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BC says federal health transfers should reflect age of provinces’ populations

Rally in Brampton, March 2015
National Day of Action For a New Health Accord in Brampton, March 2015

Federal health minister Jane Philpott will meet with provincial and territorial health ministers on Jan. 19-20 in Vancouver. This meeting is seen as a key step in moving on the Liberal election-time pledge to “negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories, including a long-term agreement on funding.”

The Council of Canadians is campaigning for a new Health Accord given the funding formula left in place by the previous federal government means that up to $43.5 billion of health care spending could be cut over the next eight years. On Nov. 16, 2015, Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler wrote Philpott and stated, “It is our hope that the new federal government reverses the Harper government’s funding model to a per capita Canada Health Transfer model, and implements a 6 per cent escalator for federal transfers to the provinces to reach a minimum goal of 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs.”

CBC now reports, “B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says he will urge Ottawa to change the way health transfers are made during next week’s federal-provincial meeting. …Currently, each province gets funding from the federal government based on a per capita basis. But Minister Lake says the amount of money a province receives for health care should reflect the age of its population.” Lake states, “To have a pure per-capita transfer, it was a disadvantage to populations like B.C. that have lots of seniors and an advantage to populations like Alberta that are younger.”

On Dec. 8, 2015, CTV reported on the lengthy wait times in Atlantic Canada. That article noted, “The Council of Canadians says the health accord between the federal and provincial governments, which expired in 2014, didn’t take into account the region’s population demographics in its funding model.” In that news report, Halifax-based Council of Canadians Atlantic organizer Angela Giles commented, “We have an aging population. We know that under the previous federal government, the equalization payments for the health care transfers got changed so that they’re per capita based and we know Atlantic Canada has suffered because of that.”

The previous federal government eliminated the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer and replaced it with a per capita transfer. This means that provinces with relatively larger proportion of older residents will be hampered in delivering universal quality care. The Canadian Health Coalition has highlighted, “The move to an equal per capita cash transfer will widen the gap between the have and the have-not provinces and make it next to impossible to maintain national standards in health care. It is estimated by the Premiers that this one budgetary move will create a funding gap for the have-not provinces of $16.5 billion over the next 5 years.”

Butler will be in Vancouver next week as this issue is discussed at the federal-provincial summit there.

It is not known when a first ministers conference to finalize a new health accord will happen, but speculation suggests it could be as soon as July-August of this year. Leading up to that moment, the Council of Canadians is supporting the Canadian Health Coalition’s Medicare Lobby on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (January 25-26). Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick, Board members Ken Kavanagh and Andrea Furlong, and organizer Ailish Morgan-Welden will be at this medicare lobby. We also plan to be at the Council of the Federation meeting of provincial premiers and territorial leaders in Whitehorse (July 20-22) where health care will undoubtedly be on the agenda.

Butler says, “With the renegotiation of the Health Accord once again a priority for the provinces and the federal government, we are calling on to both parties to craft a solution that puts the well-being of Canadians first. The federal government must provide stable and sufficient funding in order to meet the Premiers’ request of reaching a minimum 25 per cent federal health funding by 2025. These discussions also need to include a universal pharmacare program. There is across the board agreement that universal pharmacare promises to save as much as $9 billion to $11 billion annually in health care costs and improve the real health outcomes for Canadians.”

For more on our health care campaign, please click here.

Further reading
Health Accord talks could begin as early as this week (Nov. 8, 2015)