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Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations : Securing Our Future . . . Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2013
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) values the open, constructive and ongoing dialogue afforded by the Standing Committee on Finance’s Pre-Budget Consultations process. As a society, it is essential that we make every effort to work together to find lasting solutions to what are a series of complex and interdependent policy issues, especially during these turbulent times. Last August, the Committee set out objectives for this year’s consultations. You asked for advice on how to ensure that Canada remains a major player in the New Economy while providing Canadians with equal opportunities to succeed and create a socio-economic environment where they can enjoy the best quality of life and standard of living. However, world events have intervened and the urgent has crowded out the important. The CMA has suspended, for the most part, what we consider important longer term issues in an effort to do our part in helping guide the government’s deliberations in this time of national need. We support the government’s commitments, to date, in response to the events of September 11 and their aftermath. We are cognizant of the economic forecasts that show a slowing economy as a result and the need to re-focus our national attention on security issues. The overriding challenge for this Committee therefore, will be to develop recommendations for the next budget that address the current and future situation with respect to national security without losing sight of internal needs such as pursuing the innovations necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of our health care system. Indeed, we see the latter as supporting the former. The CMA is committed to working closely with the federal government to ensure that Canada’s health care system can respond to immediate health security challenges. Our members are committed to continuing to ensure that Canadians’ confidence is restored by developing and implementing policy initiatives that serve to strengthen Canadians’ access to quality health care when they need it. To this end and building on our efforts since September 11, the CMA has put together a to meet these objectives. Specifically, the CMA has examined and developed recommendations that address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity; the capacity of our health human workforce in addressing current and future demands; and a look beyond the urgent to the necessary, in the form of a proposed process to review tax policy in support of health policy. II. PREPAREDNESS Health and Security The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on the lives of Canadians. Anxiety over the openness of our borders, the safety of our airlines and our vulnerability to attacks filled the media and our conversations in the days following the tragedies in the United States. A Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken for the Canadian Medical Association October 23-25, 2001 indicated that 31% of respondents report ongoing sadness, anger, disturbed sleep, or are overprotective of their children. 1 This confirms what our members are telling us, based on everyday practice. A GPC International survey indicates that three-quarters of Canadians have a moderate to strong fear that the US-led anti-terrorist campaign will lead to Canada being a possible terrorist target. 2 An earlier Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken October 1, 2001 shows that the attacks have risen to the top of the list of issues (73%) that should receive the greatest attention among our leaders. 3 Social issues, including health, are the second rated (49%) concern among Canadians. The Canadian Medical Association’s response following the terrorist attack was immediate and is ongoing. Working through and with our provincial/territorial Divisions and Affiliates, the Association began collecting names of those physicians willing to offer assistance to US agencies dealing with the tragedy should it have been requested. As well, we spearheaded the development of the Canadian Mental Health Support Network (www.cma.ca/cmhsn), which includes Health Canada and twelve other national health associations, to help Canadians and Canada’s health professionals cope with the mental health aftermath of the attack. The work of this network continues in terms of a series of public security announcements to be released very soon and in terms of ensuring that the information available through health professionals is clear, concise and consistent. We also provided continuous updated advice to Canadian doctors about bioterrorist threats. In the early days of the anthrax scare, before Health Canada had materials available for the public, hundreds of calls for information to 1-800-OCanada were referred daily by Health Canada to the CMA. However, there is an aspect of this issue requiring urgent attention given the current environment. It is the ability of our health system to respond to a disaster, be it a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or a large scale accident. As the Canadian Medical Association and others have documented, the people and the infrastructure of our system is already stretched in its capacity to deal with everyday demands. We have seen that emergency rooms across this country can barely cope with the increased demands brought on by the annual flu season. The system is already operating at or beyond capacity. Devastation approaching the scale of September 11 has not been seen in Canada since December 6, 1917 with the Halifax explosion. While no health system can ever be fully prepared to meet such a staggering level of destruction, it must have the confidence, the resources and, the disaster planning and referral systems to rise to the challenge if Canadians are to be reassured that help will be there if and when they need it. Public Health and Safety The challenge – if and when it comes – will require a local response that is supported nationally. To appreciate the scope of the work necessary to prepare the health system for the threats brought by terrorism it will be useful to understand the challenges currently facing public health in Canada. We have long enjoyed the benefits of a solid public health system through the various health protections, health promotion, and disease prevention and control programs created to maintain and improve the health of the population. The essential role of the medical officer of health in the public health system must be acknowledged, supported, and respected. Their credibility provides the community and health care professionals, particularly physicians, with balance and specialized medical expertise on public health matters. When the board of health is performing its mandated duties successfully, few are even aware that it is at work. Yet when a public health crisis strikes, the community expects rapid, knowledgeable, expert and quality attention to matters. But it can only do that if there is a strong infrastructure in place to meet the challenge. A clear and present danger is the emergence of new diseases or the re-appearance of old ones. An editorial in the April 27, 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine expresses concern about the ability of public health infrastructures to cope with this problem without the resources needed to respond. 4 Increased trade, rising migration rates, and changes in the environment have led to worries over the revival of diseases thought to be under control or near extinction (e.g., human plague, tuberculosis and malaria) and even the recognition of some new “bugs”. The need to be vigilant about the re-emergence of infectious diseases was brought home to governments with a large outbreak of human plague in India in 1994. 5 Out of 876 cases reported, characterized as presumptive plague, 56 were fatal. A large outbreak of Ebola in Zaire in 1995 led to as many as 233 people dying from the disease and further strengthened the case for devoting resources to this problem. 6 West Nile Virus The New York City area got a first-hand look at this problem in 1999 with the appearance of the West Nile virus in North America. As the New York Times reported, it may have come in the blood of a traveler returning from Africa or Europe. 7 It may have arrived in an infected bird smuggled in baggage or even in a mosquito that got onto a jet. In spite of efforts to contain the disease, it has now begun to spread through the eastern portion of the continent, as far north as southern Ontario and as deep as Florida. Tuberculosis Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s two deadliest infections and it is feared to be on the verge of a major comeback. The disease kills 1.5 million to 2 million people a year, almost as many as AIDS. Experts say that toll could increase in the coming years because TB bacteria are evolving dangerous new strains that are increasingly drug-resistant. 8 Health Canada reports that there have been some cases (and deaths) in Canada of multiple drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) strains. 9 Only Newfoundland, PEI and the territories have not had cases of drug-resistant TB. Latvia and Russia are considered “hot spots” in the world for MDR-TB. However, one in three reported isolates in New York City in recent years was MDR-TB. As well, highly resistant strains spread from New York to Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Colorado in less than two years. Malaria The World Health Organization estimates that one million die from malaria a year and 90% of those deaths are Africans (2500 African children under five die from malaria each day). 10 The disease seems to be dying back in other continents but growing stronger across Africa. The WHO report on infectious diseases describes malaria as having the power to “overwhelm a young child causing high fever, convulsions and breathing difficulties. With the onset of cerebral malaria the child lapses into a coma and may die within 24 hours.” 11 AIDS According to the WHO, there are over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. 12 The hardest hit area is sub-Saharan Africa where one in four of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, 10% of the population is now infected with HIV. 13 The problem among pregnant women is worse, with 22% infected with HIV. In May, 2000, the US National Security Council declared that the spread of AIDS across the world is a threat to national security. 14 The concern, like many of the infectious diseases, is that eventually it will overwhelm the ability of governments to cope with the disease. The US government has sought to double to $254 million to combat AIDS overseas. Readiness Post-September 11 The tragic events of September 11 provided a grim reminder of the necessity of having a strong public health infrastructure in place at all times. As was demonstrated quite vividly that day, we do not have the luxury of time to prepare for these events. While it is not possible to plan for every contingency, certain scenarios can be sketched out and prepared for. To succeed, all communities must maintain a certain consistent level of public health infrastructure to ensure that all Canadian residents are protected from threats to their health. These are only some of the external threats. The Canadian public health system must also cope with domestic issues such as diseases created by environmental problems (e.g., asthma), sexually transmitted diseases, and influenza, among many others. Even before the spectre of bioterrorism this country’s public health experts were concerned about the infrastructure’s ability to deal with multiple crises. There are many vacancies among the public health physician and nursing staffs, particularly in rural and northern Canada as well as the First Nations units. This workforce is also aging and efforts to attract and retain staff have been lagging. The announcement of October 18, 2001 by the federal government of a $11.59 million investment was welcome news to Canadians in the aftermath of September 11. It provided for the “basics” in terms of stockpiling of necessary antibiotics, the purchase of sensor and detection equipment to help respond to radio-nuclear incidents, enhancing a laboratory network to better equip them to detect biological agents, and provide training to front-line health care professionals to help them recognize, diagnose and treat suspicious illnesses. However, far more needs to be done to improve our ability to respond to health and security contingencies of all kinds. The Walkerton water crisis is an example of the difficulties often faced by public health officials. Without the full resources (legislative, physical, financial, human) to do the job properly, the health of Canadians is potentially jeopardized. The Ontario Medical Association emphasized this point in its brief to the Walkerton Inquiry: “Unstable and insufficient resources hamper the Ontario public health system. Steps must be taken by the provincial government to enhance the ability of boards of health to deliver public health programs and services that promote and protect health and prevent disease and injury. Sufficient and reliable public health funding is critical.” 15 The CMA reinforced that message in a resolution passed at its 2001 Annual General Meeting: “That CMA recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.” In a recent broadcast in the United States, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out seven priority areas for building capacity and preparedness within a public health system: 16 * A well trained, well staffed public health workforce * Laboratory capacity to produce timely and accurate results for diagnosis and investigation * Epidemiology and surveillance to rapidly detect health threats * Secure, accessible information systems to help analyze and interpret health data * Solid communication to ensure a secure two-way flow of information * Effective policy evaluation capability * A preparedness and response capability which includes a response plan and testing and maintaining a high state of preparedness These points apply whether the threat is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Public health must be ready for all such threats. And, at present, we are told, that responding to a crisis like Walkerton or North Battleford, not to mention the possibility of co-ordinated bioterrorism, effectively results in public health units shutting down many core programs that are the building blocks of the health care system. As the long shadow of bioterrorism rises over Canada and menaces our health and wellbeing, these issues take on even more significance to Canadians. This Committee must do its part to provide for an “act locally by thinking nationally” with regard to public health support systems. The Current Context As noted above, prior planning and preparation is one of the keys to ameliorating the effects of such sudden and calamitous occurrences. It must be remembered that a catastrophic event of the nature that occurred on September 11 is a local event in that it happens within the jurisdiction of a specific municipality. The quality and level of the response depends on how well prepared the local authorities are for such actions. The local capacity to respond varies across Canada with some area health services (e.g., the larger urban centres) better prepared and equipped than others (there may be jurisdictions that do not have plans). Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is there is always the very strong possibility that public health officials will be overwhelmed and need to turn to the province or territory for help. It is also possible that the event is so massive that even the provincial or territorial resources are besieged and it must call on the federal government with their stockpiles of medical supplies and access to epidemiologists and laboratory services. That assumes good planning before hand between the federal and provincial/territorial governments and that is not necessarily the case. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the coordination among authorities and reduce the variability among the various response plans in cooperation with provincial authorities (and assist those in preparing plans where none exist). Health Canada must help facilitate efforts to rationalize preparations and make it easier for jurisdictions to assist one another in a time of disaster. This could include measures such as transferring patients quickly to facilities outside the affected area when the immediate hospitals are full or even to transferring them to other provinces or territories if necessary. Disease surveillance is another component of these measures. To be effective there must be, at the provincial and territorial level, linked electronic surveillance mechanisms that are standardized and the staff available to analyze and report the data. At the federal level, the government must be ready to provide data in a timely fashion, especially in an emergency. However, very few of Canada’s doctors will have seen the disease entities that threaten Canadians at the moment (e.g., anthrax, smallpox). The CMA has expressed its willingness to assist Health Canada in bringing together stakeholders to develop quickly a curriculum that would train health care professionals to recognize, diagnose and treat the new threats we face as a society. The government must also aid in the development of volunteer teams of health professionals and other experts that can be mobilized rapidly in response to disasters wherever and whenever they occur. The concept would be similar to the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). 17 DART consists of medical, engineering, logistics, communications and security personnel ready to deploy at short notice to anywhere in the world from their support base at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. It is crucial, that the federal government build and maintain its supplies for emergency use, its public health laboratories for early detection, its capacity to rapidly train and inform frontline health workers of emerging threats, its ability to assist the provinces and territories, and co-ordinate provincial responses in the event of overwhelming or multiple simultaneous threats. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. This fund should be over and above a similar sized investment to ensure that Health Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness can function even only at a minimal level of effectiveness. The announcement of October 18 by the Minister of Health that $11.59 million would be spent to enhance our response to a potential attack is an important step toward reassuring Canadians that help will be there when they need it. However, far more must be done to further expand the federal government’s ability to assist municipalities, provinces and territories in dealing with disasters. The vital role played by disease surveillance cannot be stressed enough. In the event of an unusual or particularly feared illness, or an outbreak of a preventable disease, the public’s attention can quickly focus on the public health unit’s response. The medical officer of health communicates with physicians (specialists and, general and family practices physicians) in the community. Physicians, especially general and family practice physicians, depend upon their medical officers of health and the health units as an important resource. This includes information on contact tracing, interpretation of unusual clinical symptomatology, vaccination, communicable disease control, outbreak control, environmental health, cluster investigation, epidemiology, travel medicine etc. An effective and efficient surveillance system must be in place in order to provide this data quickly to stop the spread of a disease as fast as possible. Unfortunately, a weak link in the existing surveillance system is communications. This has had an impact on health professionals’ ability to receive timely information regarding changes in disease incidence in their community. Regional, provincial/territorial and federal authorities must work to improve the coordination of communications at all levels to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians in times of crisis. The CMA recommends that: 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. The sale of Connaught Laboratories meant that Canada lost much its residual capacity to manufacture vaccines. If this were a “normal” war, Canadians would be looking to divert our manufacturing capacity toward meeting the threat. Given the biological threat, the Government of Canada should be negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to increase our capacity to produce a secure supply of vaccine on Canadian soil. This would include the need for more than one supplier and the capacity to increase quickly the production of the vaccine. The CMA recommends that: 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. Surge Capacity Among the first points of contact with the health system for Canadians in the event of a significant attack on our population it will be the doctors offices and the emergency rooms of our hospitals. As noted earlier, we have witnessed in recent years the enormous strain these facilities can be placed under when even something quite routine like influenza strikes a community hard. The media abounded with stories of patients waiting hours to be examined, of stretchers lining corridors and of ambulances being redirected from hospital to hospital. Canadians themselves experienced first-hand how the resources of the hospitals, particularly the human resources, were stretched to the breaking point. The acute care occupancy rates of Ontario public hospitals across the Ontario Hospital Association regions in 1999-00 illustrate this point. In three of the five regions (Eastern Ontario, Central and South West) the occupancy rate ranged from 94% to 97% 18. The highest rate was found in the very heavily populated Central region. A British Medical Journal study suggests that an occupancy rate over 90% indicates that the hospital system is in a regular bed crisis 19. This problem is not unique to Ontario: “the decrease in the number of acute care beds across Canada over the past decade, coupled with an aging population and our extraordinary success in extending the survival of patients with significant chronic illness, has eliminated any cushion in bed occupancy in the hospital system.” 20 With this in mind, picture a catastrophe similar in scale to the destruction seen in New York or Washington D.C. occurring in downtown Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal; or perhaps the release of smallpox or botulism over Fredericton or Winnipeg. As noted earlier, the public health system and medical diagnostic and treatment systems in the community and hospitals could become overwhelmed very quickly without the ability to absorb the extra caseload. Like our hydro system, that is why surge capacity must be built into the system nationally to enable hospitals to open beds, purchase more supplies, and bring in the health care professionals it requires to meet the need. An element of surge capacity that is seriously lacking is the federal government’s contribution to emergency bed space. With the closure of most of the Canadian Force’s hospitals and the severe loss of experienced health professionals in the military, the government’s ability to assist local and provincial/territorial civilian authorities should their systems become overwhelmed is limited. Currently the National Emergency Stockpile System can supply up to 40,000 cots, as well as medical supplies and relatively rudimentary hospital equipment. Reports indicate, however, that much of the equipment is decades old, and that protocols for logistical management (e.g., transport and rapid deployment) are outdated. There is an urgent need to reassess and reaffirm capacity in this context. The CMA is in close contact with the American Medical Association as they advise their government on coordinating the use of civilian and federal facilities in an emergency. Most hospitals work on a just-in-time inventory basis for the purchase of drugs. Without some sort of plan to quickly re-supply their pharmacies and expand their capacity, patient care will suffer. The federal government must assure Canadians that municipal and provincial plans are in place with an overarching national plan to support these jurisdictions if their service capacities are overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier, the announcement by the federal government of the $11.59 million investment to enhance our response to a potential attack is a good step. But the government must help further by making available an emergency fund that would enable hospitals to plan and organize their surge capacity. The CMA recommends: 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. The purpose of having such elaborate response plans and stockpiles of supplies and equipment is to be ready for the possibility that, in spite of all efforts to prevent a catastrophe from occurring, it nevertheless happens. That is when responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of the event falls largely to the public health system where a strong and viable infrastructure must already be in place to meet the challenge. Without the resources and the preparations, the crisis might well deteriorate and spread beyond “ground-zero.” That notion is often very difficult for non-health sector agencies and organizations to appreciate and can be an impediment to improving our capacity to help Canadians in times of disaster. No one can be completely prepared but you can prepare for certain scenarios. That is where the federal government can facilitate the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. The federal government has taken several steps to reassure Canadians that their physical safety is enhanced. This includes the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the development of an Anti-Terrorism Plan. As well, there is increased funding to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment to help those agencies do their jobs more effectively. The health system must be considered an integral component of any plan to combat terrorism. It too requires assistance, especially the public health infrastructure, in strengthening its ability to counter the effects of an attack, whomever or whatever is responsible. III. THE CAPACITY OF OUR HEALTH HUMAN WORKFORCE Although the right mix of physical infrastructure and sustainable, long-term funding is necessary, in and of itself, it is not sufficient to ensure that all Canadians have timely access to quality medical services. We must also have an adequate supply of physicians and other health personnel or the system will not have the flexibility or adaptability to respond to basic societal needs or a crisis in times of disaster. We believe that the health workforce in general is facing a major sustainability challenge, and as such, this section of the brief proposes initiatives that are not solely focused on physicians but the entire health human workforce. Reports produced by several health professional organizations show that although overall numbers may be increasing, it is not sufficient to meet future demands. In 2000, there was a moderate 1.7% increase in the nurse population 21; however, a 1997 Canadian Nurses Association report projected that the supply of nurses must grow by 2.1% per year to meet future demand. 22 Similarly, the number of physicians per 100,000 population appears to be increasing slightly each year (187 in 2000), but it remains below the 1993 level of 191 per 100,000 population. The physician to population ratio can be misleading in that it does not necessarily represent full time physicians. CMA figures show that a larger proportion of physicians fall into the older age groups and may not be working full time or indeed may not be providing patient care at all. Also, one needs to factor in the demographics of the current physician workforce. Female physicians, who tend to work fewer hours per week than their male colleagues, now represent 30% of the practising pool. This means that more physicians will be needed to provide the same number of services. But this may not be possible, as approximately two-thirds of all family physicians are no longer routinely accepting new patients. 23 This is placing considerable pressure on those currently working within the health care system with little hope for relief. For example, data gathered through the CMA’s annual Physician Resource Questionnaire (PRQ) substantiates anecdotal evidence that physicians are working harder. Over half the respondents to the 2001 PRQ (53.7%) indicated that their workload had increased over the past year. Looking at specific areas that have caused physicians the greatest degree of stress, 63.7% indicated that their workload is heavier than they would like (up from 62% in 1998), while 58.1% felt that their family and personal life had suffered from choosing medicine as a profession (up from 55% in 1998). There are a number of short-term and longer term initiatives that can be implemented to reverse the shortage in our health care personnel and alleviate the stress they are feeling from trying to keep the system operating as best it can. What follows is a description of the short-term initiative the CMA is proposing for consideration by the Standing Committee. For a detailed description of the longer term initiatives and recommendations, please refer to Appendix A. What Can be Done Today? Given the immediate need for more physicians and other health professionals in Canada and the time lag involved in training, especially for physicians, the CMA proposes that a variation on the strategy adopted by the Canadian Forces (CF) 24 be used to repatriate physicians and other professionals. The CF announced the implementation of a Medical and Dental Direct Entry Officer Recruitment Allowance effective April 1, 1999 to recruit licensed family physicians, general practitioners and dentists. Recruitment incentives involve a lump-sum signing bonus/recruitment allowance of $80,000 per direct entry medical officer and $25,000 per direct entry dental officer after a successful completion of 3 months of basic officer training. The commitment is for a duration of 4 years and retention incentives involve an adjustment to medical and dental rates of pay that are competitive with private sector net earnings. The CMA concurs with the concept of an incentive program as proposed by the CF and suggests that a similar approach be implemented for recruiting and retaining Canadian physicians and other health care professionals currently practising outside of Canada. Presently there are some 10,500 Canadian physicians practicing in the US as well as tens of thousands of Canadian nurses. Of these physicians, close to 1,000 are considered active physicians both in Canada and the US. 25 Some of these physicians are no doubt practising in border towns where dual licensure is common, but many may be expatriates who have maintained their licensure in Canada hopefully with plans to either return or at least leave their future options open. Rather than proposing a lump sum approach as an incentive the CMA proposes that the incentive come through graduated federal income tax relief by reducing federal income tax payable by 50% for 3 years for Canadian physicians and health care professionals who return to practice in Canada. Such an approach provides direct relief and over a period of 3 years would provide incentives similar in size to those proposed by the CF in their recruitment and retention program. It is estimated that such a program would cost approximately $45 million over 3 years to repatriate an estimated 5% or 500 physicians back to Canada. If repatriation of other health care providers were included then it is estimated that the total cost of such an initiative could increase to $85 million over 3 years. The CMA therefore recommends: 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. IV. TAX POLICY IN SUPPORT OF HEALTH POLICY The federal government has played a key role in the development of our health care system, primarily through a variety of measures or policy levers such as: spending; taxation; regulation; and information. Up until now, Canada’s health care system has made extensive use of only two federal policy levers, namely spending, in the form of cost-sharing arrangements between the federal and provincial/territorial governments; and by regulation, through the Canada Health Act. However, the degree to which the government can continue to rely on these levers must be examined. In the not-too-distant future, our health care system will face a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. Namely, an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. Several national health care studies, namely the Prime Minister’s Forum on Health and more recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Study of the Health Care System have raised the need to look at alternative health care funding sources. We can not and should not wait any longer to explore and act upon the options available to us. Looking at Alternatives One of the lesser-explored options has been the strategic use of Canada’s taxation system. A public discussion of tax policy has not been seen in Canada since at least 1966. 26 Nor have we seen a major assessment of tax policy in relation to social policy since the 1980’s Macdonald Commission. In fact, the last major overall tax policy review was that of Benson in 1971. There is an urgent need to more fully consider the role that the tax system can play in supporting the health care system. Several proposals have been put forward over time in this areas, such as earmarked taxes for health; health-related excise taxes; input tax credits for health care services; medical savings accounts; saving for long-term care; social insurance; and refundable tax credits. This list is not exhaustive. In fact, the CMA has done some preliminary work in this area by commissioning a discussion paper on taxation and health policy. 27 In the paper, the author puts forth 10 “real world” proposals where the tax system can be used to support health policy. The CMA has initiated detailed discussion with Health Canada, Statistics Canada and others to model some of the possible scenarios. Of course, some of these are more promising than others. It is for this reason that the CMA is recommending the federal government to establish a National Task Force to review the tax system with the purpose of developing innovative tax-based mechanisms that better synchronize tax policy with health policy. In this area, the CMA recommends: 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. The CMA envisions the mandate of the Task Force as being – to conduct a thorough policy and costing analysis of all potential tax-based mechanisms (not limited to those outlined in the above recommendations) that can be developed to assist in the financing and management of the health care system. The Task Force would be comprised of representatives from government, the health care system, private sector, and the public and it would issue its findings and recommendations within 2 years of its conception. V. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS In closing, the CMA has offered a powerful and strategic combination of policy initiatives designed to re-vitalize Canada’s health care system as well as to restore Canadians’ confidence that they will be taken care of in times of disaster. The proposals are realistic and practical. They give the provinces and territories full flexibility in terms of policy implementation while ensuring full recognition to the federal government for its essential investments. These proposals emphasize the need for the federal government to continue its leadership to ensure that our health care system, Canada’s most cherished social program, is available to meet the health care needs of all Canadians. No one group can address all of the issues and challenges facing the health care system. The CMA reiterates its commitment to work with the federal government and others to ensure that our health care system will be there for all Canadians in the future and in times of crisis. The Summary of Recommendations is as follows: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. APPENDIX A The Capacity of Our Health Human Workforce Looking to the Future There are some signs that governments have begun to acknowledge that we are in a sustained shortage situation. In November 1999, several health ministers met with members of the Canadian Medical Forum Task Force on Physician Supply in Canada which recommended 2000 first year medical school places for 2000. Since then, governments have been very active in committing to increases in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training. Enrolment of new medical students in 2000/2001 reached 1763 for an increase of 12% since 1997/98. This closely matches the promised increases to undergraduate enrolment made by governments. Approximately 140 more positions have been promised for the school years beginning 2001 and 2002. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 7. That the federal government immediately establish a Health Human Resources Education and Training Fund in the amount of $500 million per year for 5 years to fund: (1) increased enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate education; and (2) the expanded infrastructure (both human and physical resources) required at Canada’s 16 health science centres as a result of increased enrolment. While the outlook for the future supply of physicians in Canada seems brighter, it will be quite a few years before we can benefit from the current increases in undergraduate enrolment. These initiatives must not only continue, but be enhanced to ensure that our health care system is sustainable into the future. However, there is one factor that may keep us from attaining the optimal level of medical school enrolment – high and rising medical school tuition fees. In August 2000, at the Conference of Premiers, Prime Minister Chretien said, “It is indeed important in the new knowledge-based economy that Canadians … have access to high quality post-secondary education without excessive debt loads, and that every child get the best possible start in life. This is all part of the Canadian competitive advantage.” 28 This sounds well and good, but the facts tell us otherwise. Since 1980, medical school tuition costs have increased by almost 880%, or more than twice as fast as the general cost of living. 29 The average tuition for students entering first year medical school in September 2001 was $12,840, a 158% increase over the 1997 average fee of $4,977. This means that over the course of four years, an undergraduate medical student is likely to spend approximately $110,000 in tuition, academic and living expenses. 30 Many students have had to resort to bank loans to cover the shortfall from their government-sponsored student loan, but the growing amount of debt accumulating for medical students is starting to worry the banks. The CIBC says that rising medical education costs have resulted in debt loads growing much faster than medical students’ potential income and so, it will no longer grant medical students preferred lending rates. The CIBC sets limits on the amount of debt that they feel students can repay in the years following their training. Unfortunately, medical students are now reaching these limits – which are in the $100,000 - $130,000 range. 31 Unlike the government-sponsored loans, interest on bank loans begin accruing immediately, up to a decade before a medical student starts earning a full income. This trend raises serious concerns that access to medical education will be restricted solely on the basis of personal financial resources. High debt loads will discourage capable and qualified students – particularly those from modest financial backgrounds – from applying to medical school. Canada’s health care system needs individuals from different socio-economic, cultural, rural and urban backgrounds to serve an equally diverse population of patients. First and foremost, the government must address the situation concerning the high and rising tuition fees and the insufficient financial support systems available to medical students. It must also consider purchasing additional training positions in Canada’s medical schools specifically targeted for groups, such as Aboriginal, Indian and Inuit populations. These measures will foster the education and training of a diverse population of health care givers, and will support the culturally and socially sensitive health care needs of all Canadians. The CMA sees a strong role for the federal government in ensuring that medicine remains a rewarding and affordable career accessible to students based on their passion and academic performance, not their financial status. The CMA therefore recommends: 8. That, in order to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases, the federal government increase transfer payments to the provinces/territories with targeted amounts for post-secondary education. 9. That the federal government create and fund a national health services student bursary program to encourage students who have limited financial resources to apply for an education in health care services. 10. That the federal government develop financial support systems for health services students that are: (a) non-coercive; (b) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase; (c) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase; and (d) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. 11. That the federal government purchase additional training slots in Canadian medical schools for particular segments of our population, such as aboriginals. REFERENCES 1 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. Terrorist Effect. October 23-25, 2001. 2 GPC International. Canadians split on the best response to the terrorist attacks and fear reprisals at home. Media Release October 18, 2001. www.gpcinternational.com/media/releases/20011018.html 3 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. The Public Agenda Post September 11, 2001. October 1, 2001 4 Osterholm M. Emerging infections – another warning. NEJM 2000; 342(17) http://www.nejm.org/content/2000/0342/0017/1280.asp. 5 World Health Organization. Plague Manual – Epidemiology, Distribution, Surveillance and Control. The Organization: 1999. http://www.who.int/emc-documents/plague/docs/whocdscsredc992a.pdf 6 Sanchez A. et al. Reemergence of Ebola virus in Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 1(3); July-September 1995. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol1no3/sanchez.htm. 7 Revkin A. Mosquito virus exposes the hole in the safety net. New York Times Oct. 4, 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/100499ny-pest.html 8Okie S. Tuberculosis is threatening to make a comeback. International Herald Tribune Aug. 11, 1999. http://www.iht.com/IHT/TODAY/WED/IN/tb.2.htm 9 Health Canada. When anti-tuberculosis drugs don’t work. Tuberculosis Epi Update January 2000. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/bah/epi/tbdrug_e.html. 10 BBC News Online. Africa confronts malaria. Apr. 25, 2000. http://www.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_724000/724445.stm 11World Health Organization. World Health Organization Report on Infectious Diseases – Removing Obstacles to Healthy Development. Geneva: The Organization, 1999. http://www.who.int/infectious-disease-report/pages/textonly.html 12 Ibid. 13 BBC News Online. South Africa AIDS crisis worsens. Apr. 19, 2000. http://www.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_719000/719183.stm 14 Richwine L. US declares AIDS a threat to security. National Post May 1, 2000 A1. 15 Ontario Medical Association. Ontario Medical Association Input to Walkerton Inquiry Part II: Protecting the Public’s Health. Toronto. April 2001 16 Koplan JP. Building Infrastructure to Protect the Public’s Health. Public Health Training Network Broadcast September 21, 2001 (Downloaded from Web: October 19, 2001 www.phppo.cdc.gov/documents/KoplanASTHO.pdf ) 17 Dept. of National Defence. Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Relief Team. BG-99-051 (Amended) October 10, 2001. (Downloaded from Web: October 25, 2001 [www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/2001/oct01/28DART_b_e.htm] 18 Ontario Hospital Reporting System, 2001. Acute Care Occupancy Rates, Ontario Public Hospitals by OHA region, 1999/00. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. 19 Bagust A, Place M, Posnett J. Dynamics of bed use in accommodating emergency admissions: stochastic simulation model. BMJ; 319: 155-158 July 17, 1999. 20 Nicolle L. Viruses without borders. Can J Infect Dis Vol. 11, Issue 3, May/June 2000 (Downloaded from Web: October 23, 2001: www.pulsus.com/Infdis/11_03/nico_ed.htm) 21 CIHI. Canadian Institute for Health Information Reports Moderate Rise in Register Nurses Workforce, Fewer RNs Working on Casual Basis, More Working Full-time, Media Release, May 23, 2001. 22 Canadian Medical Association. Specialty Care In Canada: Issue Identification and Policy Challenges, October 2001. 23 Canadian NewsWire. Not enough family-physicians to meet patient needs, October 25, 2001 [www.cnw.ca/releases/October2001/25/c0304.html] 24 Incentive Programs for the Recruitment and Retention of Medical and Dental Officers, http://www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/1999/jul99/05DocIncen_b_e.htm 25 Based on a linkage done by Canadian Institute for Health Information of data from Southam Medical Data Base and the America Medical Association’s Masterfile. 26 Carter K. Royal Commission on Taxation, Canada, 1966. 27 Thompson A. Taxation and Health Policy: A Discussion Paper, August 2001. 28 Letter from Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the Honorable Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba, Chair, Conference of Premiers, August 4, 2000. 29 Ontario Medical Association. Medical Education Fact Sheet, 2001. 30 Admissions/Student and Equity Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario. Budgeting Guide for Medical Students: 1999-2000. 31 Banks no longer banking on earning potential of medical students, Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 12, 2001; 164(12) 1735
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Restoring access to quality health care : Brief Submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance 1998 pre-budget consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1985
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-11-07
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-11-07
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
I. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government, in its second mandate, for continuing the pre-budget consultation process. This open process encourages public dialogue in the finance and economics of the country and the CMA appreciates the opportunity to submit its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Many issues were raised by the CMA and other health organizations, with members of the Standing Committee, at the "health roundtable" held on October 28, 1997. This brief provides greater detail of those concerns that were discussed by the members of the CMA delegation. II. BACKGROUND "Good health is fundamental to the quality of life of every Canadian. In this century, we have learned a great deal about the effective treatment of illness and disease, which requires early access to appropriate and high-quality health care services." 1 Over the past year, Canadians, their physicians and the provincial/territorial governments have all been voicing their concerns about the state of the health care system across the country. In every instance it is a united voice that shares concerns about access to quality health care services as well as the sustainability of the health care system. A consistent theme is "will the health care system be there for me or my family when needed"? Canadians perceive that access to services has further deteriorated over the past year. CMA surveys undertaken by the Angus Reid Group between the spring of 1996 and 1997 clearly demonstrate that Canadians perceive a deterioration in many critical areas of the health care system. If one looks at indicators such as waiting times over the past two years it is quite clear that Canadians have felt the cutbacks in the health care sector: * in 1997 65% reported that waiting times in emergency departments had worsened, up from 54% in 1996, * 63% reported that waiting times for surgery had worsened, up from 53% in 1996, * 50% reported that waiting times for tests had worsened, up from 43% in 1996, * 49% reported that access to specialists had worsened, up from 40% in 1996, * 64% reported that availability of nurses in hospital had worsened, up from 58% in 1996. Physicians not only provide direct care to their patients but are also concerned about their patients' access to quality health care. In Ontario, more than 16,000 were reported to be waiting for placement in long-term care institutions 2. In Newfoundland patients requiring heart surgery have had to be sent to other provinces to alleviate growing waiting lists 3 . The Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health has expressed concerns about the ability of provinces and territories to maintain current services. The Ministers state that "Federal reductions in transfer payments have created a critical revenue shortfall for the provinces and territories which has accelerated the need for system adjustments and has seriously challenged the ability of provinces and territories to maintain current services. Federal funding reductions are forcing the acceleration of change beyond the system's ability to absorb and sustain adjustments". 4 The concerns of the Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health about the ability of the system to absorb and sustain adjustments are well founded as demonstrated by the anxieties expressed by the public and by physicians. The CMA has clearly stated and continues to state that "health cuts hurt everyone". III. FEDERAL HEALTH CARE FUNDING AND THE CANADA HEALTH AND SOCIAL TRANSFER (CHST) (i). Getting the facts straight Prior to April 1, 1996 the federal government's commitment to insured health services, post-secondary education and social assistance programs could be readily determined since the federal government made separate payments 5 to the provinces/territories in each of these areas. However, with the introduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), on April 1, 1996, the federal government combined all of its payments into one transfer payment to the provinces and territories. The net result is that there are no separately identifiable contributions to health, post-secondary education or social assistance programs. The federal government's accountability and commitment to health care have been blurred. However, prior to the CHST, the federal government's diminishing commitment to health care could at least be documented. Under the Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements the federal government has unilaterally revised the EPF funding formula eight times over the past decade. During the period 1986/87 to 1995/96, it was estimated that $30 billion in cash transfers has been withheld from health care (and an additional $12.1 billion for post-secondary education - for a total of $42.1 billion) 6. Federal "offloading" has forced all provinces/territories to make do with significantly less resources for their health care systems. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1: Canada Health and Social Transfer (in $ billions) Year Total Entitlement (1) Tax Point Transfer (2) Cash Entitlement (3) Quebec Abatement (4) Cash Payments (5) Cumulative Reductions from 95/96 (6) 1997 Budget Health Items (7) 1995-96 29.7 11.2 18.5 1.9 16.6 0.0 1996-97 26.9 11.9 15.0 2.0 13.0 (3.6) 1997-98 25.1 12.6 12.5 2.1 10.4 (9.8) 0.1 1998-99 25.8 13.3 12.5 2.2 10.3 (16.1) 0.1 1999-00 26.5 14 12.5 2.3 10.2 (22.5) 0.1 2000-01 27.1 14.6 12.5 2.4 10.1 (29.0) 2001-02 27.8 15.3 12.5 2.5 10.0 (35.6) 2002-03 28.6 16.1 12.5 2.6 9.9 (42.3) [TABLE END] The September 1997 Throne Speech stated that the government "... will introduce legislation to increase to $12.5 billion a year the guaranteed annual cash payment to provinces and territories under the Canada Health and Social Transfer" 7. Table 1 illustrates what the $12.5 billion cash entitlement will mean in terms of actual cash payments in 2002-03. The important point to remember is that this so called "increase" in the cash entitlement (3) is merely a stop in cuts . For 1998-99 the previous cash entitlement would have dropped to $11.8 billion with a further drop in 1999-00 to $11.1 billion, whereas cash entitlements are now stabilized at $12.5 billion. However, cash payments will continue to drop into the foreseeable future. Cash payments (5) exclude the Quebec abatement which is comprised of tax points not cash payments. For Canadians the CHST has meant, and continues to mean, less federal government commitment to our health care system and has compromised the federal government's ability to preserve and enhance national standards. (ii). Implications for the future of health care in Canada The reduction in federal government funding has not only compromised the federal government's ability to preserve and enhance national standards but this continued policy of "under-funding" has compromised access to quality health care for Canadians. As previously mentioned, declining public sector resources allocated to health care has manifested itself in the form of longer waiting times in emergency departments, for surgery, for diagnostic tests and in decreased access to specialists and decreased availability of nurses in hospitals. In the federal government's 1997/98 budget released this past February much fanfare was made about sustaining and improving Canada's health care system. The government announced three health care initiatives 8 totalling $300 million in expenditures over 3 years, or $100 million per year. If, on the other hand, one looks at the accumulated reduction in CHST cash payments to the provinces/territories during the same 3 years when the federal government will spend this $300 million it can be seen that the accumulated reductions total $18.9 9 billion. Therefore, during the same 3-year period the "investment" in health care by the federal government represents 1.5% of the reductions to cash payments to the provinces and territories during the same period. For the longer term, the federal government can demonstrate its commitment to health care by linking growth in CHST cash payments to factors other than the economy. The factors that are becoming increasingly important are those such as technological change, population growth and aging. Such linkage of cash payments would be less subject to fluctuations in the economy and would be an acknowledgement of the impact of technological and population structure changes on the need for health care services. From Table 2, which shows 1994 per capita provincial government health expenditures by age group, it can be concluded that as the population of Canada ages the cost structure of health care increases reflecting the fact that as we age we make greater use of the health care system to maintain our health. The age group 65 and over continues to grow, in 1994 11.9% of the population was over the age of 65, in 2016 this is projected to increase to 16% and by 2041 to 23%. 10 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2: Per Capita Provincial Government Expenditures by Age Group, Canada 1994 11 Age Group $ per Capita Increase 0-14 514 15-44 914 77.8% 45-64 1446 58.2% 65+ 6,818 371.5% Total 1,642 [TABLE END] In other areas of health care the CMA commends the federal government for their recent commitments to applied health services research. On an international basis however, Canada does not fare very well. In fact, on a per capita basis Canada came in last out of the five G-7 countries for which recent data were available. Figure 1 shows the per capita health R&D expenditures for G7 countries for which 1994 data are available. Canada's per capita spending was $22 (U.S.), compared with $35 for Japan, $59 for the U.S., $63 for France and $78 for the U.K. 12 While applied health services research is important, it must be recognized that research is a continuum beginning with basic biomedical research, moving to clinical research and ending with applied health services research. The CMA is concerned with the governments plans to cut the annual budget of the Medical Research Council (MRC) from $238 million in 1997-98 to $219 million in 2000-01. In Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's reply to the Speech from the Throne on September 24, 1997 he states that there is " . . . no better role for government than to help young Canadians prepare for the knowledge-based society of the next century." He then makes a commitment to establish, ". . . at arms-length from government, a Canada Millennium Scholarship Endowment Fund." which is to reward academic excellence. The Government of Canada should also be reminded that a knowledge-based society and scholarship also requires a commitment to research funds. Therefore the CMA calls on the Federal Government to establish national targets for spending and an implementation plan for health care research. Such an approach would buttress the other initiatives as announced by the Prime Minister. To restore access to quality health care for all Canadians, the CMA respectfully recommends: 1. At a minimum, that the federal government restore CHST cash entitlements to 1996/97 levels. 2. That, beginning April 1, 1998, the federal government fully index CHST cash payments through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account: technology, economic growth, population growth and demographics. 3. That the federal government establish a national target (either in per capita terms or as a proportion of total health spending) and an implementation plan for health research and development spending including the full spectrum of basic biomedical to applied health services research, with the objective of improving Canada's position relative to other G-7 countries where we now rank last among the five G-7 countries for which recent data are available. IV. HEALTHY PUBLIC POLICY The federal role in funding health care is clearly important to physicians and to their patients given its influence on access to quality health care services. However, there are other important issues that the CMA would like to bring to the attention of the Standing Committee on Finance. (i). Tobacco Taxation Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality in Canada. The most recent estimates suggest that more than 45,000 deaths annually in Canadaaredirectlyattributable to tobacco use., The estimated economic cost to society from tobacco use in Canada has been estimated from $11 billion to $15 billion. Tobacco use directly costs the Canadian health care system $3 billion to $3.5 billion annually. These estimates do not consider intangible costs such as pain and suffering. CMA is concerned that the 1994 reduction in the federal cigarette tax has had a significant effect in slowing the decline in cigarette smoking in the Canadian population, particularly in the youngest age groups - where the number of young smokers (15-19) is in the 22% to 30% range and 14% for those age 10-14. A 1997 Canada Health Monitor Survey found that smoking among girls 15-19 is at 42%. A Quebec study found that smoking rates for high school students went from 19% to 38%, between 1991 and 1996. The CMA understands that tobacco tax strategies are extremely complex. Strategies need to consider the effects of tax increases on reduced consumption of tobacco products with increases in interprovincial/territorial and international smuggling. In order to tackle this issue, the government could consider a selective tax strategy. This strategy requires continuous stepwise increases to tobacco taxes in those selective areas with lower tobacco tax (i.e., Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada). The goal of selective increases in tobacco tax is to increase the price to the tobacco consumer over time (65-70% of tobacco products are sold in Ontario and Quebec). The selective stepwise tax increases will approach but may not achieve parity amongst all provinces however, the tobacco tax will attain a level such that inter-provincial/territorial smuggling would be unprofitable. The selective stepwise increases would need to be monitored so that the new tax level and US/Canadian exchange rates does not make international smuggling profitable. The objectives of this strategy are: * reduce tobacco consumption; * minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products; and * minimize international smuggling of tobacco products. The selective stepwise increase in tobacco taxes can be combined with other tax strategies. The federal government should apply the export tax and remove the exemption available on shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels. The objective of implementing the export tax would be to make cross-border smuggling unprofitable. The ultimate goals for implementing this strategy are: * reduce international smuggling of tobacco products; * reduce and/or minimize Canadian consumption of internationally smuggled tobacco products. The federal government should establish a dialogue with the US federal government. Canada and the US should hold discussions regarding harmonizing US tobacco taxes to Canadian levels at the factory gate. Alternatively, US tobacco taxes could be raised to a level that when offset with the US/Canada exchange rate differential renders international smuggling unprofitable. The objective of implementing the harmonizing US/Canadian tobacco tax levels (at or near the Canadian levels) would be to increase the price of internationally smuggled tobacco products to the Canadian and American consumers. The ultimate goals for implementing this strategy are: * reduce risk of international smuggling of tobacco products from both the Canadian and American perspective; * reduce and/or minimize Canadian/American consumption of internationally smuggled tobacco products. 4. The Canadian Medical Association is recommending that the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy: (a) That the federal government implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: * reduce tobacco consumption, * minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, * minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; (b) That the federal government apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels; (c) That the federal government enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, bringing US tobacco tax levels in line with or near Canadian levels, in order to minimize international smuggling. The Excise Act Review, A Proposal for a Revised Framework for the Taxation of Alcohol and Tobacco Products (1996), proposes that tobacco excise duties and taxes (Excise Act and Excise Tax Act) for domestically produced tobacco products be combined into a new excise duty and come under the jurisdiction of the Excise Act. The new excise duty is levied at the point of packaging where the products are produced. The Excise Act Review also proposes that the tobacco customs duty equivalent and the excise tax (Customs Tariff and Excise Tax Act) for imported tobacco products be combined into the new excise duty [equivalent tax to domestically produced tobacco products] and come under the jurisdiction of the Excise Act. The new excise duty will be levied at the time of importation. The CMA supports the proposal of the Excise Act Review. It is consistent with previous CMA recommendations calling for tobacco taxes at the point of production. (ii). Tobacco Control Taxation should be used in conjunction with other strategies for promoting healthy public policy, such as, programs for tobacco prevention and cessation. The Liberal party, recognising the importance of this type of strategy , promised: "...to double the funding for the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy from $50 million to $100 million over five years, investing the additional funds in smoking prevention and cessation programs for young people, to be delivered by community organizations that promote the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth". The CMA applauds the federal government's efforts in the area of tobacco prevention and cessation. However, a time limited investment is not enough. More money is required for investment in this area. Program funding is required for more efforts and programs in tobacco prevention and cessation. A possible source for this type of program investment could come from tobacco tax revenues or the tobacco surtax. 5. In the short term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to fulfil the its promise to invest $100 million, over five years, into the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. In the longer term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to establish stable program funding for its comprehensive tobacco control strategy, including smoking prevention and cessation. (iii). Non-taxable health benefits The federal government is to be commended for its decision to maintain the non-taxable status of supplementary health benefits. This decision is an example of the federal governments' commitment to maintain good tax policy that supports good health policy (the current incentive fosters risk pooling). Approximately 70% or 20 million Canadians rely on full or partial private supplementary health care benefits (e.g., dental, drugs, vision care, private duty nursing, etc.). As governments reduce the level of public funding, the private component of health expenditures is expanding. Canadians are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of private insurance. In the context of funding those health care services that remain public benefits, the government cannot strike yet another blow to individual Canadians and to Canadian business by taxing the very benefits for which taxes were raised. In terms of fairness, it would seem unfair to "penalize" 70% of Canadians by taxing supplementary health benefits to put them on an equal basis with the remaining 30%. It would be preferable to develop incentives to allow the remaining 30% of Canadians to achieve similar benefits attributable to the tax status of supplementary health benefits. If supplementary health benefits were to become taxable, it is likely that young healthy people would opt for cash compensation instead of paying taxes on benefits they do not receive. These Canadians would become uninsured for supplementary health services. It follows that employer-paid premiums may increase as a result of this exodus in order to offset the additional costs of maintaining benefit levels due to diminishing ability to achieve risk pooling. In addition, 6. That the current federal government policy with respect to non-taxable health benefits be maintained. V. FAIR AND EQUITABLE TAX POLICY CMA has demonstrated that good economic policy reinforces good health policy in past submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance. The CMA again reiterated the important role that fair tax policy plays in supporting healthy public policy. (i). The Goods and Services Tax (GST)& the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) The CMA strongly believes in a tax system that is fair and equitable. This point has been made on several occasions to the Standing Committee on Finance. In particular, the point was stressed as part of the Standing Committee's consultation process leading to the report "Replacing the GST: Options for Canada". In the case of the GST, however, the reality is that physicians as self-employed Canadians are singled out and discriminated against by virtue of not being able to claim input tax credits (ITCs) since medical services are designated as "tax exempt". The CMA does not dispute the importance that the federal government has attached to medical services such that Canadians are not subject to GST/HST for having availed themselves of such medical services from their physician. However, the GST/HST are consumption taxes and as such are paid for by the end consumer. If, however, government determines that such a consumption tax should not be applied to the consumers (in this case physicians' patients) of a particular good or service it behooves government not to implement half measures that bring into question the equity and fairness of the Canadian tax system. While other self-employed professionals and small business claim ITCs, an independent (KPMG) study has estimated that physicians have "over contributed" in terms of unclaimed ITCs to the extend of $57.2 million per year. Since the inception of the GST and by the end of this calendar year, physicians will have been unfairly taxed in excess of $400 million. All this for providing a necessary service that has been deemed so important by government. Physicians are not asking for special treatment. What they are asking for, however, is to be treated in a fair and equitable manner like other self-employed Canadians and small businesses. Unlike other businesses and professionals, physicians cannot recoup the GST/HST by claiming ITCs or passing the GST/HST onto customers/patients. The federal government has acknowledged the inequitable impact of the GST/HST on other providers in the health care sector. Municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals have been given special consideration because they, like physicians, are not able to pass the GST/HST on to their clients. Hospitals have been afforded an 83% rebate for purchases made in providing patient care while physicians must absorb the full GST/HST costs on purchases also made in providing patient care. At a time when health policy measures are attempting to expand community-based practices, the current tax policy (and now harmonized tax policy) which taxes supplies in a clinical practice setting but not in a hospital setting acts to discourage this shift in emphasis. To complicate matters further, the recent agreement between the federal government and some Atlantic provinces to harmonize their sales taxes will make matters worse for physicians. With no ability to claim ITCs, physicians will, once again, have to absorb the additional costs associated with the practice of medicine. It has been estimated that harmonization will cost physicians in Atlantic Canada an additional $4.7 million each year (over and above the current GST inequity). In the current fiscal environment, this unresolved issue does not help matters when it comes to physician recruitment and retention across the country. Furthermore, for established physicians who have had to live with the current policy, the GST/HST serves as a constant reminder that the basic and fundamental principles of equity and fairness in the tax system is not being extended to the physicians of Canada. To date, the CMA has made representations to the Minister of Finance and Finance Department Officials but yet to no avail. We look to this Committee and to the federal government to not only ensure that the tax system is perceived to be fair and equitable but that it is in fact fair and equitable to all members of society. The unfairness of the GST/HST, as applied to medical services, has raised the ire of physicians and has made them question their sense of fair play in Canada's tax system. In the interests of fairness and equity, the CMA respectfully recommends the following: 7. The CMA recommends that health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. The above recommendation could be accomplished by amending the Excise Tax Act as follows: (1). Section 5 part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is replaced by the following: 5. "A supply (other than a zero-rated supply) made by a medical practitioner of a consultative, diagnostic, treatment or other health care service rendered to an individual (other than a surgical or dental service that is performed for cosmetic purposes and not for medical or reconstructive purposes)." (2). Section 9 Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is repealed. (3). Part II of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act is amended by adding the following after section 40: 41. A supply of any property or service but only if, and to the extent that, the consideration for the supply is payable or reimbursed by the government under a plan established under an Act of the legislature of the province to provide for health care services for all insured persons of the province. Our recommendation fulfils at least two over-arching policy objectives: 1) strengthening the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and 2) applying the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases. (ii). Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) Experts have stated that there are (at least) two fundamental goals of retirement savings: (1) to guarantee a basic level of retirement income for all Canadians; and, (2) to assist Canadians in avoiding serious disruption of their pre-retirement living standards upon retirement. Looking at the demographic picture in Canada, we can see that an increasing portion of society is not only aging, but is living longer. Assuming that current demographic trends will continue and peak in the first quarter of the next century, it is important to recognize the role that private RRSPs savings will play in ensuring that Canadians may continue to live dignified lives well past their retirement from the labour force. This becomes even more critical when one considers that Canadians are not setting aside sufficient resources for their retirement. Specifically, according to Statistics Canada, it is estimated that 53% of men and 82% of women starting their career at age 25 will require financial aid at retirement age - only 8% of men and 2% women will be financially secure. The 1996 federal government policy changes with respect to RRSP contribution limits run counter to the White Paper released in 1983 (The Tax Treatment of Retirement Savings), where the House of Commons Special Committee on Pension Reform recommended that the limits on contributions to tax-assisted retirement savings plans be amended so that the same comprehensive limit would apply regardless of the retirement savings vehicle or combination of vehicles used. In short, the Liberal government endorsed the principle of "pension parity". According to three more recent papers released by the federal government, the principle of pension parity would have been achieved between money-purchase (MP) plans and defined benefit (DB) plans had RRSP contribution limits risen to $15,500 in 1988. The federal government postponed the scheduling of the $15,500 limit for seven years, that is achieving the goal pension parity was delayed until 1995. In its 1996 Budget Statement, the federal government altered its course of action and froze the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 through to 2003/04, with increases to $14,500 and $15,500 in 2004/05 and 2005/06, respectively. As well, the maximum pension limit for defined benefit registered pension plans will be frozen at its current level of $1,722 per year of service through 2004/05. This is a de facto increase in tax payable. The CMA is frustrated that ten years of careful and deliberate government planning around pension reform has not come to fruition, in fact if the current policy remains in place will have taken more than 17 years to implement (from 1988 to 2005). As a consequence, the current policy of freezing RRSP contribution limits and RPP limits without making adjustments to RRSP limits to achieve pension parity serves to maintain inequities between the two plans until 2005/2006. This is patently unfair for self-employed Canadians who rely on RRSPs as their sole vehicle for retirement planning. CMA respectfully recommends to the Standing Committee: 8. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 increase to $14,500 and $15,500 in 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, respectively. Subsequently, dollar limits increase at the growth in the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE). VI. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS With the future access to quality health care for all Canadians at stake, the CMA strongly believes that the federal government must demonstrate that it is prepared to take a leadership role and re-invest in the health care of Canadians. The CMA therefore makes the following recommendations to the Standing Committee in its deliberations: Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) 1. At a minimum, that the federal government restore CHST cash entitlements to 1996/97 levels. 2. That, beginning April 1, 1998, the federal government fully index CHST cash payments through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account: technology, economic growth, population growth and demographics. 3. That the federal government establish a national target (either in per capita terms or as a proportion of total health spending) and an implementation plan for health research and development spending including the full spectrum of basic biomedical to applied health services research, with the objective of improving Canada's position relative to other G-7 countries where we now rank last among the five G-7 countries for which recent data are available. Tobacco Taxation 4. The Canadian Medical Association is recommending that the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy: (a) That the federal government implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: < reduce tobacco consumption, < minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, < minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; (b) That the federal government apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels; (c) That the federal government enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, bringing US tobacco tax levels in line with or near Canadian levels, in order to minimize international smuggling. Tobacco Control 5. In the short term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to fulfil the its promise to invest $100 million, over five years, into the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. In the longer term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to establish stable program funding for its comprehensive tobacco control strategy, including tobacco prevention and cessation. Non-Taxable Health Benefits 6. That the current federal government policy with respect to non-taxable health benefits be maintained. The Goods and Services Tax (GST)& the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) 7. The CMA recommends that health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) 8. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 increase to $14,500 and $15,500 in 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, respectively. Subsequently, dollar limits increase at the growth in the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE). 13 1 Liberal Party, Securing Our Future Together. The Liberal Party of Canada, , Ottawa, 1997. p. 71. 2 Lipovenko, D,1997: Seniors face shortage of care. Globe & Mail [Toronto]; Feb 26 Sect A:5 3 Joan Marie Aylward, Minister of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador, public statement, May 14, 1997 4 Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health, A Renewed Vision for Canada's Health System. January 1997. p. 7. 5 Thomson, A., Diminishing Expectations - Implications of the CHST, [report] Canadian Medical Association, Ottawa. May, 1996. 6 Thomson A: Federal Support for Health Care: A Background Paper. Health Action Lobby, June 1991. 7 Speech from the Throne to Open the First Session Thirty-Sixth Parliament of Canada. Ottawa; 1997 Sept 23. 8 Health Transition Fund: $150 million over 3 years - to help provinces to test ways to improve their health system, for example, new approaches to home care, drug coverage, and other innovations. Canada Health Information System: $50 million over 3 years - to create a network for health care providers and planners for sharing information. Community Action Program for Children: $100 million over 3 years - for support of community groups for parent education for children at risk and for Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program to ensure the birth of healthy babies. 9 See Table 1: Cumulative reductions to 1999/00 of $22.5 billion subtracting $3.6 billion for 1996/97 gives a cumulative reduction during 1997/98 to 1999/00 of $18.9 billion. 10 Statistics Canada, Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories 1993-2016. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 1994. p. 73. Cat no 91-520 [occasional]. 11 Health Canada, National Health Expenditures in Canada, 1975-1994 [Full Report]. Ottawa: Health Canada; January 1996. p. 41. 12 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD Health Data 97. Paris: OECD; 1997. 13 Cunningham R, Smoke and Mirrors: The Canadian War on Tobacco, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, 1996. p. 8. "Restoring Access to Quality Health Care" 1998 Pre-Budget Consultations Page " 1998 Pre-Budget Consultations Page
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Rural and remote health in Canada : Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2017
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2001-05-31
Topics
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2001-05-31
Topics
Health human resources
Text
As Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I am here today representing our members, more than 50,000 physicians from across Canada. The Association has a two-fold mission, namely to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standards of health and health care for Canadians. The CMA wants to expand significantly on part of its May 16th presentation to this Committee on health human resources. The issue of rural and remote health is of concern to the CMA and we commend the Committee for tackling this complex and very important aspect of Canada's health care system. Our presentation will focus primarily on physician workforce issues in rural and remote practice locations. Most would agree that the health care infrastructure and level of professional support in rural and remote areas of Canada are insufficient to provide appropriate care, and contribute significantly to the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified physicians in sufficient numbers (relative to community needs). I will address the following elements: 1. the distribution of physicians practising in rural and remote Canada; 2. their practice profile; 3. what rural physicians are telling us; 4. the CMA Policy on Rural and Remote Practice Issues; and 5. the role for the Federal Government in ensuring reasonable access to health care in these parts of the country. 1. Distribution of physicians practising in rural and remote Canada As you know, Statistics Canada informs us that approximately 25% of Canadians live in rural areas. This number varies from 15% in British Columbia and Ontario to 45% in Atlantic Canada and as high as 60% in the territories. The distribution of physicians is somewhat different. The following data are derived from the CMA physician resources database: * Approximately 10% of Canadian physicians practise outside census metropolitan areas or census agglomerations. This roughly translates to communities of 10,000 or less and for research purposes we consider this cohort to be rural physicians. * There are about 5,700 rural physicians, 87% of which are family physicians. The male/female split is similar to the overall physician pool in Canada but, among those under 35 years of age, half are female. This reflects the current breakdown of the postgraduate output and implies that females are just as likely to seek out rural practice as males. * While Quebec and Ontario are home to almost half of all rural physicians in Canada, Newfoundland has the highest proportion of rural doctors (31%) followed by New Brunswick at 23% and Nova Scotia at 21%. The territories are considered separately since one could argue that even those physicians living in northern cities would be considered to be practising in a remote area. * The majority of rural physicians are graduates of Canadian medical schools (72%) but it varies greatly by region. In Newfoundland, one in three rural physicians is a Canadian graduate; in Saskatchewan, it is only one in five. In contrast, 95% of Quebec rural physicians were trained in this country. 2. Practice profile The CMA routinely surveys the Canadian physician population. Response rates for the surveys mentioned in this brief are shown in Table 1. The following data from CMA's 2000 Physician Resource Questionnaire will be of interest to the Committee: * rural physicians are more likely to be in group practice than urban physicians (68% vs. 58%); * 78% of rural physicians take call (compared to 75% of urban physicians); * excluding their on-call time commitments, rural physicians report spending the same number of hours on direct patient care as urban physicians; * however, rural physicians are on-call for more hours in a month than their urban colleagues; not only do they see more patients while on-call but they also spend more hours providing services; * rural physicians are more likely to be compensated for being on-call, whether it is for carrying a phone or pager (37% are compensated vs 10% of urban physicians) or being available on-site (60% are compensated vs 31% of urban physicians); * while more than half of rural physicians are paid primarily on a fee-for-service basis, proportionately fewer physicians are remunerated this way (53%) compared with 63% of urban physicians. Rural physicians are more likely than their city colleagues to be paid with a salary or some type of blended arrangement. When asked how they would prefer to be paid, 40% selected blended compared to 30% of urban doctors. Less than a third (31%) preferred fee-for-service. Please see Table 2 for an overview of these results. 3. What rural physicians are telling us In the last ten years, in addition to CMA's annual general physician resource questionnaire, two surveys (in 1991 and 1999) were specifically designed to address issues pertaining to physicians practising in rural and remote areas of Canada. I would like to highlight some results from both these surveys. 1991 Survey * Over half of the survey respondents selected desire for rural practice as a very important factor in the decision to locate in a rural area (Figure 1). Only 11% reported financial incentives as being very important. * The physicians who moved from a rural to an urban area were asked about the importance of selected professional considerations (Figure 2). Hours of work was by far the most frequently cited as very important (39%), followed by the need for professional backup (28%) and access to specialty services (24%). * The physicians who moved from a rural to an urban area were asked about the importance of selected personal considerations (Figure 3). Children's educational opportunities was the most frequently cited (by 36%) as very important among the personal considerations, followed by career opportunities for their spouse. * The physicians who moved from a rural to an urban area indicated that there were a number of professional factors that might have influenced them to stay (Figure 4). These factors include additional colleagues (56%), locum tenens (48%), opportunity for group practice (41%) and specialist services (36%). 1999 Survey * In a tracking question from the survey conducted eight years previously, the 1999 survey found that, while rural physicians' level of personal satisfaction with their choice to practise and live in rural communities has remained constant, their level of professional satisfaction - i.e., how they are able to meet the health care needs of their patients - fell significantly since the early 1990s. In a striking example, only 17% reported being very satisfied with the availability of hospital services in 1999 compared to 40% in 1991. * Rural physicians identified the following five factors as being most important in defining their practice community as rural: (1) a high level of on-call duty; (2) the long distance to a community health centre or hospital; (3) lack of services from medical specialists; (4) an insufficient number of family physicians or general practitioners; and (5) the long distance to a teaching hospital (tertiary health care centre). CMA's findings were supported by the 1999 report from Barer and colleagues 1 that identified the following barriers to recruiting and retaining physicians in underserviced communities in Canada: (1) lack of adequate training for the unique circumstances associated with practising medicine in rural environments; (2) remuneration issues; (3) onerous on-call duties and, more generally, heavy workload leading to burnout; (4) professional isolation; (5) lack of spousal employment opportunities; (6) children's education and extracurricular opportunities; (7) climate, recreational and cultural opportunities; and (8) distance from family and friends. CMA 2001 Physician Resource Questionnaire To illustrate some of these findings and highlight some of the positive events, the following quotes are taken from CMA's most recent survey of physicians (the response rate is unavailable for this survey which is still in the field): I know one of the biggest problems my rural colleagues suffer from is lack of locums and difficulty replacing doctors in the community leading to heavier patient loads and responsibilities. This has particularly become worse since medical students have had to choose earlier about specialties with less options to return later. Somehow students and residents should be exposed to more rural medicine. Rural surgical specialists have onerous responsibilities placed upon them with little backup, expectations for 24/7 call coverage ad no financial compensation or recognition for their unwavering devotion to their communities and their profession. My colleagues and I are a dying breed and do not expect that we will be replaced. There is little incentive to practise in a rural environment yet the need continues to grow. Although Fort Frances is rural/remote, we have managed to recruit and retain excellent physicians. We service a catchment area of 22,000 and have 10 MD's on the call rotation. We are an example of how you can live rural/remote, practise interesting medicine and have great quality of life. Most people would think we are over-doctored here but it is the only way we can sustain a healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless the lifestyle of on-call, long irregular hours, and a physician spouse has been hard on the family and relationship. I dream of having regular hours and never having to answer the phone in the middle of the night. 4. CMA Policy on Rural and Remote Practice Issues In October of last year, the CMA released its Policy on Rural and Remote Practice Issues. A copy of this policy is appended to this presentation. The policy contains 28 specific recommendations in the three key areas of training requirements for physicians practising (or wanting to practise) in rural and remote Canada, compensation, and work and lifestyle support issues. The policy illustrates the breadth of issues that need to be addressed before we can hope to alleviate the shortage of the rural physician workforce. The CMA believes that strategies developed to recruit and retain physicians to rural and remote Canada must be comprehensive, flexible and varied to meet and respond to local needs and interests; they must also include, from the outset, community and physician input. The CMA also believes that, as a general rule, these strategies should not be coercive in nature, for example mandatory return-in-service contracts with new medical students. However, this is not to say that strong, positive incentive programs would not work. The Nova Scotia Department of Health, for example, developed a successful incentive program for physicians (including a guaranteed minimum income, a signing bonus and moving expenses, among others) and, importantly, hired a full-time recruiter to implement it. Under this program, 52 physicians were recruited in 1999, 50 in 2000 and 15 so far in 2001; none of these physicians were actively recruited from other Atlantic Canada provinces. There are also examples from the international scene. In Australia, the National Rural Health Strategy involved funding a rural incentives program and the creation of the Australian Rural Health Research Institute (a consortium of five universities with rural campuses). The Australian Journal of Rural Health was also funded through this strategy. The incentive program included relocation grants, grants for continuing medical education and funding for temporary replacements (locums). While this strategy has been well received, there are still many problems of reasonable access to primary care in many parts of rural Australia. In the United States, a financial incentive program, with its roots in the HMO act of 1973, uses an index of medical underservice to determine which areas receive the most funding. The CMA developed an index of rurality in 1999 which could be used in a similar fashion should the federal government decide to become involved in a similar program. 5. Role for the Federal Government The CMA and others have identified a number of issues that need to be addressed to increase physician recruitment and retention in rural and remote Canada. While our presentation appropriately focuses on the physician workforce issue, this situation applies to other health care professions as well. On this note, the CMA has recently embarked on a study, in collaboration with the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Nurses Association, that will examine the rural workforce of a number of health care professions. We understand that, constitutionally, it is the role and responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments to oversee the provision of health care within their respective jurisdictions. Nonetheless, the CMA has identified five major leadership opportunities for the Federal Government in ensuring that Canadians who live in rural and remote areas have access to appropriate health care. These opportunities are in delivery, evaluation, immigration, planning and funding. Allow me to expand on each of these: i) Delivery: the Federal Government already has a health care delivery role in rural and remote Canada through the Indian and Northern Health Services Directorate of Health Canada. It would be important and valuable to identify lessons learned from this role and share this knowledge with all jurisdictions and players (for example, how physicians can best work with out-post nurses). ii) Evaluation: the CMA applauds the creation of the federal Office of Rural Health within Health Canada. We encourage the Federal Government to expand the role of this office so it can carry out an ongoing evaluation and roll-up of rural health and workforce status; this would become a reliable source of information for researchers, planners and decision-makers. iii) Immigration: in order to meet the short-term health care needs of Canadians, the CMA encourages the Federal Government, through Bill C-11, to develop an immigration policy that is friendly towards qualified international medical graduates. At the same time, any such policy must recognize the need for Canada to strive for reasonable self-sufficiency in the production of physicians. iv) Planning: we need a national planning approach for the short, medium and long term. Again, the CMA encourages the Federal Government to expand the role of its Office of Rural Health, with adequate support and funding, to carry out a comprehensive workforce needs assessment in rural and remote Canada. This information is critical to a successful planning process. v) Funding: finally, there is a role for the Federal Government in funding a mechanism whereby physicians and other health care professionals who want to prepare for practice in rural and remote Canada can obtain the appropriate training and experience. This is one of the main identified barriers to recruitment and retention in rural and remote areas. There is a precedent for the Federal Government in providing one time only funding to create capacity: this was in the 1966 Health Resources Fund Act, whereby the Federal Government funded the creation of new medical schools and the expansion of existing ones. The Federal Government could do the same thing now for the rural and remote workforce capacity. As you know, the Government of Ontario has recently announced the creation of its Northern Ontario Rural Medical School. This begs the question about the rest of the country and opens the door to the Federal Government to work with the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, the CMA and other relevant medical education organizations to address this issue on a national scale. I want to thank the Committee for inviting us to appear today and we trust that we will have further opportunities to appear before this Committee and work with you during the course of this study. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1 - Response Rates of CMA Surveys to Rural Physicians Year Response rate Sample size of respondents Accuracy level (19 times out of 20) 1991 CMA survey Rural cohort Rural to urban cohort 55% 49% n = 1320 n = 196 +/- 2.7% +/- 7.0% 1999 CMA Rural survey 31% n = 1658 +/- 2.5% 2000 CMA Physician Resource Questionnaire 40% (rural respondents) n = 253 rural respondents +/- 6.2% [TABLE END] [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 - Results of the CMA 2000 Physician Resource Questionnaire Rural Urban Take call 78.3% 75.4% Hours of shared call per month 175 hrs/month 139 hrs/month Patients attended while on call 73 per month 41 per month Hours spent providing service while on call 56 hrs/month 34 hrs/month Group Practice 68.4% 58.2% Remuneration 90%+ professional income from fee-for-service Preference for fee-for-service mode Preference for blended mode 52.6% 30.8% 40.3% 63.0% 38.1% 29.7% [TABLE END] 1 Barer M. et al. Toward Improved Access to Medical Services for Relatively Underserved Populations: Canadian Approaches, Foreign Lessons. Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, University of British Columbia, May 1999.
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The impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on Canadian physicians : Brief submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2023
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-01-21
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-01-21
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government for its clear and open process, and for encouraging a dialogue in areas of tax policy and economics. Canadians from all walks of life look to the government for strong and constructive leadership in this area. The CMA therefore appreciates the opportunity to present its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance as it considers Bill C-70 "An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related Acts." The CMA has appeared before the Committee on several occasions when it has considered matters pertaining to federal tax policy in Canada. In addition to our submissions, as part of the government's pre-budget consultation process, the CMA appeared before the Committee when it examined a number of tax policy alternatives to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1994. 1 At that time, the CMA clearly articulated the medical profession's concerns about the need to implement a federal sales tax system that is simplified, fair and equitable for all. The CMA remains strongly committed to the principles that underpin an efficient and effective sales tax system. However, it is of the strong view that there is, on the one hand, a need to review the relationship between sales tax policy and health care policy in Canada, and between the sales tax policy and the physicians as providers of services, on the other. Canada's health care system is a defining characteristic of what makes Canada special. It is no secret that funding for the health care system is under stress and all providers, including physicians, are being asked to shoulder their responsibility in controlling costs and responding to this fiscal challenge. However, physicians have had their costs of providing medical services increased by the federal government through the introduction of the GST. Specifically, the introduction of the GST as it applies to physicians serves as a constant reminder that there still remain some tax policy anomalies - that, without amendment, their consequences will be significantly magnified with the introduction of a proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) on April 1, 1997, as was the case with the introduction of the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) on July 1, 1992. The tax anomaly is a result of the current categorization of medical services as "tax exempt" under the Excise Tax Act. As a consequence, physicians are, on the one hand, in the unenviable position of being denied the ability to claim a GST tax refund (that is, denied the ability to claim input tax credits - ITCs), on the medical supplies (such as medical equipment, medical supplies, rent, utilities) necessary to deliver quality health care, and on the other, cannot pass the tax onto those who purchase such services (i.e., the provincial and territorial governments). Physicians, from coast to coast, are understandably angry that they have been singled out for unfair treatment under the GST, QST and the soon to be implemented HST. II. BACKGROUND The GST was designed to be a " consumer-based tax" where the tax charged for purchases during the "production process" would be refunded - with the consumer, not producer of a good or a service, bearing the full burden of the tax. As a result, self-employed individuals and small businesses are eligible to claim a tax refund of the GST from the federal government on purchases that are required in most commercial activities. It is important to understand that those who can claim a tax refund under the GST in most commercial activities will still be able to do so with the proposed introduction of a harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada. The rate is proposed to be set at 15% (7% federal tax, 8% provincial tax). In the case of medical services, the consumer (i.e., the one who purchases such services) is almost always the provincial and territorial governments. Since the provincial and territorial governments do not pay GST (due to their Constitutional exemption), one would have expected the cost of providing medical services to be free of GST. However, this is not the case. It is difficult to reconcile federal health care policies to preserve and protect publicly funded health care with tax policy which singles out and taxes the costs of medical services. Regrettably, physicians find themselves in an untenable situation of "double jeopardy". This is patently unfair and on the basis of the fundamental principles of administering a fair and equitable tax system should be amended accordingly. In an effort to document the impact of the federal government's decision to designate medical services as tax exempt, an independent study by the accounting firm KPMG estimated that physicians' costs increased by $60 million of GST per year. 2 Since 1991, this total is now in excess of $360 million. The recent agreement between the federal government and Atlantic provinces (except Prince Edward Island) to harmonize their sales taxes will make matters significantly worse for physicians as the HST broadens the provincial tax base to essentially that of the GST in those provinces. With no ability to claim a tax refund on the GST they currently pay (and the proposed HST effective April 1, 1997), physicians once again will have to absorb the additional costs associated with the practice of medicine. In assessing the impact of the proposed HST, KPMG has estimated that physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland will be out-of-pocket an additional $4.7 million each year because they are not eligible for a tax refund for their purchases. 3 The medical profession, is not looking for special treatment. What we are asking for is to be treated no differently than other self-employed Canadians and small businesses who have the opportunity to claim ITCs, and to be placed on the same footing with other health care providers who have the ability to recoup GST costs. Physicians, as self-employed individuals are considered small businesses for tax purposes, therefore, it seems entirely reasonable that they should have the same tax rules that apply to other small businesses. This is a question of fundamental fairness. III. POLICY CONTEXT Prior to the introduction of the GST, the federal sales tax (FST) was included in the price of most goods (not services) that were produced in, or imported to, Canada. Therefore, when goods were purchased by consumers, the FST was built into the price. At that time, physicians, and other self-employed Canadians and small businesses, were essentially on a level sales tax playing field. Since 1991, however, the introduction of the GST has tilted the table against physicians. Unless this situation is rectified, with the introduction of the HST, physicians in Atlantic Canada will join those in Quebec who experience additional costs due to the GST and their provincial sales tax using the same rules. (i). The Impact of the GST on Good Tax Policy and Good Health Care Policy When it reviews Bill C-70, the Standing Committee on Finance should look for opportunities where tax policy and health care policy go hand-in-hand. The principle of aligning good health policy with sound tax policy is critical to managing change while serving to lay down a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the current GST policy introduces a series of distortions that have tax policy and health policy working against one another. Tax policies that do not reinforce health policy are bad tax policies. Consider, for example: 1. Under the current system, hospitals (under the "MUSH" formula - Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals) have been afforded an 83% rebate on GST paid for purchases made while physicians must absorb the full GST cost on their supplies. At a time when health policy initiatives across Canada are attempting to expand community-based practices, the current GST policy (and now harmonized sales tax policy) which taxes supplies in a private clinic setting while rebating much of the tax in a hospital setting acts to discourage the shift in emphasis; 2. Prescription drugs are zero-rated. The objective was to ensure that pharmaceutical firms are no worse off than under the previous federal sales tax regime. Recognizing that medical services can play an equally important role as drugs, it appears inconsistent that the government would choose to have drugs as tax free, and medical services absorbing GST; 3. In the current fiscal climate, the current GST policy, and now the proposed harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada, is threatening to harm the important role when it comes to recruitment and retention of physicians across Canada, and in particular, the Atlantic provinces - where they are already experiencing difficulty; and, 4. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Physicians play an important role in job creation. The disproportionate effects of the GST policy could have an adverse effect on the number of individuals employed by physicians. With these issues at hand, it is apparent that good tax policy and good health policy are themselves not synchronized and are working at cross purposes. At this point, when the Standing Committee is reviewing Bill C-70, it is the time to address this situation based on the fundamental principle of fairness in the tax system, while ensuring that good tax policy reinforces good health care policy. (ii). Not All Health Care Services Are Created Equal under the GST/HST Physicians are not the only group of health care providers whose services are placed under the category of "tax exempt", with the result that they incur increased GST costs. For example, the services of dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and chiropractors are categorized as "tax exempt". However, there is an important distinction between whether the services are government funded or not. Health care providers who deliver services privately and which are not publicly funded do have the opportunity to pass along the GST in their costs through their fee structures. For these services that are government funded there are no opportunities for physicians to recover the tax paid for purchases unless a specific rebate has been provided (e.g., hospitals). To date, in negotiations with the medical profession, no provincial/territorial government has agreed to provide funding to reflect the additional costs associated with the introduction of the GST. Their position has been that this is a "federal" matter. This becomes important when one considers that under the Canadian Constitution one level of government cannot tax another, and the provincial governments are not prepared to absorb the cost of the GST. It is critical to point out that since doctors receive 99% of their professional earnings from the government health insurance plans, 4 they have absolutely no other option when it comes to recovering the GST - they must absorb it! In summary, while a number of health care services are categorized as tax exempt, it must be emphasized that some providers "are more equal than others" under the GST - contrary to other health care providers, physicians do not have the ability to claim ITCs. This distinction becomes readily apparent when one considers the sources of (private and/or public) funding for such services. IV. THE SEARCH FOR A SOLUTION Like many others in Canadian society, physicians work hard to provide quality health care to their patients within what is almost exclusively a publicly-financed system for medical services. Physicians are no different from Canadians in that they, too, are consumers (and purchasers). As consumers, physicians pay their fair share of taxes to support the wide range of valued government services. By the same token, as providers of health care, physicians have not accepted, nor should they accept, a perpetuation of the fundamental injustices built into the current GST, QST and proposed HST arrangements. To date, the CMA has made representations to two Ministers of Finance and their Department Officials. We have discussed several ways to address a situation that is not sustainable, with no resolution to date. We look to this Committee and the federal government for a fair solution to this unresolved issue. V. RECOMMENDATION This unfair and discriminatory situation can be resolved. There is a solution that can serve to reinforce good economic policy with good health care policy in Canada. An amendment to the Excise Tax Act, the legislation which governs the GST (and proposed HST) can make an unfair situation fair to all Canadian physicians. In its recent submission to the Standing Committee as part of the 1997 pre-budget consultation process, the CMA recommended "that medical services be zero-rated, in order to achieve a fair and equitable GST policy for physicians." In order to achieve this objective all health care services, including medical services, funded by the provinces could be zero-rated. This recommendation serves to place physicians on a level playing field with other self-employed Canadians and small businesses. In addition, from a health care perspective, this would treat medical services in the same manner as that of prescription drugs. This is a reasonable proposition, as in many instances, medical treatments and drug regimens go hand-in-hand. Furthermore, this recommendation would ensure that medical services under the GST and proposed HST would be no worse off than other goods or services that provincial governments' purchase and where suppliers can claim a tax refund (i.e., ITCs). While the recommendation is an important statement in principle of what is required to address the current inequities under the GST, and soon to be HST, the CMA offers a more specific recommendation to the Standing Committee as to how the principles can be operationalized within the context of Bill C-70 and the Excise Tax Act. The CMA respectfully recommends the following: 1. "THAT HEALTH CARE SERVICES FUNDED BY THE PROVINCES BE ZERO-RATED." CMA has been advised that this would be accomplished by amending Bill C-70 as follows: (1). Section 5 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is replaced by the following: 5. "A supply (other than a zero-rated supply) made by a medical practitioner of a consultative, diagnostic, treatment or other health care service rendered to an individual (other than a surgical or dental service that is performed for cosmetic purposes and not for medical or reconstructive purposes)." (2). Section 9 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is repealed. (3). Part II of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act is amended by adding the following after section 40: 41. A supply of any property or service but only if, and to the extent that, the consideration for the supply is payable or reimbursed by the government under a plan established under an Act of the legislature of the province to provide for health care services for all insured persons of the province. VI. SUMMARY By adopting the recommendation above, the federal government would fulfil, at least two over-arching policy objectives, they are: 1. Strengthening the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and, 2. Applying the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases. ________________________ 1 the Goods and Services Tax: Fairness for Physicians, Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Ottawa, Ontario, March 15, 1994. The Canadian Medical Association. 2 Review of the Impact of the Goods and Services Tax on Canadian Physicians, KPMG, June, 1992. 3 Review of the Impact of a Provincial Value Added Tax on Physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, KPMG, August, 1996. 4 National Health Expenditures, 1975-1994, Health Canada, January 1996.
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