Make people responsible for choices

Tricia Leslie disagreed with the Minister of Health’s suggestion “to make smokers pay an extra amount on their MSP premiums...

I wish to comment on the “My View” column in the Oct. 18 edition of this paper by Tricia Leslie in which she railed against any form of discrimination based on a person’s behavioural lifestyle.

Tricia Leslie disagreed with the Minister of Health’s suggestion “to make smokers pay an extra amount on their MSP premiums towards the high cost of health caused by tobacco users.”

She is also against legislating a surcharge against the obese, illicit drug users, alcoholics, extreme sports participants, motorcycle riders, racecar drivers, hockey players or motorcross athletes.

Her point being, that any one, or all of these lifestyles, if used as a basis for higher MSP premiums would start a slippery slope of discrimination that would go on forever.

She did, however, voice one regret, and that was that the government couldn’t tax marijuana, cocaine, meth or ecstasy users. She is partly correct, but  if the supply of these drugs was decriminalized, the government could tax them pretty much as they do alcohol and tobacco right now.

What Leslie didn’t do, was come up with any bright new ideas on how to manage our spiralling health care costs.

At least Mike de Jong had a point that could be debated and aired at a wider forum – which might lead to something more positive than our present day status-quo that only promises more and more cost, leading to unsustainable debt growth.

So far as discrimination goes, I’m all for it. ICBC discriminates against young and old drivers, drivers with debit points and those with drunk driving records etc. They do this because, actuarially speaking, these drivers cost more in claims than do all the others; and so to encourage these drivers to mend their ways and to relieve the responsible drivers of being forced to cover these higher costs, ICBC discriminates with the blessing of the vast majority of the safer BC drivers.

In 2002 illicit drugs cost British Columbians $1.51 billion; alcohol $2.22 billion and tobacco $2.33 billion. The majority of these costs were absorbed by our Health Care Services.

Let us then not dismiss the idea of making people responsible for their lifestyle choices. We stand to save $6.06 billion a year in 2002 dollars. If the B.C. government takes action on this initiative, not only will we save this amount of taxation, we could even achieve a healthier, happier and more productive population.

Jim Happer

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