Skip to content

Liberal health care funding increase falls below 3 per cent

Health minister Jane Philpott

What’s happening with the Liberal promise for a new Health Accord?

The Liberal platform this past election promised, “We will negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories, including a long-term agreement on funding.” Unfortunately, the federal budget last week only stated, “The Government is committed to working in partnership with provinces and territories to negotiate a new multi-year health accord that will improve health care in Canada and boost health outcomes for all Canadians.”

In terms of background, the Canadian Press explains, “The last 10-year health accord, which included an annual six-per-cent increase in health transfers to the provinces, expired in 2014. The previous Conservative government refused to renegotiate it and unilaterally declared that the six-per-cent escalator would end in 2017.” The Conservative plan was to tie health care transfers to the GDP with a minimum three per cent annual increase between 2017 and 2024.

But now the Globe and Mail reports, “According to the budget, the health transfers will increase by $1-billion, or 2.8 per cent in 2017-18, to $37.1-billion. That is below even the 3-per-cent minimum increase promised by the Harper government. With annual increases henceforth tracking nominal GDP growth, Ottawa will be transferring about $5-billion less a year in health-care cash to the provinces by 2020 than it would have under the 6-per-cent escalator.”

The Canadian Press adds, “Although they denounced the Conservative move and promised to negotiate a new accord with a long-term funding agreement, the Liberals did not specifically promise to reinstate the escalator. And [federal health minister Jane] Philpott appeared to suggest [the day after the budget was presented] that it’s not in the cards. At $36 billion, health transfers are already ‘the largest in Canadian history’, she told the Commons.” Back in January, during a federal-provincial health care ministers meeting, the Canadian Press had reported, “Philpott has suggested she wants to focus on how to spend money on health care more efficiently.”

In November 2015, Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler wrote the newly appointed health minister and highlighted, “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.” But for now, according to the Globe and Mail, the federal government’s share of health care spending is set to fall to about 18 per cent within a decade.

In his post-budget analysis, Butler commented, “In regards to a renegotiated Health Accord, this budget does little to make clear where we are headed. Is this government planning to reflect Canadian’s top priority and invest new money into the public system in the future, or are future budgets going to follow the template of Harper’s budgets with under-funding health services and increasing two-tiered services?  It is too early to tell, but we hope the new government follows some of the suggestions the Council of Canadians have made on this topic.”

Those demands include:

– a new Canada Health Accord for an adequate period of time (a ten year period or comparable length to the 2004-2014 Accord)

– increased funding at a minimum of a 6 per cent increase per year (as with the previous Accord)

– reaching a minimum 25 per cent federal share of health funding by 2025

– conditional funding to uphold the Canada Health Act and an accountability framework to ensure funding reaches needed areas of the public health system

– funding to support and strengthen the universal access to publicly funded and delivered medicare

– a comprehensive national pharmacare program that is universal and provides first dollar coverage

– pharmacare that covers the full cost of covered drugs without deductibles or co-pays (access must be based on a patient’s need and not their ability)

– public administration for the program ensuring appropriate use of drugs, public education and monitoring

– an evidence-based national formulary drawing on the best clinical and economic facts (all drugs on a national formulary must be covered under the program)

– ‘carving out’ health care from harmful international trade deals and a creating mechanism addressing the impacts of negotiated deals.

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

For more from Brent, follow him on Twitter at @CBrentPatterson