The recent cuts to the Medical Services Plan Supplementary Benefits program have many Whistler patients worried they will not be able to afford to treat their injuries properly in the New Year.
Effective Jan. 1, 2002, about 75 per cent of B.C.'s population will no longer be covered under MSP for visits to physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists. In addition, visits to naturopathy and non-surgical podiatry practitioners will not be covered for the majority of the population.
"Chiropractic care is going to become more exclusive," said Dr. Peter Drysdale, a chiropractor at the Village Centre.
Only those who qualify for MSP premium assistance, meaning those who are making less than $20,000 a year, will be covered for a combination of 10 visits over the course of one year.
Health Services Minister Colin Hansen said in a press release that the changes were put in place to meet immediate cost pressures on the health care system.
"These changes have been designed to reduce costs significantly while preserving the access to benefits for those who can least afford paying for these services," he said.
But Drysdale said these benefit slashes are not going to save money for the government down the line.
"I think it will cost the taxpayers more and lead to worse health for the people in the province in the long run," he said. "If these young snowboarders, for example, are injuring themselves and not getting the proper care right away then they will have more problems down the road."
In Whistler, there are a lot of young people who are not making a lot of money but still make above the cut off to qualify for premium assistance.
"There are people who will fall into the category where nobody is going to help them," said Susie Mortensen, the owner of Whistler Physiotherapy.
She said that many of her patients have been very concerned about the future of their health care since the government announced the cuts.
As it currently stands, the rates to visit a physiotherapist or a chiropractor are fairly reasonable.
For those covered under regular B.C. Medical, MSP pays $13 for each visit to a physiotherapist and the patient pays a user fee of $20. Similarly, MSP covers $7.35 for a visit to a chiropractor while the patient spends $20 on a user fee. Twelve visits per year are covered this way.
In the new year, the user fee rates will be going up because MSP will not be covering anything. In an unofficial, suggested fee schedule posted by the Physiotherapy Association of B.C. the rates may go up to around $45 for each visit.