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BC FORUM News - from The Advocate, Spring 2016

MSP premiums aren’t nickels and dimes – they’re highway robbery

Ever increasing

regressive taxes are

making life harder –

particularly for many

senior couples

By Diane Wood

President, BC FORUM

We live in the only province in Canada that continually hammers seniors like this. Premier Christy Clark seems to have no idea what it’s like to live on a fixed income.

As I write this, my recent conversation with a very irate BC FORUM member is fresh in my mind.

He and his spouse, both retired, have a combined income of $53,800 a year – the equivalent of $13.45 an hour if they were both still working.

Their provincial income tax for the 2015 tax year totalled $809. Their ever escalating Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums were $1,566, or almost twice as much as their income tax.

“MSP premiums are now costing us more than heat and electricity. They’re more than car insurance. This year, they’ll be more than our property taxes,” he told me.

He finds it particularly aggravating that while premiums continually increase, many paramedical services are no longer covered, and Pharmacare coverage for prescription drugs has been reduced.

The MSP premium was increased by 4 percent to an annual total of $1,632 on Jan. 1, 2016, and that’s just the beginning.

The recent provincial budget will make it even worse.

As usual, the government announced that the rate will go up another 4 percent on January 1, 2017. On top of that it announced that there will no longer be a combined rate for couples. Instead, couples will pay twice the single rate.

As a result, in this case, their MSP premium will jump to $1,980 a year, about two and a half times more than their provincial income tax.

This is not only a tax on seniors, it is a tax on couples.

If they were legally separated, and equally divided their income, their MSP premiums would qualify for a subsidy. Each would pay $24 a month, a total of $48, compared to the $156 they must pay next year, the same rate charged billionaires.

It is the height of hypocrisy for the Clark government to claim that BC has low taxes. What we really have is a government that continually makes our tax system more unfair, and more and more dependent on flat rate, regressive taxes.

Taxes pay for vital public services that benefit us all, and help make our society more equal.

Those taxes must be progressive and reflect ability to pay.

The alternative is the place where the BC Liberals are taking us today – a society where those who have the least, including many seniors and people with disabilities, are paying the price for ever more tax breaks to the ultra-rich.

Federal budget

The federal budget was a welcome relief from the meanness and intellectual dishonesty we’re seeing in Victoria.

I am particularly pleased that the age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement is being restored to 65, and that all our work to improve retirement income security for our children and grandchildren through an enhanced Canada Pension Plan appears to finally be on the verge of bearing fruit.

BC FORUM AGM

In this edition of The Advocate you’ll find details of the time and location of our 2016 Annual General Meeting.

I want to add my personal invitation to you to make the time to attend. It’s always great to see all the members, friends and colleagues who come to our meetings to help advance our cause, and to share their ideas and experiences.

The meeting begins at 9:30 am on Wed. June 22, but please come early to enjoy the good company. We’ll have the coffee on by 9:00.

I hope to see you then at the UFCW Union Hall, 350 Columbia St., New Westminster.

 

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