By André Faust
The New Brunswick a mandatory drug plan was introduced by David Alward at the last setting of the legislature, on the surface it looks like it’s a very good plan because it looks like a plan to help New Brunswickers avoid cost of catastrophic drug and to ensure that prescription drug insurance is available to every New Brunswicker. In this respect it looks like the sheep.
The intent of the plan is to give every New Brunswicker access to a drug insurance plan which in this case will be administered by Blue Cross. Any New Brunswick or who is not covered under any insurance plans will be required to pay a premium and the rate of that premium is determined by the annual income of each person. According to the plan to lower the income the lower the premium the higher the income the higher the premium, which on the surface seems to be a fair way of distributing the premiums among the wage spectrum. However, when you look at the premium formula in terms of percentages a different story is told.
The premiums range from 67$ a month or 800 hundred dollars per annum for those with incomes of less than $26,000. Those at the upper end of the income bracket the $75,000 a year and above will pay finder and $67 per month or $2000 per year. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out the percentages that each group has to pay. A person making 21,000 per year actually pays 3.8% of their total annual income versus their counterpart who is making $75,000 plus a year that group only pays 1% of their total annual income. This tells us that the person at the lower end of the scale is really relative to their income and the cost of living is paying by far more than the 75,000 a year group. If things were equal in the $75,000 a year group also paid 3.8% then they would be paying $237 a month or $2,850 a year, but things are not equal in this province because the governments of this province seem to work in the best interest of the wealthier New Brunswickers rather than for the worker who works for pittance.
To further compound the problem with the low wage earner is the prescription fee which Alward has set as $30 per prescription. So the real costs for those 26,000 per year in under is $97 per month and that is if they only have one prescription, can you imagine what the cost will be for a person who has several prescriptions that they have to take.
The implementation of this drug plan is two phases, the first phase which is in effect right now allows New Brunswickers to voluntarily pay their premiums to the province, the second phase which will come into effect on April 1, 2015 is going to be mandatory New Brunswick yours will have no choice but to pay the premiums.
According to Alward there will be subsidies available for those who cannot pay, Alward has not elaborated on what the subsidies will consist of. It is possible that a person will have to go through the Department of social development income assistance branch. If that is the case then the person will have to sign away their right to privacy in regards to their bank accounts, in order to qualify for the subsidies through income assistance they have to allow the government access to their bank accounts so that the province can know at any time how much money is in that person’s account. The other disadvantage that will be placed against New Brunswickers who have to go on welfare is how long they can allow somebody to stay in their residence, if it’s over 14 days they have to provide the names and the incomes of those individuals who are staying with them above the 14 days, the department of income assistance will then calculate the total earnings in that household because once someone stays in someone house over 14 days the department of income assistance sees that relationship as a family unit. If the homeowner or apartment owner does not declare people living with them over the 14 days then they are cut off from any financial assistance.
The government have laws should they wish to enforce for those who cannot pay their premiums. Fhe legislation allows the Alward government to levy finds of 240$ per day, seize person’s assets, house and even incarcerate the individual for nonpayment.
The only choice that the low income worker has to avoid additional financial hardship imposed by the provincial government is to move out of the province.
The catastrophic care plan would work if it the wealthy paid their share of the taxes, if the government were to get taxes from the Irvings there would be enough money in the province’s budget to fully underwrite the premiums which would solve the problem of the minimum wage worker potentially being sent to jail for nonpayment.
This drug plan is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing.