Tax cuts put health services at risk

News release

Today’s economic and fiscal update foreshadows deep cuts to health care and other important public services next year in order to pay for tax cuts for high income earners and corporations, says B.C.’s largest health care union.

“The finance minister is setting us up for some very bad news in next February’s budget,” says Hospital Employees’ Union president Fred Muzin. “With tax cuts predicted to result in revenue shortfalls of $1.4 billion and $2.1 billion over the next two years, it’s difficult to imagine how Mr. Collins can keep his government’s commitment to protect health care services.”

Those cuts could come as early as this year, as the update predicts that some health services may have to be restructured or reduced and new programs delayed to pay for $400 million in additional cost pressures to the health budget.

Muzin says the minister’s aggressive tax cuts and plans for a balanced budget for 2004 put at risk government priorities like providing 5,000 more intermediate and long-term care beds and enhancing training for Care Aides, Licensed Practical Nurses and other health care workers.

“My advice to average British Columbians is to hang on to your tax cuts — you’ll need the money to pay for health care user fees and privatized public services over the next few years.”

Collins’ update contained $143 million in increases to the $9.5 billion health care budget. Continuing cost pressures in the Pharmacare budget — mostly attributable to rising drug costs — were a major contributor to the increase and a compelling reason for the Campbell government to abandon its plans to eliminate the reference-based pricing.

“Instead of caving into drug companies and abandoning this money-saving program, this government should lobby the federal government to roll back the patent protection measures that prevent less expensive generic drugs from entering the market sooner,” says Muzin.

HEU says Collins’ plans to introduce three-year budgets and service plans beginning next year is a positive move that will provide much needed certainty and stability in the health care system. And Muzin urged the government to involve front-line health care workers in the ongoing core services review process.