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Costs & Benefits: 1948-1958 Costs & Benefits: 1939-1948 Costs & Benefits: 1948-1958 Costs & Benefits: 1958-1968

British Columbia Hospital Insurance Service

The British Columbia Hospital Insurance Service plan was created by provincial legislation in 1948. It provided hospital care through mandatory payroll deductions and directly collected premiums. Unfortunately, lack of proper planning for the collection of premiums through payroll deduction and for direct payment from the enrolled, as well as inaccurate record-keeping, led to great confusion over who had paid for coverage and who had not. For example, the number of British Columbians who were seasonally employed in the fishing, lumber, mining or agricultural industries and held different jobs or were unemployed during the off-season made it difficult to collect monthly premiums and determine who was covered. For other provincial governments, the plan’s problems served as a lesson, especially in planning the financing and administration of hospital insurance, as well as in demonstrating the public’s critical response to badly administered premium collection and enrolment policies. Once the administrative and financial difficulties were resolved, the universal access to hospital care, as well as improved facilities, made the plan very popular in the province. The process of overcoming the problems encountered in instituting, administering and financing hospital coverage in British Columbia was a historic step on the road to medicare.

Photo: Hospital insurance card

This hospital insurance card shows that the holder paid a premium of $15 for himself and his family for the year 1949, one year after British Columbia introduced its hospital insurance plan.
Royal British Columbia Museum, 965.5346.1L

Photo: “... finally, rising costs  left us no alternative but to take over the hospitals completely ...”
“... finally, rising costs left us no alternative but to take over the hospitals completely ...”

Len Norris’s nightmarish vision of government bureaucrats running British Columbia hospitals was published in 1954. Nine days later, a higher sales tax covered the cost of social services.
Copy provided with the permission of Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010