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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

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.


Letter to the Select Standing Committee on Health


April 13th, 2015

Mrs. Linda Larson, MLA and Chair
Select Standing Committee on Health
Room 224, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, British Columbia
V8V 1X4

 

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:

  1. The Select Standing Committee on Health has been given the task of examining the projected impact on the provincial health care system of demographic trends on a sustainable health care system for British Columbians. Their terms of reference came from the Finance Minister who has stated that, in his opinion, they are sufficiently broad for members of the discuss MSP Premiums. This regressive tax generates 2.3 billion dollars in government revenue, comparable to corporate income taxes. This tax can be charged in a more equitable fashion. I believe this is a conversation that British Columbians deserve and that this committee is an appropriate venue. Will the Select Standing Committee on Health agree to include MSP Premiums as part of their next discussion and call for submissions?
  2. When first given this new mandate the committee was given the option to consider both the original and the new mandates, concurrently. This option is still available. The committee can begin discussing their new terms of reference without taking away from the submissions review. This would allow for more clarity and could allow the committee to begin a new call for submissions while still reviewing those they have already received. I recognize that proper deliberation requires time and should not be rushed. With this in mind would the committee be open to discussing their expanded terms of reference at the same time as they review their current submissions?

I look forward to the committee’s response and thank the members for their time.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Cc: Judy Darcy, Deputy Chair

One Comment

  1. Jim Bennett (ret.)-
    April 21, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    This is a good letter that our Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA has written. Select Standing Committees of the Legislature were established for the very purpose of examining questions of this nature. The only catch with the comments made by the BC Liberal Minister of Finance (the rascal) is that his government controls the majority on the Committee and if his government really don’t give a darn about a change like this in health care policy….well then the majority on the Committee will never support putting the topic on their agenda. Looks like it’s up to Premier Christy Clark.