Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are behind on their Medical Services Plan payments, keeping almost half a billion dollars out of government coffers.

That’s according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which reveal more than 850,000 bills are at least 31 days overdue.

Combined, those add up to about $462 in late payments. The bulk of that, $418 million, comes from payments that are more than 90 days overdue.

Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s B.C. director, believes part of the problem is the provincial government’s steadily increasing premiums.

“The BC Liberals have doubled the rates since they came into office, and even in the past five years it’s gone up 40 per cent,” Bateman said. “People are just falling further and further behind.”

Finance Minister Mike De Jong said some bills might be overdue because of delays in registering. Still, given the sheer number of unpaid fees, he admitted there’s room for improvement in the system.

“On the collections front, I think there are some things that can be done,” De Jong said.

The province has already promised changes to MSP, in the form of relief for single parents, and De Jong said the government may be introducing further tweaks.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for much more drastic action, urging the government to freeze the tax until it can be reviewed and applied more fairly.

That could mean considering personal health and risk factors when determining premiums, or tying payments to income levels, according to the group.

Currently, premiums are only scaled down for people who make $30,000 a year or less – meaning an individual who earns $30,001 can pay the same as someone who makes $3 million.

Thousands of people have already signed online petitions calling on the province to scale premiums by income, but the government has shown little interest in the plan.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Bhinder Sajan