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Butler calls for new health accord, implementation of pharmacare

Twitter photo by Mary-Margaret Jones

Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler spoke to media at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto today as provincial and territorial ministers met there in advance of a federal-provincial-territorial meeting tomorrow (October 18).

Butler highlighted that the federal government needs to be attuned to the needs of people when developing the next health accord.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Provinces and territories are strategizing ways to secure more health-care funding from Ottawa and could delay the federal government’s intention to bolster home care if it does not abandon a plan to halve its annual increases in health transfers. Health and finance ministers emerged during a break in a closed-door morning meeting Monday in advance of discussions with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott to say any reduction in the Canada Health Transfer will jeopardize their ability to pay the bills associated with providing medical care to an aging society.”

While the Trudeau government has stated that it wants to transfer to the provinces and territories an additional $3 billion over four years for home care and palliative care, the provincial and territorial ministers are concerned by the federal government’s health care funding formula that could reduce federal transfers by more than $36 billion over the next ten years.

In December 2011, the Harper government announced a new funding formula – not negotiated with the provinces, but rather presented in a unilateral fashion – that meant the federal government would commit to a six per cent annual increase in 2014 to 2016, but then just a minimum three per cent annual increase between 2017 and 2024. Given the Harper government had refused to negotiate a new Health Accord, it was welcomed when the Liberals promised to “negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories” as well as a “long-term agreement on funding”.

But earlier this month the Trudeau government said it would implement the Harper government’s funding formula. The federal health minister has already confirmed, “I do not intend to push for an increase in the escalator”. The new health transfer formula is scheduled to begin on April 1, 2017.

Butler also tweeted to the federal health minister today making the point that to improve health care for Canadians she should include a national pharmacare program in the new health accord.

The Liberals have also said pharmacare is too expensive and not a part of their mandate this term, while at the same time they are pushing for the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Studies show that the patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs in CETA could cost us between $850 million to $1.65 billion annually, while pharmacare would save about $14 billion a year.

The Council of Canadians is demanding a 10-year accord with annual 6 per cent increases in health care transfer payments to the provinces, at least 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs, a prohibition on user fees and privatization, the implementation of pharmacare, and a commitment to public solutions.

For Michael’s tweets from today please see @HealthMichael.