Finance Minister Mike de Jong cites B.C.'s diversified trade as a reason for its strong economic performance, in a budget presentation that promises new spending and fee reductions.

B.C. BUDGET: Medical premium cut by half promised

Medical Services Plan premiums to drop by half in 2018, Finance Minister Mike de Jong says

The BC Liberal government’s pre-election budget promises to cut Medical Services Plan premiums by half next year, and eliminate them entirely after a consultation period.

The 50 per cent reduction would take effect Jan. 1, 2018 for families with a net income of up to $120,000. That would save an individual paying full premiums $450 a year and an average family of four up to $900. For lower-income B.C. residents, the threshold for paying MSP premiums would rise by $2,000, exempting individuals making up to $26,000 a year and families earning up to $35,000.

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The NDP opposition has promised its own plan to eliminate MSP premiums, with details to come before the provincial election set for May 9.

“It’s going to help a lot,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, who has campaigned against the MSP as a regressive tax. “I want to see it fully eliminated, and I think we’re on that path.”

Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C. said large employers would benefit as well as individuals.

“A fair chunk of that MSP premium reduction is going to flow through to business or employers generally, including public sector employers,” Finlayson said.

Individuals and families paying MSP would be required to register for the reduction, so their income can be verified. Lower-income people receiving premium assistance would be automatically registered for the discount.

Employees should check their pay stubs to see if the discount would benefit them or their employers.

Finance ministry officials say the MSP program has about one million individual and family accounts where people pay directly, and another one million where employers submit the payment. Some employers pay MSP on their employees’ behalf and others deduct MSP charges from employees’ pay.