A resident of Enderby, B.C. is in dire financial straits following an ill-fated decision to opt out of the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) last year.
As reported by CBC News, 43-year-old Benjamin Fuller first chose to leave the province’s health insurance program five years ago. The province’s Medicare Protection Act mandates that all residents should be enrolled in the MSP program, but they have an option to opt out for 12 months at a time.
“He opted out when he realized there was a process for it,” his wife Kristina Fuller told CBC News, explaining that he wanted to save on the $35 premium that he would have had to pay for the MSP.
Since then, Fuller has been opting out of the program yearly, with the last opt-out date on July 1 last year. Meanwhile, MSP premiums were eliminated by the B.C. NDP government at the start of 2020.
According to the provincial government website, those who exit the MSP program must shoulder the expenses for all medical, hospital, and other health-care services they get until the 12-month opt-out period has elapsed.
“You will not be able to opt back in, in the event of an unforeseen medical problem,” the site adds.
That proved to be a problem for Fuller in December last year, when he started experiencing severe stomach pain. He went to see a doctor and underwent numerous tests, which revealed he had stage 4 colon cancer that had metastasized to his abdomen and liver.
Diagnosed with an incurable condition, Fuller has been prescribed palliative treatment to extend his life, according to CBC News. Between the hospital visits, tests, and procedures he’s had to undergo, the Fullers have accumulated medical bills totalling $22,000 over the past three months; neither has been able to work because of the pandemic and Fuller’s condition.
In desperation, the couple contacted the provincial Ministry of Health, promising to pay back premiums missed over the past year if Fuller is allowed back into the MSP program ahead of the July 1 schedule. They also got support from their hospital social worker and Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who wrote separate letters to the ministry appealing for Fuller’s reinstatement.
While their priority is to have Fuller re-enrolled, the couple also feel that when the province eliminated MSP premiums early this year, it should also have reversed all opt-outs, which according to the Ministry of Health amounted to 206 people in 2019.
The health ministry took a hard line in its response to their request, according to CBC News. Acknowledging that its rejection is disappointing, the ministry insisted that Fuller would not be eligible to re-enrol until July 1, as it needed to apply the legislation to all residents equally.
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