By George Chow, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview

When British Columbians sit down this month to pay their bills, they will notice something missing – a bill for Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums. As of January 2020, British Columbians will no longer need to pay MSP premiums!

New Democrats know that health care is a human right and forcing British Columbians to pay monthly health bills was fundamentally unjust. That’s why as a government, we committed to the full elimination of MSP premiums. Almost no other jurisdiction in Canada requires people to pay user premiums for their health care – so why should British Columbians? In addition, we know that MSP premiums were regressive, charging someone making $30,000 a year the same premiums as someone earning $300,000 a year. We can, and should, fund our health care system in a way that does not place an unfair burden on working people.

The old BC Liberal government didn’t see things that way. In fact, while they were in government, the BC Liberals doubled MSP premiums. They dropped these higher costs onto the backs of everyday British Columbians, even though they knew life was getting more expensive.

Our government has taken a different approach. By fully eliminating MSP premiums, families will now be saving up to $1,800 per year and individuals up to $900 per year. This elimination represents the single largest tax cut for the middle class in a generation. This is money back into the pockets of working people, to be spent in their communities and create opportunities for their families. We’ve replaced lost MSP revenue with the lowest payroll tax in Canada.

What I’m most excited about with the end of MSP premiums is thinking about how it will help people in my community, and in communities across BC. As we celebrate the end of MSP bills this month and what that will mean for people, I’ll be thinking about constituents of mine who’ve come into my office over the past years looking for assistance with paying their premiums. These have been people from all walks of life – some struggling to pay rent, some with kids headed to post-secondary, and some with young families. For all of them, money is tight, and more money at the end of each month will make a real, noticeable difference. I’ve had the rewarding experience of letting them know that as of January 2020, there would be no more MSP bills for them to pay. The weight that this news takes off people’s shoulders is always a great reminder of the importance of the work we do to make life more affordable for people.

To this day, the BC Liberal opposition criticize the elimination of MSP at every turn, without saying anything about what they would do differently if they were in government. Based on their statements, there is no reason to think that BC Liberals would not bring back MSP premiums, and take families back to having to pay up to $1,800 a year– or remove the replacement payroll tax, and make up the difference with cuts to programs and services British Columbians rely on.

We see getting rid of MSP premiums as an important way of making life more affordable for British Columbians. In addition to measures like eliminating interest on BC student loans, creating more affordable housing, and building a universal child care system, taxes under our government have gone down for all British Columbians except the top one percent.

These measures are moving the needle on affordability in our province.

So join me in saying ‘so long’ to MSP premiums. New Democrats will continue to deliver on efforts to make your life more affordable.