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NEWS: Privatization concerns enter the 2014 Canada Health Accord renegotiations

The Harper government has begun its preparations for the 2014 federal-provincial renegotiation of the Canada Health Accord.

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Canada’s provinces are bracing for a showdown with the Harper government as they approach the deadline for a new federal medicare-funding deal… The (federal) transfers are crucial because about 20 cents of every dollar the provinces spend on health care comes from Ottawa. They are slated to receive annual increases of 6 per cent until the Canada Health Transfer Program expires in fiscal 2013-14. …So far, the only public statement on the prospects for a new health-funding deal is a suggestion from Finance Minister (Jim Flaherty) of applying the brakes to spending increases.”

“These signs are ominous, according to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. If the federal government holds the line on transfer payments when the funding accord expires in three years, he warns, the provinces will not be able to sustain the system Canadians take for granted. …Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hinted in his annual economic update last month that he wants to tie the increase in transfers to inflation and economic growth, both of which are projected to remain in the range of 0 to 2 per cent in coming years. The provinces, many of them deep in deficit, would be hard pressed to take up the slack without raising dedicated revenues or cutting into other social programs or money for schools and post-secondary education.”

“It remains to be seen whether public statements and proposals will enter the dangerous territory of new revenues or new ways to harness private and profit-seeking health enterprises. On the revenue side, Quebec’s Liberal government was stung this year by its proposal for a new form of means-tested user fee, which was dumped in the face of sustained opposition. As for publicly entertaining a role for private actors, the political dangers may appear even worse. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney has jumped into the fray, calling for a ‘serious, adult discussion’ on whether medicare is financially sustainable. He said in a speech to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives last month that the country needs to strike a better balance between the ‘intrinsic value of universal coverage’ for basic medical services and the ability of Canadians to pay taxes to support the system.”

The Globe and Mail report is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/healthcare/provinces-brace-for-healthcare-transfer-payment-showdown-with-ottawa/article1789046/.