OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec 16, 2016) -
Attn: Assignment Editor
Ontarians have a lot to lose, or a lot to gain, in Monday's Health Accord negotiations. Finance and Health Ministers from across Canada are making their way to Ottawa Sunday to potentially complete negotiations for a new Health Accord for Canada. Leading into the meetings, the Ontario Health Coalition reported that Ontario's Health Minister is showing great leadership in trying to forge a deal that will both provide a realistic level of funding for health care from the federal government and, in return, ensure that provinces are properly accountable. Both of these are in the public interest.
The devil is in the details.
For months, provincial premiers and the federal government have been at odds over funding, with the provinces calling for more and with the federal government holding to the funding formula cuts put in place by the Harper government.
By adopting the sizeable reduction in the health care funding formula that Harper proposed, and by tying funding to GDP, the Trudeau government is insulating itself from the impact of population aging on health care costs at the expense of the provinces who cannot afford it, according to than the federal government's own Parliamentary Budget Office. (See the 2014 report of the PBO.) If the federal government does not move off of their plans to chop to the funding formula, provinces like Ontario will face increased pressure for health care cuts and privatization.
Ontario Minister of Health, Dr. Eric Hoskins, is calling for a 5.2 per cent escalator and a 10-year Accord. Both the Parliamentary Budget Office of Canada and Ontario's Financial Accountability Office have used this number as a reasonable projection of health funding needs. This means it is the actual amount needed to meet the population's health care needs, taking into account population growth, ageing, inflation and economic growth/utilization.
Dr. Hoskins has also indicated willingness for the province to be accountable for spending the funds on agreed health care priorities. The Ontario Health Coalition agrees in principle. Strings attached to funding should include national standards such as compliance with the Canada Health Act, as well as accountability for improvements to access to public and non-profit health care, including public hospital care and public home care. The coalition warned against setting health priorities and assigning billions of public dollars based on the latest progressive-sounding but meaningless (or even damaging) trend or buzzword, such as "Health Transformation" which is not evidence-based, has been used as cover for draconian public hospital cuts and is more than a decade out-of-date for Ontario and several other provinces that have already shifted services.
"The federal government must come to the table with an improved commitment for federal dollars to meet the real health care needs of Canadians or we will see more service cuts and privatization," said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. In balance, she added: "Funding for health care comes from Canadians and the provinces cannot reasonably demand more money and refuse to be accountable for it. All provinces, including Ontario, must commit to spending the funding on public health care. In the extreme, provinces cannot demand more money and violate Canadian law." Saskatchewan's government, while vociferously demanding more funding, for example, has brought in legislation that contravenes the Canada Health Act and is allowing private for-profit clinics to bill patients in need hundreds of dollars for diagnostic tests.