the provincial health care system of demographic trends to the year 2036 on a sustainable health care system for British Columbians’ […] I think that’s probably sufficiently broad for members of the committee, and those that they might invite in, to have the kind of conversation that the member is alluding to, and it will be interesting to see what results from that conversation.”
He pointed to two specific sections of the terms of reference. The committee has been empowered to:
Outline potential alternative strategies to mitigate the impact of the significant cost drivers identified in the Report on the sustainability and improvement of the provincial health care system;
Consider health capital funding options.
I recognize that the committee has already begun reviewing submissions regarding rural health, addiction recovery, integrated teams and end of life care. I also recognize that the committee has decided to first look at the submissions it has received, in fairness to those who have given them. Going forward I have the following questions for the committee:
I look forward to the committee’s response and thank the members for their time.
MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head
Cc: Judy Darcy, Deputy Chair