On Thursday, the federal government announced that it would allow Canadians to purchase unlimited data plans for $199.99.
The move comes amid a wave of criticism from health care experts and consumer groups over the rollout of the new $14-billion national health plan.
“With the launch of the national health care plan, Canadians have a choice of a number of plans, but they’re being asked to pay for those plans in full by the government,” said Marcia MacIsaac, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s policy and legal office.
“If you are a middle-income or lower-middle-income individual who is in a low-income household, you’re probably paying more than $150 a month.
So you can expect to pay over $400 a month in monthly bills, with no relief.”
The national health insurance plan is expected to cost $6,000 to $9,000 a month, or roughly $25,000 for a middle income family.
The plan is also expected to cover more people who earn less than $100,000 annually, but will not cover people with more than two children.
In a statement, the government said that it has “considered several options for the pricing of national health plans, including allowing Canadians to use the savings from a national health savings account.”
In a press release, the Canada Revenue Agency also said that, in light of recent changes to the Canada Health Act, it was reviewing how it plans to tax and manage health savings accounts, but added that “no decision has been made at this time.”
“The federal government will continue to work with stakeholders to understand the benefits and costs of implementing a national Health Savings Account, including with respect to tax treatment and tax credits,” it said.
In addition, the health minister has indicated that, if the plan is approved, it will also cover a number that are currently not covered by the existing plans.
“I’m not going to get into any details, but the government will consider all of those options and if we have to go in a different direction, we’ll certainly look at that,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday.
“The national health system has been under a lot of pressure, and we know that Canadians have had a lot to say about it, and the government has been working hard on this.”
In May, the Prime Minister said that the national system was not ready to roll out and that Canadians would have to wait until “we have the right infrastructure and the right people” to roll it out.
He also said he wanted the national plans to be accessible to “people who have been excluded from existing plans,” and to allow Canadians with pre-existing conditions to “have access to a high-quality health care system that’s as good as or better than what they have now.”
The federal government also said it was working with health care providers to develop a system for accessing the national insurance plan.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose has said that Canada will be able to cover people who “are on the income of the lowest 50 per cent of Canadians,” and will offer “federal support to help them access the National Health Insurance.”
In March, the Health Minister also said in a speech that, as part of the rollout, “we’re going to have a new kind of national plan, a national insurance system, so we’re going in that direction.”
“What we are doing right now is working to establish a framework to ensure that Canadians will have access and that they have access at the right price to their health,” she said.
“It’s also important that we’re working in collaboration with health plans to get them on board.”
The government has said it will set up a website that will allow Canadians who qualify for the national plan to choose the plans they want to use and that will also allow them to check out the price.
But some consumers are not happy with that, saying the plans are not accessible.
“You can’t choose what you want,” said Mark J. Zinchenko, president of the Ottawa-based Institute for Affordable Health Care.
“All you can do is go to the website and look at the price.”
“This is an awful plan,” said John Mihlstrom, president and CEO of the Consumers Federation of Canada.
“We’re getting a national plan that is basically a $20-a-month plan, but you have to pay $2,000 in fees a month for the same health care.
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