Medical premiums can backfire

A significant minority of respondents in provinces that had premiums believed their premiums covered the entire cost of the health system.

Re: “Time to take MSP off life support” (B.C. Views, Feb. 24).

I enjoyed Tom Fletcher’s column on MSP premiums and it brought back to mind some research I conducted when I was at Decima Research in the late ’80s.

As is true today, there was concern people were over-using medical care, in part because they did not understand its cost. We tested views about costs of the system and looked in particular at differences between provinces that charged premiums and those that did not.

The results were surprising. We found a significant minority of respondents in provinces that had premiums believed their premiums covered the entire cost of the health system. Far from making them more cautious about accessing the system, many of those premium-paying respondents thought “I’m paying for it, so why shouldn’t I go to the hospital/clinic whenever I want?”

As is the case today, proponents of premiums argued that it would make people more sensitive to the costs of the services they used; the converse turned out to be true.

 

Ian Mckinnon

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