Labour, NDP blast federal tax on private health plans

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Labour, NDP blast federal tax on private health plans insurance

A federal tax on workplace health and dental insurance plans would hurt middle-class Canadians, critics warned Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s a progressive step forward with regards to improving the wellness of Canadians,” said Windsor West NDP MPP Brian Masse. “In fact, it would turn out to be a wellness tax.”

Masse was responding to recent media reports that Liberal government was considering taxing private health and dental plans — a measure that would raise about $2.9 billion. 

“I’m very concerned about it,” said Masse. “If would affect a lot of people in our region.” 

The employee-sponsored health care tax exemption is being scrutinized as part of a sweeping review of 150 tax credits worth about $100 billion a year in foregone federal revenue. The move affect workers with employer-sponsored plans, according to the National Post.

Dan Lauzon, a spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, denied that the review was a revenue-generating exercise. No final decisions have been made, Lauzon told the Post.

But Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, called it a “tax grab,” that penalizes workers with “decent collective agreements.”

“They would be forced to pay a tax because we had the ability to negotiate a group plan,” said Chiodo, whose union represents about 17,000 hourly workers in Windsor and Essex County.

“Instead of going after unionized workers,” the Liberals should heed calls for the creation of a universal pharmacare program, he added.

Studies of countries with universal drug plans save billions annually in prescription drug costs, said Chiodo. “It works, it’s fair for everyone and could benefit health care in Canada.”

Earlier this week, a citizens’ group urged the federal government to establish a comprehensive system of universal drug coverage. The Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada said Canada is the only developed country with universal health coverage that does not also offer universal prescription drug benefits.

As a first step towards a comprehensive public drug plan, the panel called on the government to move immediately to implement public coverage for a short list of basic, frequently prescribed drugs.

“This short list would begin the shift towards a comprehensive universal pharmacare system and become the basis for a new national formulary,” the panel’s report said. It also supports “an ongoing role for private insurers in providing supplemental coverage.”