Province announces task force to end B.C.’s MSP premiums

Commitee expected to deliver a final report on its findings to the government by March 31

An expert task force will advise the British Columbia government on how to eliminate medical premiums within four years.

Finance Minister Carole James says the panel’s expertise “will ensure the path we take is fiscally responsible, fair and evidence-based” as the government seeks to eliminate ”regressive” Medical Service Plan premiums.

The task force will be chaired by Prof. Lindsay Tedd, an expert in applied economic research and policy analysis at the University of Victoria.

Paul Ramsey, a former NDP cabinet minister for health, environment and education, has also been appointed to the task force along with David Duff, a law professor from the University of British Columbia.

The NDP government already announced in its budget plans this fall, which will cut premiums by 50 per cent as of Jan. 1. That would save individuals up to $450 a year and families up to $900.

The threshold for households exempt from the premiums was also raised by $2,000, meaning couples with a net income of up to $35,000 and single parents with two children and a net income of up to $32,000 would pay nothing.

“People know that MSP premiums are unfair and place significant burden on British Columbian families,” James said Thursday in a news release.

The New Democrats had promised ahead of the spring election to get rid of the premium in favour of a progressive tax system similar to other provinces where higher-income earners pay more than middle- or lower-income earners.

The move to get rid of the fee was also included in Premier John Horgan’s list of priorities for James after the NDP took power in June.

The former Liberal government had also promised to cut premiums in half as of January, but the party said ahead of the election that it wouldn’t ditch the fees within the next three years.

The Liberals said eliminating the fee would cost the province $1.7 billion.

The Greens want to roll medial premiums into payroll and personal income taxes.

The newly appointed task force will consult citizens, businesses and other groups on their views of replacing the premiums and look at health funding models in other provinces to determine an alternative revenue stream that is stable, efficient and simple.

Keeping the premiums in place or increasing provincial sales tax are not options the task force is allowed to propose.

It is expected to deliver a final report on its findings to the government by March 31.

The Canadian Press

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