NDP Urges Pallister Government to Side With Families and Support Bill to Ban Health Premiums

The Pallister government must continue to keep health care affordable and accessible for families by committing to support an NDP bill to ban health premiums in Manitoba, NDP MLA Matt Wiebe said today.

“Brian Pallister has never said where he stands on health premiums,” said Wiebe, the NDP critic for health who is introducing the bill in the Manitoba legislature today. “This is a tax that would unfairly burden low- and middle-income individuals and families. We urge the Pallister government to side with families and state plainly and publicly that they will never introduce health premiums.”

In Ontario, anyone earning $25,000 to $36,000 pays a health premium or tax of $300 a year. The tax rises as income rises to a maximum of $900, but is a lower percentage for people with higher incomes and therefore much harder on low-income families.

Earlier this year, the Pallister government launched a health-care review committee to look for different ways of providing and paying for health-care services. In September, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen travelled to Saskatchewan to review that province’s experience with private MRI clinics. Goertzen later told media he wouldn’t rule out private MRI clinics in Manitoba.

“Manitoba families don’t want health premiums or two-tier care. We strengthened our public health-care system and made sure accessibility was always priority number one” Wiebe said. “The Pallister government should follow our example and look for ways to increase accessibility to high-quality health care without resorting to a new tax or creating a two-tier system.”

Wiebe noted that one way to improve affordability and accessibility to health care for low-income families and individuals is to continue to expand the number of drugs covered under Pharmacare, as the NDP government did almost yearly. Pharmacare is based on family income and covers 100 per cent of eligible drug costs once an income-based deductible is reached.