BC budgets for increased health spending while cutting premiums

by Leo Almazora13 Sep 2017
The BC government is planning to increase health spending while slashing a longstanding source of healthcare revenue.

In its 2018-2019 budget, the province has announced that healthcare spending will be increased by 3.5% to $19.56 billion, according to the Vancouver Sun. At the same time, it is planning to cut Medical Services Plan premiums by 50%, the first step in a plan to eliminate the premiums altogether.

MSP premiums were historically used to fund health spending in the province and show the importance placed on healthcare. They are unique to BC, as other Canadian jurisdictions use general revenue for their healthcare expenditures.

The first reduction to MSP premiums will result in a $1.245-billion hit to the province in 2018-19. The move will save BC couples up to $900 a year, and up to $450 a year for individuals. Companies that cover half of all MSP premiums, which are taxable employee benefits, also stand to gain as they will also have to pay less to the government.

According to the NDP government in BC, premium rates next year will be lower than they were 15 years ago. BC Finance Minister Carole James said that a task force will be established to explore ways to replace lost revenue as the premiums get eliminated.

To address the fentanyl overdose epidemic, the government has also said it would commit $322 million over three years — just over half of the $603 million projected for new health care cover earmarked over that time.

Another promise is to put more than $2 million over two years into the UBC Therapeutics Initiative, an academic body that provides independent, evidence-based information concerning prescription drugs to doctors and patients. The group often warns against including expensive new drugs in public plans when it finds inadequate evidence to prove they’re more beneficial than current treatments.

This year, hospitals and health regions will take $12.82 billion from the budget. Fees for medical services billed by doctors to the Medical Services Plan will amount to $4.57 billion, while pharmacare will cost taxpayers $1.22 billion.

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