Last night on Compass, Hon. Mitch Murphy, the Provincial Treasurer, engaged in open speculation about his plans for dealing with the provincial deficit. One of the trial balloons he sent up was a new health care premium. Used in some other provinces already, this is a monthly or yearly fee, sometimes income-geared, that is charged as a separate fee to every citizen in return for health care privileges.
I don’t think this is a good idea.
I’m all for paying for health care, and perhaps more than most families, I’m in a position, after the birth of a child, and three major operations for our family in two years, to appreciate the value of having high quality, well-funded health care at our disposal.
I don’t have any problem paying more for health care. As long as the system is well-regulated, available to all, and is client-centred, I’ll contribute happily.
But introducing a health care premium is going to complicate my life, and the lives of my fellow citizens. Needlessly. It’s going to require an entirely new bureaucracy to maintain. We’re all going to have to remember to pay our premiums, and staff will have to be in place to send out invoices, process payments, chase down non-payers. There are going to have to be systems in place at the doctor’s office to handle people who haven’t paid their premiums: do they get denied access? And so on.
All of this seems like a waste when we already have an effective, well-maintained system of filing, collection, and enforcement through the income tax system. A simple administrative change to the provincial income tax rate could achieve the same increase in revenue, without the need to introduce an entirely new level of bureaucracy.
So, Minister Murphy, please consider this as feedback to your trial balloon: charge me more for health care, but do it simply by increasing my taxes. Please.