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UNCOMMON SENSE: Healthcare costs should be paid by users
If you think health care in Canada is free you probably don’t live in B.C.
People here don’t just pay for health care a portion of their taxes, those nebulous deductions that disappear from your pay cheque every week and get disbursed to the thousands of governmental agencies throughout the country.
We also pay health care premiums, which add a financially onerous burden to the poor and working classes. Don’t believe me? What would you say if I told you the richest man in Ontario pays $53 per month less than somebody making $30,001 in B.C.?
A family of three or more in this province pays an appalling $133 in additional health taxes each month, amounting to $1,596 a year, which represents a five per cent tax burden on the aforementioned $30,001 salary.
Even if a family makes a whopping $22,001 a year, they need to come up with $25.60 per month, or $307.20 a year, which amounts to stealing a penny from every dollar earned. Those figures go up precipitously for every $2,000 a family earns above that number until it reaches a ceiling at $30,000.
That means a family of six in Delta with a household income of $36,000 a year pays as much in premiums as a corporate CEO pulling down eight figures a year.
Talk about an inverse progressive tax system.
Usually, taxes are adjusted upwards in a progressive way based on increased wealth. Canadians pay 15 per cent on the first $43,561 of taxable income, and then 22 per cent on the next $43,562. That number reaches 29 per cent for those earning above $135,054. Makes sense, right?
But in B.C. health premiums are progressively paid only at the lowest income levels. The rich and the poor basically pay the same amount.
According to Canada’s 2013 Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) for a family of three people, the minimum income to stay above the poverty line is $34,646, or exactly $4,635 more than when families in B.C. begin paying the maximum premium.
Premiums should start $10,000 above the poverty line and increase exponentially based on income. Putting a tax burden on the poorest people in the province isn’t just morally wrong, it contravenes the Canada Health Act which notes in its preamble: “The primary objective of Canadian health care policy is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
There are other ways to fund health care in B.C. without burdening the poor, including OECD-recommended point-of-service user fees, and more flexibility for the private sector to get involved in the costly delivery of health services.
The poor have enough bills to worry about without trying to finance health care, too.