Why Must British Columbians Pay MSP Premiums?
Prince George, B.C. – Health care concerns dominated the agenda in a provincial telephone town hall held last night.
The interactive town hall was hosted by Finance Minister Mike do Jong and was the first of four to be held in each region of the province this month.
De Jong, who was on the hot seat much of the night, says they will help inform his provincial budget due to be delivered on Feb. 21.
Ten callers from central and northern B.C. managed to get through with two of them asking him why B.C. is the only province in Canada to charge its citizens MSP premiums.
“The short answer is we’ll spend $18 billion this year on health care and we collect 2 to $2.5 billion in premiums,” said de Jong. “And the bottom line is the money has to come from somewhere.”
He added one option would be to move the premiums into the income tax system but warned that would increase taxes for British Columbians.
The minister also lent a sympathetic ear to concerns from two callers in the northwest about the doctor shortage in the region.
“I don’t have a doctor and there’s no walk-in clinics, I have no access,” said Nicola from Smithers. “When I’m sick I have to go to the emergency room so I feel I’m paying for a service I’m unable to access.”
De Jong responded by acknowledging the province would consider ramping up physician recruitment efforts while sounding open to the creation of walk-in clinics where doctors could be flown in from other areas of the province for one day visits on a rotating basis.
Aside from health care, others issues raised included concerns over the cost of housing, class sizes in public schools, and the need to improve and widen the northern highway system.
He also noted he’s concerned about a protectionist Trump administration and the effects it could have on our trade dependent economy.
De Jong plans to deliver his fifth consecutive balanced budget, noting B.C. is the envy of the country.
If you missed last nights call not to worry, de Jong says you can still get your questions in by accessing this web site.
You can also email the minister at email@example.com or by calling 1-250-387-3751 until Jan. 30 at 4 p.m.