Results

10 records – page 1 of 1.

Turning the Corner: From Debate to Action: Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1959

Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Canadians are deeply concerned about their health care system. They worry about situations such as whether they will have access to diagnostic testing when they need it or whether they can get a family physician if they move to a new community. This is not what was envisioned when Canada embarked upon a universal public health care system in 1966. Over the past two years an unprecedented number of reports and commissions have been examining what can and must be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of the system. But Canadians are growing inpatient. The time for studying the issues is quickly passing. They are counting on governments, to listen to the reports and then act upon them quickly – turning the corner from debate to action. This year’s submission from the CMA to the Standing Committee on Finance focuses on the need for action in the short and longer terms by identifying strategic investments that will ensure a strong health care system that is securely supported by a dependable and comprehensive public health infrastructure as its foundation. Hand in hand with new financing, the CMA firmly believes that additional financing must be accompanied by updated governance structures, including a Canadian Health Charter and a Canadian Health Commission that can inject real accountability into the system. The CMA believes that the federal government has responsibility, alongside the provinces and territories, to increase its financial support of Canada’s health care system. Only by increasing funding and identifying clearly the amount allocated to health will the federal government be able to regain its position as an equal player with the provinces. In our submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the CMA recommended that the federal contribution to the public health care system be locked in for a 5-year period. We indicated that the longer-term goal would be for the federal contribution to rise to 50% of total spending for core services over time as new and improved services and technologies products became available. We also said that it should be tied to a built-in GDP-growth escalator once that target is reached. To be specific, in order to raise funding to the 50% target level the CMA recommends that funding for new services and technologies be introduced on a 50/50 cost-sharing basis. This would encourage provinces and territories to become early adopters of new technology and help to update the basket of core services available to Canadians. For illustration purposes the CMA recommends an initial investment of $16 billion over the first five years starting in 2003/04 with the majority of that funding weighted towards the back-end of the five-year period. This investment would take us partway (45 federal/55 provincial cost sharing) towards reaching our goal of 50/50 cost sharing. To further support funding for health care across the country, a buffer is needed to protect provincial and territorial health care budgets from the ebbs and flows of the economic cycle. This could be done, for example, by renewing the Fiscal Stabilisation Program or removing the cap on the current Equalisation program. In conjunction with the longer-term financing needs of Canada’s health care system, there are some urgent objectives that cannot wait for governments to finalise and implement their plan. The pressing nature of these issues warrants the use of one-time, targeted, special-purpose transfers in the areas of health human resources supply and training; capital infrastructure; and health information technology. Finally, last year, our submission reflected Canadians’ concerns following the September 11, 2001 events in the United States. It highlighted people’s anxiety about security in our country, the safety of our airlines and the vulnerability of our public health infrastructure and health care systems to potential threats. We believe that this work has not been completed and there is ongoing need to support public health as a priority for Canada’s health care system particularly in the areas of emergency preparedness, childhood immunisation and a national drug strategy. Reform of Canada’s health care system is a formidable task. It involves the participation and agreement of all levels of government as well as providers, other stakeholders and ultimately the acceptance of the end-users, Canadians. The CMA looks forward eagerly to the Romanow Commission’s recommendations and those of the Senate Committee. We will be watching carefully over the coming months on behalf of Canadian physicians, and our patients, to ensure that these discussions result in a timely, action-oriented response and that involvement of the community of providers is early, ongoing and meaningful. Canadian physicians are ready to do our part, all we ask is for the opportunity. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) values participating once again in the Standing Committee on Finance’s Pre-Budget Consultations process. We see these consultations as an essential part of Canada’s democratic process, allowing non-government organisations and individuals the opportunity to provide input into the government’s fiscal agenda. We know Canadians value their health care system and the high-quality treatment they receive. What concerns them is whether they’ll be able to access the care they need when and where they need it. The past two years have seen the most significant public concern over Canada’s health care system in a generation. Governments have responded by examining the system through an unprecedented number of reports and commissions. In addition to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow Commission) and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s work on the state of the health care system (the Kirby Commission), since 2000 there have been four other major provincial reviews of health care systems in Canada.i Canadians are now looking to governments to turn the corner from studying what needs to be done to acting upon this work. This year’s submission from the CMA to the Standing Committee on Finance focuses on this need for action in the short and longer terms by identifying strategic investments that will ensure a strong health care system that is securely supported by a dependable and comprehensive public health infrastructure as its foundation. In this way, it is the belief of the CMA that health and health care go hand in hand. The CMA believes that to achieve real reform, more than “tweaking” of our current system is required. We see change as requiring a fundamental rethinking of the system including its governance and accountability structures in order to move forward and turn the corner towards a sustainable health care system. The momentum created with the release of the Romanow Commission’s report provides a unique opportunity for the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, to capitalise on that energy by responding in a substantive way to the report within 100 days of its release with an implementation plan. We were very encouraged by the commitment made in the September 30, 2002 Speech from the Throne to hold a First Ministers’ Meeting early in 2003 to put in place a comprehensive plan for reform. We were also encouraged by the commitment to an action plan in the areas of health policy under direct federal jurisdiction such as addressing emerging health risks and the adoption of modern technology. We will be watching carefully over the coming months on behalf of Canadian physicians, and our patients, to ensure that these discussions result in a timely, action-oriented response and that involvement of the community of providers is early, ongoing and meaningful. ACCOUNTABILITY On June 6, 2002, the CMA released its final submission to the Romanow Commission, A Prescription for Sustainability. In this submission, we outlined what the Commissioner called “bold and intriguing” changes to reaffirm and realign our health care system. Specifically, the CMA report laid out an approach for the renewal of Canada’s health care system comprised of three essential interrelated components: a Canadian Health Charter; a Canadian Health Commission; and renewal of the federal legislative framework (including federal-provincial fiscal transfers). Canada’s health care system does not have the governance structures in place to provide for real accountability or transparency. Often governments meet behind closed doors and make decisions with little or no input from those who ultimately have to implement change and use the system. Rather, full accountability requires the involvement of all key players – federal and provincial/territorial governments, health care providers and patients. Fundamentally, the current lack of accountability in Canada’s health care system comes down to an inherent conflict of interest between public accountability, which Canadians are demanding, and governments’ desire to retain maximum fiscal control and flexibility. Even with increased cash transfers identified in the September 2000 First Ministers Accord, the federal government has fallen well short of providing the necessary funding to ensure compliance with national principles today and for the future. Clearly, the financial means must be equal to the desired health outcomes. The CMA believes that with appropriate financial reinvestment and updated governance structures the federal government will be on the path towards putting national back into national heath care insurance system. Canadian Health Charter Currently, neither the Canada Health Act nor the Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers Canadians an explicit right of access to quality health care delivered within an acceptable time frame.ii Increasingly, this has resulted in an unacceptable degree of uncertainty not only for patients but also for health care providers and ultimately for those (both private and public) who contribute to the financing of the health care system. A Canadian Health Charter would underline governments’ shared commitment to ensuring that Canadians have access to quality health care within an acceptable time frame. It would clearly articulate a national health policy that sets out our collective understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers, and governments. Canadian Health Commission Creating a permanent, independent Canadian Health Commission, would help address the lack of transparency and accountability at the national level. It would create an institution, the very purpose of which would be to report annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population. It would put health on the same level as other national priorities such as the environment, transportation and research. Its legitimacy would be strengthened by not having to report to any one government or governments. Rather it would forge a direct reporting relationship with Canadians and not leave Canadians hostage to ongoing inter-governmental disputes. A Canadian Health Commission would also be uniquely situated to provide ongoing advice and guidance on other key national health care issues. Issues such as: defining the basket of core services that would be publicly financed; establishing national benchmarks for timeliness; accessibility and quality of health care; planning and coordinating health system resources at the national level; and developing national goals and targets to improve the health of Canadians. ENHANCED ACCOUNTABILITY * Implement a Canadian Health Charter and provide federal funding for a permanent Canadian Health Commission to reaffirm Medicare’s social contract and to promote accountability and transparency within the health care system. FINANCING REQUIREMENTS Long-Term Investments Improved accountability is an essential, but not complete, answer with respect to reforming Canada’s health care system. The CMA believes that the federal government has a responsibility, alongside the provinces and territories, to increase its financial support of Canada’s health care system. At the same time, the CMA also believes that governments must provide financing in an accountable and transparent manner that links the funding sources with the use of those funds. The way we see it, much of the current tension between the two levels of government on health care issues can be traced back to unilateral federal changes to the funding formula. It started with the first changes to the Established Programs Financing (EPF) in 1982, and culminated with the introduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST – 1995) when the federal government unilaterally announced substantially reduced funding for health, social services and post-secondary education. By claiming to spend the same taxpayers dollar three times – once for health, again for post secondary education and again for social services – the federal government’s moral authority to uphold national principles for health is undermined. Together, these initiatives weaken the federal government’s legitimacy in health care and encumber its ability to stand-up for Canadians, as was highlighted in the most recent Auditor General’s report. In order to regain this authority the federal government must be willing to clearly identify a discrete contribution to health care that is large enough so as to be relevant in all jurisdictions. In our submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, we recommended that the federal contribution to the public health care system be locked in for a 5-year period. We indicated that the longer-term goal would be for the federal contribution to rise to 50% of total spending for core services over time as new and improved services and technologies became available. We also said that it should be tied to a built-in GDP-growth escalator once that target is reached. This submission provides more detailed financial projections and recommendations on the federal contribution to the health care system. To be specific, in order to raise funding to the 50% target level the CMA recommends that financing of new services and technologies be introduced on a 50/50 cost-sharing basis. This would encourage provinces and territories to become early adopters of new technology and help to update the basket of core services available to Canadians. How quickly 50% cost-sharing of all core services were realised would depend on the rate of uptake of new technologies. However, for illustration purposes the CMA recommends an initial investment of $16 billion over the first five years starting in 2003/04 with the majority of that funding weighted towards the back-end of the five-year period. This investment would take us partway (45 federal/55 provincial cost sharing) towards reaching our goal of 50/50 cost sharing. The expectation would also be that expansion beyond the current basket of services would be funded on a 50/50 cost-sharing basis. The key message is that the federal government must be an equal partner with the provinces and territories in providing funding for new pressures. This includes taking measures to meet the needs of Canadians living in rural and remote areas where there are unique considerations with respect to ensuring access to, and support of, physicians and other health care services. To further support funding for health care across the country, a buffer is needed to protect provincial and territorial health care budgets from the ebbs and flows of the economic cycle. As well, varying fiscal capacities of individual provinces and territories has made it increasingly difficult to ensure the provision of reasonably comparable health services across Canada. Currently, the federal Fiscal Stabilisation Program compensates provinces if their revenues fall substantially from one year to the next due to changes in economic circumstances. However, this program is not health-specific and only takes effect when provincial revenues drop by over 5%. The federal Equalisation program also provides some protection for have-not provinces. However, its effectiveness is limited by virtue of the “ceiling provision” that places a cap on increases in payments to the rate of national GDP growth. This provision was temporarily lifted for fiscal year 1999/2000 in conjunction with the September 2000 health accord, generating an additional $700 million in Equalisation payments to the have-not provinces. It is the CMA’s belief that this ceiling is one of the contributing factors to the disparity that exists between provinces in their capacity to provide funding for health care services and as such, should be permanently removed. Making improvements to either or both of these programs would help address the concern raised in the CMA’s submission to the Romanow Commission on the need to provide provinces with ways to curb the impact on the health care system from the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. LONG-TERM FINANCING REQUIREMENTS ($16 Billion over 5 years) * Provide funding for new core services and technologies on a 50/50 cost-shared basis with the ultimate goal of reaching 50% of provincial/territorial spending on core services over time. * Provide greater protection against provincial/territorial revenue shortfalls for example by removing the ceiling on the federal Equalisation program or enhancing the federal Fiscal Stabilisation Program. Short-Term Bridge Financing of Health Infrastructure In conjunction with the longer-term financing needs of Canada’s health care system, there are some urgent objectives that cannot wait for governments to finalise and implement their plan. We think of these shorter-term objectives as requiring “bridge financing” in areas of health infrastructure that are necessary to support health care innovation. As roads and highways are the backbone to the production and delivery of products, so too is Canada’s health infrastructure the foundation on which the health care system delivers care to Canadians. We applaud the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and other similar programs for their important contributions in this area. Increasingly, however, “infrastructure” incorporates more than bricks and mortar – it can also mean providing improving health information capacity in hospitals; providing human resource infrastructure or the latest diagnostic equipment. Experience has taught us that investments of this type lead to increased innovation, productivity and efficiency. The pressing nature of these issues warrants the use of one-time, targeted, special-purpose transfersiii specifically in the areas of: * Health human resources supply and training; * Capital infrastructure; and * Health information technology. Health Human Resources Supply and Training Consistently, Canadians point to the shortage of physicians as a key health care system concern. Factors underlying this shortage include physician demographics (e.g., age and gender distribution), changing lifestyle choices and productivity levels (expectations of younger physicians and women differ from those of older generations), and insufficient numbers entering certain medical fields. According to 2001 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranked 21st out of 26 countries in terms of the ratio of practising physicians to population.iv The need is particularly great in rural and remote areas where 30% of Canadians live but where only approximately 10% of Canadian physicians practice.v This is complicated by the fact that accessing services for patients in rural and remote areas can be difficult. In a survey done by the CMA in 1999, physicians living in rural communities indicated that 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. The necessary increases in undergraduate enrolment in medicine needed to address this situation require funding not only for the positions themselves, but also for the infrastructure (human and physical resources) needed to ensure high-quality training that meets North American accreditation standards. In addition, capacity must be sufficient to provide training to international medical graduates and allow currently practising physicians the opportunity to return to school to obtain postgraduate training in new skill areas.vi As well, the CMA remains very concerned about high and rapidly escalating increases in medical school tuition fees across Canada. According to data from the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (ACMC), between 1996 and 2001 average first-year medical school tuition fees increased 100%. In Ontario, they went up by 223% over the same period. Student financial support through loans and scholarships has simply not kept pace with this rapid escalation in tuition fees. Findings from recent research show that high tuition fees and fear of high debt loads create barriers that discourage people to apply to medical school and potentially threaten the socio-economic diversity of future physicians serving the public. They may also exacerbate the “brain drain” of physicians to the United States where newly graduated physicians can pay down their large student debts much more quickly. In addition, high debt loads may influence physicians’ choice of specialty and practice location. Medical Equipment and other Capital Infrastructure The crisis in health human resources is exacerbated by an underdeveloped capital infrastructure - brick, mortar and tools. This is seriously jeopardising timely access to quality care within the health care system. In September 2000, the federal government announced a series of new investments to support agreements by First Ministers on Health Renewal and Early Childhood Development. One of these investments was a two-year $1 billion fund for the provinces and territories, the Medical Equipment Fund (MEF), to purchase new health technologies and diagnostic equipment. However, analysis done by the CMA suggests that of the $1 billion allocated through the Medical Equipment Fund, only approximately 60% was used to pay for new (incremental) expenditures on medical equipment. It appears the remaining 40% replaced what provinces and territories would have already spent in this area from their own funding sources. Additional analysis suggests that there continues to be a significant gap between access in Canada to medical equipment and availability of medical equipment in other OECD countries. Cost estimates suggest that an additional investment of some $1.15 billion in health technology is still needed to bring Canada up to the level of the 7-country OECD comparator country average. Of that amount $650 million is required for capital expenditures and $500 million is required to provide the provinces/territories with 3 years of operating funds. All governments have the responsibility to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers for health care spending. The conditions of the Medical Equipment Fund did not live up to this responsibility. Provinces and territories provided widely variable and often incomplete information that is largely inaccessible to the public, and at the very least difficult to trace. To this end, one of the responsibilities envisioned for a Canadian Health Commission would be to report on the health of health care in Canada and keep Canadians informed as to how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. Health Information Technology While the health sector is as information intensive as other industries, it has lagged behind other sectors in investing in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The benefits that ICT promises to deliver the health care system include better quality care, enhanced access to health services (particularly for those 30% of Canadians living in rural and remote locations), and better utilisation of scarce human health resources. As part of the September 2000 Health Accord, the federal government invested $500 million to create Canada Health Infoway Inc. with a mandate to accelerate the development and adoption of modern systems of information technology, such as electronic patient records. The CMA applauds this investment, but notes that the $500-million needs to be seen as a “down-payment”. It provides only a fraction of the $4.1 billion the CMA estimates it would cost to fully connect the Canadian health care system with all the health benefits that would flow from this in terms of improved national safety and a reduced number of duplicate tests. Studies point to two key ingredients for successful uptake of information and communication technology: creating mechanisms to help people adapt to the new environment and testing out solutions in real work situations before moving to full-scale implementation. To date, very little investment has been directed towards helping providers prepare for new investments in infrastructure being made by the provinces, territories and the federal government. The CMA is prepared to play a pivotal partnership role in achieving the buy-in and cooperation of physicians and other health care providers through a multi-stakeholder process. As well, currently the majority of ICT investments have targeted acute care and primary care settings. Changing demographics in the Canadian population suggest that new pressures are likely to emerge in home care settings – an area that has hitherto been largely neglected with respect to ICT and is currently ill equipped to cope with growing demand. A potential safety valve that could be made available, however, is the application of remote healthcare solutions amenable to care provided in the home. SHORT-TERM BRIDGE FINANCING ($2.5B over five years) * Establish a $1-billion, five-year Health Resources Education and Training Fund. * Increase targeted funding to post-secondary institutions to alleviate some of the pressures driving the rise in tuition fees. Provide enhanced direct financial support to students, in particular, through bursaries and scholarships. * Establish a one-time catch-up fund of $1.15 billion to restore medical equipment to an acceptable level. * Assist providers to improve and/or gain skill sets to work to become more ICT enabled and provide for aggressive piloting of remote ICT solutions. Revenue Sources The proposals as outlined above for the overall financing of the health care system recommend an incremental approach to increased federal support for health care with the more significant investments not beginning until after 2005/06. We feel that this approach would allow for the majority of funds to come from within existing (or anticipated) fiscal frameworks. Within the context of broader discussion, the CMA brought together key experts on September 25, 2002 to discuss issues related to the interface between tax and health. One of the issues discussed was the potential for using earmarked taxes as a mechanism for raising revenue, particularly for short-term capital-type investments. With respect to any new funding mechanism, there was agreement on the need to take into account the principles of fairness, progressivity and horizontal and vertical equity in determining any new source of funding for health care services. While some suggest that efficiencies remain in the system, that if eliminated could provide funding for future health care needs, this is not the view of CMA members working on the front-line of the health care system. CMA’s challenge to governments is to not allow the lack of a revenue source to provide an excuse for not proceeding with health care reform in Canada. The CMA is looking forward to the recommendations in the Kirby and Romanow reports to further inform work in this area. INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC HEALTH In essence, public health is the organised response by society to protect and promote health and to prevent illness, injury and disability. These efforts require co-ordination and co-operation between individuals, federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, community organisations and the private sector. A major component of public health is focused on the promotion of healthy living to improve the health status of the population and reduce the burden and impact of chronic and infectious diseases. A recent commitment of $4.3 billion in the U.S. for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention challenges us to equally support activities that further strengthen Canada’s public health system.vii The September 30, 2002 Speech from the Throne noted the importance of a strong public health system and promised to “move ahead with an action plan in health policy areas under its direct responsibility” including addressing emerging risks, adapting to modern technology and emphasizing health prevention activities. We see this as an important commitment and will be watching closely as the plan is developed. In the meantime, we have identified three areas of public health that require more immediate federal assistance. Emergency Preparedness Last year our submission to the Standing Committee addressed the urgent health security and health care issues arising out of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in the United States. The CMA raised serious concerns with the ability of Canada’s public health care system to respond to disasters and made a number of recommendations to address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity of the system. While there has been some movement towards meeting these needs, the CMA firmly believes that there remain significant shortcomings in our capacity to respond to health care emergencies. At the time of an emergency, among the first points of contact with the health system for Canadians are doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms. As noted in past CMA submissions to the Standing Committee, we have witnessed in recent years the enormous strain these facilities can face when even something quite routine like influenza strikes a community. Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is, under certain circumstances public health officials will need to turn to the province, territory and/or the federal government for help. The success of such a multi-jurisdictional approach is contingent upon good planning beforehand between the federal, provincial/territorial and local-level governments. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the co-ordination amongst authorities and reduce the variability between various response plans in co-operation with provincial authorities (including assisting in the preparation of plans where none exist). Childhood Immunisation At the beginning of the last century, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada, they are now responsible for less than 5% of all deaths thanks to immunisation programs. Immunisation protects an entire population by preventing the spread of disease from one individual to another: the more people immunised, the less chance of disease. To minimise the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases the maintenance of very high levels of immunisation is required. The National Advisory Committee on Immunisation (NACI) has provided general Canadian recommendations on the use of vaccines, drawing upon the expertise of specialists in public health, infectious diseases and paediatrics from across the country. Canadian children in all provinces are routinely immunised against nine diseases. For approximately $150 worth of vaccines, a Canadian child can be vaccinated against these diseases from infancy to adolescence, the impact of which can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the level of immunisation varies across Canada. This is unacceptable. All children in Canada should and must have the protection that current science has made available against vaccine-preventable diseases according to the recommendations of public health experts. The CMA recommends a two-step strategy. First we encourage the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to jointly develop goals in the area of vaccination, such as linking record-keeping systems, implementing vaccine safety guidelines and seeking purchasing partnerships. Second, we urge the federal government to work within this framework to ensure that three new vaccines be introduced across the country to prevent children from contracting varicella (chicken pox); meningitis and pneumococcus (the leading cause of invasive bacterial infections, bacterial pneumonia and middle ear infection in children). National Drug Strategy The development of a national strategy for addressing issues related to illicit drug use should be a priority for federal leadership and investment. Illicit drug use has adverse effects on the personal health of Canadians and the well-being of society. The CMA believes that the government must take a broad public-health policy approach to address illicit drug use. A single-handed criminal justice approach to dealing with illicit drug use is inappropriate particularly when there is increasing consensus that it is ineffective and exacerbates harm. Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. We applaud the recent commitment in the September 30, 2002 Speech from the Throne to implement a national drug strategy to address addiction while promoting public safety. In keeping with this, the CMA urges the government to fully implement and evaluate a national drug strategy prior to proceeding with any movement toward changes in the legal status of marijuana. INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC HEALTH ($700 million over three years) * Create an assistance fund for municipal and provincial authorities to support public health infrastructure renewal at a local level, improve the co-ordination among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services and to support the infrastructure for public health emergency response. * Continue to invest 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. * Implement a National Immunisation Strategy to achieve the optimal level of immunisation for all Canadians and ensure coverage of all children with routinely recommended childhood vaccines. * Develop a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs that re-balances the distribution of resources so that a greater proportion is allocated to drug treatment, prevention, cessation and harm reduction. CONCLUSION Reform of Canada’s health care system is a formidable task. It involves the participation and agreement of all levels of government. It also requires that providers, other stakeholders and ultimately the acceptance of the end-user, Canadians are at the planning table. The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, over the past year and a half, has undertaken a vast review of the issues impacting Canada’s health care system including Canadians’ values. As providers of care at the front-line of the health care system, Canadian physicians see themselves as key partners in this reform. The CMA will be looking eagerly at the Romanow Commission’s recommendations and those of the Senate Committee. We will be holding the federal, provincial and territorial governments accountable for implementing, in a timely fashion, a response with clear deliverables. Clearly, we see the report’s release as offering a short window of opportunity to turn the corner on health care system reform. We need to act now and not just wait for the system to fix itself. Canadian physicians are ready to do our part, all we ask is for the opportunity. ENDNOTES i Since 2000 there have been four major provincial reviews of their health care systems (Caring for Medicare: Sustaining a Quality System (the Fyke Commission), April 2001; la commission d’étude sur les services de santé et les services sociaux (the Clair Commission); Patients First: Renewal and Reform of British Columbia’s Health Care System, December 2001; A Framework for Reform: Report of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Health (the Mazankowski Report), January, 2002. ii A recent article by Patrick Monahan and Stanley Hartt published by the C.D. Howe Institute argues that Canadians have a constitutional right to access privately-funded health care if the publicly funded system does not provide access to care in a timely way. iii Precedents for these types of transfers include the National Health Grants Program created in 1948 to develop hospital infrastructure across the country. More recently, several funds were created to support early child development, medical equipment, the health infoway and primary care renewal at the time of the First Ministers’ Agreement on Health in September 2000. iv Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health at a Glance. Paris, France: OECD; 2001. v The CMA has developed a policy on Rural and Remove Practice Issues which was released on October 17, 2000 (CMAJ, October 17, 2000, Vol. 163 (8)). vi Canadian Medical Forum membership includes: CMA, Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, Canadian Association of Interns and Residents, Federation of Medical Licensing Authorities of Canada, Medical Council of Canada, and Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations. vii As announced on December 20, 2001 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Copy available at: http://www.hhs.gov/news

Documents

Less detail

A Prescription for SUFA : CMA Submission to the F/P/T Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1961

Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
It has been over three years since the Social Union Framework Agreement (SUFA) was signed by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, with the exception of Quebec. At the time, it was heralded as an important breakthrough in federal-provincial relations that would clear the way for greater intergovernmental cooperation on pressing social policy issues such as health care renewal. Functional federalism is essential to achieving social policy objectives that will be of benefit to Canadians from coast to coast. While SUFA may not be perfect, it is better than the alternative of federal-provincial paralysis and dysfunction. And as SUFA acknowledges, Canada’s social union is about more that how governments relate to each other: it is about how governments can and should work with external stakeholders and individual Canadians to improve the social policies and programs. The health sector is an important test case for SUFA. It is the most cherished of Canada’s social programs. Canadians want and expect their governments to work together to improve the health care system and ensure its future sustainability. Ironically, it is also the area where government intergovernmental discord has been the greatest. On the eve of the final report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, it is timely to reflect on SUFA and its role in the renewal of Canada’s health system. SUFA and the Health Sector – Strengths and Weaknesses The attached table provides a summary of the key elements of SUFA and the CMA’s assessment of how well SUFA provisions have been applied in the health sector. On the positive side, the health sector has fared relatively well in the area of mobility within Canada. Physicians and other regulated health care providers generally enjoy a high degree of mobility. Portability of hospital and medical benefits is largely ensured through interprovincial eligibility and portability agreements. There are, however, two areas of concern. First, there is the longstanding failure to resolve the non-portability of medical benefits for Quebec residents. Second, there is growing disparity in coverage for services that are currently not subject to national standards under the Canada Health Act, particularly prescription drugs and home care. In the area of dispute avoidance and resolution, governments have agreed to a formal process to address concerns with the Canada Health Act. This is a positive step, though few details have been made public. The real test will be whether this new process accelerates the resolution of non-compliance issues (most of which, as the Auditor-General recently pointed out, have remained unresolved for five years or longer), and whether the federal government will have the political will to levy discretionary penalties for non-compliance. There has also been progress on public accountability and transparency as governments have begun reporting results in 14 health indicator areas pursuant to the September 2000 health accord. The CMA is disappointed, however, that governments did not fulfil their pledge to involve stakeholders at all levels in the development of these indicators. Moreover, governments have short-changed Canadians by not providing them with a national roll-up of indicators that would facilitate comparisons across jurisdictions. Looking to the future, it will be critical to put in place a process that moves from benchmarks (indicators) to the bedside (best practices, better outcomes). This must be done in collaboration with health care researchers, providers and health managers—those individuals who understand the importance of taking research and importing it into practice. Clinical researchers across the country are doing this work and must to be supported. Overshadowing these relative successes in the first three years of the Social Union Framework Agreement are three key challenges that must be addressed: * inadequate institutional mechanisms to improve accountability across the system * failure to reduce uncertainty about what the health system will deliver, now and into the future * resistance on the part of governments to engage stakeholders in a true partnership for health system renewal The CMA is concerned that if these fundamental weaknesses are not addressed, they will undermine future attempts to renew Canada’s health system. Improving accountability With the adoption of SUFA, governments have significantly increased emphasis on performance measurement and public reporting. While this is a positive development, it also has the potential to lead towards information overload and paralysis, unless two critical elements are addressed. First, there is a need for a clear accountability framework that sets out the roles, rights and responsibilities of all key players in Canada’s health system: patients, health care providers and governments. This, in turn, requires the creation of a credible arm’s length institution to monitor compliance with this framework and rise above the fray to give Canadians the straight goods on health care. One has to look no further that the recent rekindling of the so-called “shares debate” between the federal and provincial governments as an example of why these changes are necessary. Reducing uncertainty Over the past decade, Canada’s health system has been plagued by an escalating crisis of uncertainty. Patients have faced increasing uncertainty about the accessibility and timeliness of essential health care services. Health care providers have seen working conditions deteriorate. Employers and private insurers have seen their contribution to funding health services increase unpredictably as governments have scaled back their funding commitments. Furthermore, provincial and territorial governments have had to contend with an unstable federal funding partner. Canadians deserve better. They need more certainty that their public health system will care for them when they need it most. They need more transparency from governments about “what’s in” and “what’s out” in terms of public or private coverage. They need their governments to act on their SUFA undertaking to make service commitments for social programs publicly available such as establishing standards for acceptable waiting times for health care. And they need governments to follow through with their SUFA commitment to ensure stable and adequate funding for the health system and other social programs. Fostering real partnerships In the health care field, deliberations and agreements have taken place behind closed doors and governments have discounted the role that non-governmental organizations and citizens should play in decision-making. It is these very providers and patients who are expected to implement and live with the results of such cloistered decision-making. The consequences of this systematic exclusion are all too evident in the current critical and growing shortages of physicians, nurses and other health professionals. If we are to achieve the vision of a sustainable Medicare program, it is critical that governments come clean on their SUFA commitment to work in partnership with stakeholders and ensure opportunities for meaningful input into social policies and programs. CMA’s Prescription for Sustainability – Building on SUFA The Social Union Framework Agreement has created the necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for health system renewal. It has codified the emerging consensus on federal-provincial relations and has clarified the "rules of the game". However, it is an enabling framework that is of limited value in the health sector unless it is given life through institutional mechanisms that establish enduring partnerships not just between governments, but between governments health care providers, and patients. In its final submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada entitled “Prescription for Sustainability”, the CMA proposes the implementation of three integrated “pillars of sustainability” that together would improve accountability and transparency in the system: a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission, and federal legislative renewal. Canadian Health Charter A Canadian Health Charter would clearly articulate a national health policy that sets out our collective understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers, and governments. It would also underline governments’ shared commitment to ensuring that Canadians will have access to quality health care within an acceptable time frame. The existence of such a Charter would ensure that a rational, evidence-based, and collaborative approach to managing and modernizing Canada’s health system is being followed. Canadian Health Commission In conjunction with the Canadian Health Charter, a permanent, independent Canadian Health Commission would be created to promote accountability and transparency within the system. It would have a mandate to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards Charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference on Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers on key national health care issues. Recognizing the shared federal and provincial/territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Canadian Health Charter is to reinforce the national character of the health system. Federal legislative renewal Finally, the CMA’s prescription calls for the federal government to make significant commitments in three areas: 1) a review of the Canada Health Act, 2) changes to the federal transfers to provinces and territories to provide increased and more targeted support for health care, and 3) a review of federal tax legislation to realign tax instruments with health policy goals. While these three “pillars” will address the broader structural and procedural problems facing Canada’s health care system, there is many other changes required to meet specific needs within the system in the short to medium term. The CMA’s Prescription for Sustainability provides specific recommendations in the following key areas: * Defining the publicly-funded health system (e.g. a more rational and transparent approach to defining core services, a “safety valve” if the public system fails to deliver, and increased attention to public health and Aboriginal health) * Investing in the health care system (e.g. human resources, capital infrastructure, surge capacity to deal with emergencies, information technology, and research and innovation) * Organization and delivery of services (e.g. consideration of the full continuum of care, physician compensation, rural health, and the role of the private sector, the voluntary sector and informal caregivers) Conclusion On balance, the Social Union Framework Agreement has been a positive step forward for social policy in Canada, though its potential is far from being fully realized. The CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission and federal legislative review entail significant changes to the governance of Canada’s health system. These changes would be consistent with the Social Union Framework Agreement and would help “turn the corner” from debate to action on health system renewal. The early, ongoing and meaningful engagement of health care providers is the sine qua non of securing the long-term sustainability of Canada’s health system. Canada’s health professionals, who have the most to contribute, and next to patients – who have the most at stake – must be at the table when the future of health and health care is being discussed. The CMA’s Assessment of the Social Union Framework Agreement ANNEX [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] SUFA provisions CMA assessment Principles 1. All Canadians to be treated with fairness and equity 2. Promote equality of opportunity for all Canadians 3. Respect for the equality, rights and dignity of all Canadian women and men and their diverse needs 4. Ensure access for all Canadians to essential social programs and services of reasonably comparable quality 5. Provide appropriate assistance to those in need 6. Respect the principles of Medicare: comprehensiveness, universality, portability, public administration and accessibility 7. Promote the full and active participation of all Canadians in Canada’s economic and social life 8. Work in partnership with stakeholders and ensure opportunities for meaningful input into social policies and programs 9. Ensure adequate, affordable, stable and sustainable funding for social programs 10. Respect Aboriginal treaties and rights [#4] Progress towards the objective of ensuring access to essential health services of reasonably comparable quality is difficult to assess. First, there is no agreed-upon definition of essential health services. Second there the development of indicators and benchmarks of health care quality is still in its infancy. However, the CMA is very concerned that the system is not headed in the right direction, with growing shortages of physicians, nurses and other health care providers. According to Statistics Canada’s recently released survey on access to health care services, an estimated 4.3 million Canadians reported difficulties accessing first contact services and approximately 1.4 million Canadians reported difficulties accessing specialized services. [#6]Although there is broad support for the five principles of Medicare, there continue to be a number of longstanding violations of Canada Health Act that are not being addressed, including the portability of medical benefits for Quebec residents. The emergence of privately-owned clinics that charge patients for medically-necessary MRI scans is also cause for concern. [#8] There is no formal, ongoing mechanism for input from stakeholders and the individual Canadians in debates about national health policy issues. (See also #17 below). [#9] Ensuring adequate, affordable, and stable funding for Canada’s health system is essential to its long-term sustainability. During the 1990s, billions of dollars were siphoned out of the system to eliminate government deficits. To put Medicare back on a sustainable path, governments must make long-term funding commitments to meet the health care needs of Canadians. The CMA has recommended that the federal government should significantly increase its financial contribution to restore the federal-provincial partnership in health care, and increase accountability and transparency through a new earmarked health transfer. Mobility within Canada 11. Removal of residency-based policies governing access to social services 12. Compliance with the mobility provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade [#11] Residency-based policies are generally not an issue for physician and hospital services, where inter-provincial portability is guaranteed through reciprocal billing arrangements. As noted above, however, the portability of medical benefits for many Quebec residents is limited because the province only reimburses out-of-province services at home-province (as opposed to host-province) rates. [#12] Regulatory authorities initiated work towards meeting the obligations of the Labour Mobility Chapter of the Agreement on Internal Trade in fall 1999. A Mutual Recognition Agreement has been developed and endorsed by all physician licensing authorities. Public accountability & transparency 13. Performance measurement and public reporting 14. Development of comparable indicators to measure progress 15. Public recognition of roles and contributions of governments 16. Use funds transferred from another order of government for purposes agreed and pass on increases to residents 17. Ensure effective mechanisms for Canadians to participate in developing social priorities and reviewing outcomes 18. Make eligibility criteria and service commitments for social programs publicly available 19. Have mechanisms in place to appeal unfair administrative practices 20. Report publicly on appeals and complaints [#13-14] Pursuant to the September 2000 Health Accord, the federal government and provinces have developed common health indicators in 14 areas and have released a first slate of reports. However, the usefulness of these reports is hampered by missing data elements on quality of care (access and waiting times in particular) and the absence of a national roll-up to facilitate inter-provincial comparisons. [#15] Continuing federal-provincial bickering about shares of health funding makes it clear that this provision is not being met. [#16] The CMA’s analysis of the Medical Equipment Fund found that incremental spending by provinces on medical technology accounted for only 60% of the $500 million transferred by the federal government for this purpose. [#17] There is no mechanism in place to ensure ongoing input from Canadians and health care providers in national health policy development. The CMA has recommended the creation of a Canadian Health Commission, with representation from the public and stakeholders to provide advice and input to governments on key national health policy issues. [#18] Although there have been proposals to this effect in a couple of provinces, governments currently do not make explicit commitments about the quality and accessibility of health services. In order to reduce the uncertainty Canadians are feeling with respect to Medicare, the CMA has recommended the creation of a Canadian Health Charter that would set out the rights and responsibilities of patients, health care providers and governments. In particular, the health charter would require all governments to set out care guarantees for timely access to health services based on the best available evidence. [#19-20] The Auditor-General recently reported that Health Canada provides inadequate reporting on the extent of compliance with the Canada Health Act. Governments working in partnership 21. Governments to undertake joint planning and information sharing, and work together to identify priorities for collaborative action 22. Governments to collaborate on implementation of joint priorities when this would result in more effective and efficient service to Canadians. 23. Advance notice prior to implementation of a major policy or program change that will substantially affect another government 24. Offer to consult prior to implementing new social policies and programs that are likely to substantially affect other governments. 25. For any new Canada-wide social initiative, arrangements made with one province/territory will be made available to all provinces/territories. 26. Governments will work with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada to find practical solutions to address their pressing needs [#21-25] The requirement for governments to work together collaboratively is perhaps the most important part of SUFA, yet there it is impossible for organizations and individuals outside of government to assess the degree to which these provisions have been met. This so-called “black box of executive federalism” is not serving Canadians well. In the health sector, there are too many examples of governments developing policy and making decisions with little or no input from those who will ultimately have to implement change. To achieve a true social union, the tenets of good collaborative working relationships – joint planning, advance notice and consultation prior to implementation – must be extended beyond the ambit of federal-provincial decision-making. The CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Commission would go some distance in addressing these concerns. A key part of its mandate would be to bring the perspective of health providers and patients into national health policy deliberations and decision-making. Federal spending power 27. Federal government to consult with P/T governments at least one year prior to renewal or significant funding changes in social transfers 28. New Canada-wide initiatives supported by transfers to provinces subject to: a) collaborative approach to identify Canada wide objectives and priorities b) Agreement of a majority of provincial governments c) Provincial discretion to determine detailed design to meet agreed objectives d) Provincial freedom to reinvest funding in related area if objectives are already met e) Jointly developed accountability framework 29. For new Canada-wide initiatives funded through direct transfers to individuals or organizations, federal government to provide 3-months notice and offer to consult [#27-28] There have been three new Canada-wide health initiatives supported by the federal spending power: the $500M Medical Equipment Fund, the $800 Primary Health Care Transition Fund and the $500M fund for health information technology. The Medical Equipment Fund was created to respond to a genuine need for more modern diagnostic and treatment equipment. However, objectives were vague, money was transferred with no strings attached, and there was no accountability framework. The result, as the CMA’s analysis has shown, is that a significant portion of the funding did not reach its destination. The jury is still out in the case of the Primary Care Transition Fund. Delivery of this program through normal government machinery will entail a higher degree of accountability than in the case of the Medical Equipment Fund. However, objectives of this initiative may be too broad to have a significant steering effect on the system as a whole. Canada Infoway Inc. is an arm’s length body created by the federal government to disburse the $500M in health information technology funding. While this model has the advantage of being less politicized than government-run programs; accountability to Parliament and to Canadians is weaker. Dispute avoidance & resolution 30. Governments committed to working together and avoiding disputes 31. Sector negotiations to resolve disputes based on joint fact-finding, including the use of a third party 32. Any government can require a decision to be reviewed one year after it enters into effect 33. Governments will report publicly on an annual basis on the nature of intergovernmental disputes and their resolution [#30-33] Federal and provincial governments have agreed to a formal dispute avoidance and resolution process under the Canada Health Act. The Canadian Health Commission recommended by the CMA could play a useful role as an independent fact-finder. Review of SUFA 34. By the end of the 3rd year, governments will jointly undertake a full review of the Agreement and its implementation. This review will ensure significant opportunities for input and feedback from Canadians and all interested parties, including social policy experts, the private sector and voluntary organizations. [#34] Governments have taken a minimalist approach to the SUFA review by opting for an internet-based consultation and closed meetings with invited external representatives. This approach is not sufficient. Future reviews should be more inclusive of all stakeholders. [TABLE END]

Documents

Less detail

Seizing the opportunity: one time federal investments in health : Supplementary Brief to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1962

Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-08
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-08
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
This year’s submission from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to the Standing Committee on Finance focused on the need for action in the short and longer terms by identifying strategic investments that will ensure a strong health care system supported by a dependable and comprehensive public health infrastructure as its foundation. Specifically, the CMA recommended an initial investment of $16 billion over five years starting in 2003/04 and an additional $3.2 billion for shorter-term and public health initiatives. Following our October 22, 2002 presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance, the CMA has developed four supplementary specific proposals for one-time funding in areas of urgent national need. They represent highly visible initiatives that, taken together, would substantially enhance Canada’s capacity in the health care sector in areas of federal jurisdiction. They are: ACCESS HOME (Accelerating Community Care through Electronic Services) Funding of specific sites across Canada to undertake aggressive, large scale project implementation of remote information and communication technology (ICT) solutions to facilitate care in home and community based settings. PRO-MISe (Pro Medical Immigrant Selection) Establishment of an international off-shore assessment program to pre-screen potential medical graduates who wish to immigrate to and practice medicine in Canada. RREAL HEALTH Communication and Coordination Initiative (Rapid, Reliable, Effective, Accessible and Linked) Increased capacity in areas of public health system to ensure communication in real time, both between multiple agencies and with health care providers, especially in times of national emergency or to meet national health needs. PAN-CANADIAN NETWORKS OF CLINICAL EXCELLENCE Improved national planning for specialty care across Canada by implementing needs-based planning tools; building synergies around areas of expertise; maximizing the efficiency in the delivery of care; and creating mechanisms for ensuring timely access to highly specialized quaternary care throughout Canada. This initial facet of a comprehensive federal reinvestment strategy corresponds with priorities identified in the Speech from the Throne and with the strategic priorities identified in our submission to the Standing Committee on Finance. Together, they constitute an important next step toward implementing the government’s Speech from the Throne commitments. However, given the particular urgency of these initiatives, and their ability to stand as independent projects, we feel they would be excellent candidates for modest but meaningful allocations from the federal surplus that may become available towards the end of this fiscal year. Each of these proposals incorporates a highly visible, targeted approach that not only builds the necessary evidence for transition to a renewed health care system but is also amenable to one-time funding. They reflect priorities that, due to their inter-jurisdictional nature, are highly unlikely to be undertaken by the provinces and territories without federal assistance. They would substantially reduce the uncertainties that Canadians feel and experience in dealing with the health system. Indeed, these initiatives provide an opportunity for the federal government to show immediate leadership in areas that fall clearly under its jurisdiction in ways that are certain to be complementary to the recommendations from the Commission on the Future of Canada (the Romanow Commission). The Canadian Medical Association believes that the time for targeted action is now as part of a comprehensive strategy for a sustainable health care system. Canadians are counting on governments to turn the corner from debating what needs to be done to implementing necessary changes. We see time-limited, targeted reinvestments as an essential part of this renewal. ACCESS HOME Accelerating Community Care through Electronic Services RATIONALE In the September 2000 Health Accord, health information and communications technology (ICT) was highlighted as an area where First Ministers agreed to work together to strengthen a Canada-wide health infostructure to improve quality, access and timeliness of health care for Canadians. As part of the funding initiatives announced at that time, Canada Health Infoway Inc. (CHII), received $500 million in funding to accelerate the adoption of modern ICTs to provide better health care. Given that implementation of a full health ICT strategy will require significantly more funding, CHII has given priority to the development of the electronic health record. Further, with the sunsetting of the two-year $80 million Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Program (CHIPP) there are no other federal programs that provide funding for ITC pilot projects. Changing demographics in the Canadian population point to emerging pressures to meet increased non-institutional care needs of our aging population. To date, the home care sector has been largely neglected with respect to ICT – the majority of current ICT investments target acute and, to a lessor extent, primary care settings – and is currently ill equipped to cope with growing demand. Remote healthcare solutions show considerable potential to improve the care provided in home and community settings. Current projects in this area have demonstrated the benefits of using ICTs to facilitate care in non-traditional settings. Larger scale testing of remote ICT solutions should be undertaken to determine how best they can be applied to facilitate the provision of care in home and community based settings, and the implications for provider practice. GOAL Through funding of specific sites across Canada (mini centres of excellence), engage in aggressive, large scale project implementations of remote ICT solutions to facilitate care in home and community based settings. This would involve working through how best to apply ICTs in these settings, determining what works best and developing practice procedures for the provider community. GUIDING PRINCIPLES The ACCESS-HOME proposal is based on the underlying principle of a collaborative model and the following potential key partners have been identified: provinces and territories, regional health authorities, and the private sector (e.g., March Networks). DELIVERABLES Undertake, over a three year period, a variety of home and community care projects to learn how best to apply remote ICT solutions to facilitate provision of care in these settings. These could include projects to link primary care physicians to elderly frail patients in their home; to link patients with severe chronic conditions to specialists for remote monitoring of their conditions; to link home care nurses to patients to carry out preventive and promotion related activities on line; and to link physicians with recently discharged patients to monitor their rate of recovery. Part of the project funding proposal would include an evaluation component to build a knowledge base of what works and why. The assessments then would be placed on the Health Canada web site to promote knowledge transfer. FUNDING & ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS A one-time, lump sum endowment of $50 million in this fiscal year to Canada Health Infoway Inc. (CHII) to manage the program and funds. Over a three-year period, CHII would operate under a very clear mandate set out by Health Canada to fund projects ($1-2 million each) across the country, in urban, rural and isolated settings, to more aggressively apply ICTs to facilitate provision of care in home and community based settings and to explore the implications for practice management. Accountability for the funds and the program implementation would be set out in a Memorandum of Understanding between Health Canada and CHII. Funds would be allocated on a cost-shared basis with a threshold of 70% federal funding. The remaining 30% would come from partnership contributions (in-kind costs, human resources, etc.). It is anticipated that it would take one year to get the projects operational and a second year to implement their mandates. The third year would be dedicated to completing the projects and undertaking evaluations in a format that would contribute to the overall knowledge base in this area. PRO-MISe Pro Medical Immigrant Selection PURPOSE The establishment of an assessment program to pre-screen international medical graduates wanting to immigrate to Canada and practice medicine in this country. RATIONALE International medical graduates have always been, and continue to be, a valuable addition to the Canadian medical workforce. Recently, the federal government passed new immigration legislation, changing the focus of immigration requirements away from an occupation basis toward a concentration on skills, training, and potential for successful integration into the Canadian workforce and society. In light of the implementation of these provisions, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) propose the establishment of a Pro Medical Immigrant Selection (PRO-MISe) program for foreign-trained physicians seeking to immigrate to Canada. The purpose of this program would be to ensure that the anticipated increased numbers of foreign-trained medical graduates applying to immigrate to Canada receive fair treatment. The CMA and MCC have already had a preliminary meeting with a senior advisor to the Honourable Minister Denis Coderre, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in follow-up to a meeting with his predecessor, the Honourable Elinor Caplan in May 2001. GOAL The goal of the project is to expedite the remote processing of applications by highly qualified international medical graduates who wish to immigrate to, and practice medicine in, Canada. This could be facilitated by creating an off-shore electronic assessment system for pre-screening in their country of origin. GUIDING PRINCIPLES In these times of physician workforce shortages, Canadian jurisdictions must be cautioned against “poaching” physicians from under-serviced parts of the world to meet their own health care needs (particularly in under-serviced areas or disciplines). Ethical recruitment practices must be established and maintained. In the longer term, the Canadian medical community strongly believes that Canada must strive for reasonable self-sufficiency in the production of physicians, while continuing to offer opportunities to qualified international medical graduates. Even in times of physician shortages, it remains imperative that foreign applicants who wish to practise medicine in Canada undergo a comprehensive assessment of knowledge and skills, on par with the assessment of graduates of Canadian medical schools. The process for assessing international medical graduates must be, and be seen to be, fair, transparent, and accountable to all stakeholders, expedient and cost-effective (for both the applicant and the government). DELIVERABLES The project would be comprised of a three-phased approach. Phase I would set up five pilots sites over 4-6 months in varied geo-political areas (e.g., London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Port-of-Spain) that would test an Internet-based assessment system providing: 1. Updated and comprehensive information on the Canadian health care system and the Canadian medical education system, with a view to managing expectations regarding opportunities to practise medicine in Canada; 2. Electronic self-assessment tools for international medical graduates, containing questions comparable to those in the official Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam (MCCEE); 3. An electronic assessment system for the official MCCEE; and 4. Electronic forms, including the waiver currently used by CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) indicating that the applicant understands there is no guarantee of an opportunity to practise medicine in Canada. Phase II would evaluate the project’s success. Phase III, full implementation on a global scale, would follow. FUNDING & ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS $5 million for Physician Assessment A one-time, lump sum endowment of a $5 million sequestered fund in this fiscal year to be made to the Medical Council of Canada, to be managed and administered in keeping with the goals and objectives of the project (disbursement criteria would be set in collaboration with Health Canada and Human Resources Development Canada, as required). $15 million for Assessment of Other Health Care Providers There is a shortage of many health care providers. The CMA has had preliminary discussions with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA). The Federal Government should consider funding the development of similar programs for other professions, in partnership with CNA, CPhA and others. RREAL HEALTH COMMUNICATION & COORDINATION INITIATIVE Rapid, Reliable, Effective, Accessible and Linked RATIONALE Through its public health initiatives society protects and promotes health and works to prevent illness, injury and disability. In today’s world these public health functions require an increasingly specialized and well-trained workforce; sophisticated surveillance, monitoring and information systems; and adequate and continuously available laboratory support. Its ultimate effectiveness, however, is dependent on the ability of the system to communicate crucial information and health advice to the right professional in real time when they need it. The devastating impact of the failure to effectively communicate essential information is evident in examples as diverse, as the water tragedy in Walkerton, and the untimely death of Vanessa Young who died as the result of a fatal adverse drug reaction 1. In both cases, the information health professionals needed to make optimum treatment decisions was not accessible in a reliable and timely manner. The public health infrastructure is put to the test whenever there is a disaster, large or small, in Canada and, not withstanding the best efforts of dedicated public health professionals, it does not always receive a passing grade. The public health system is further challenged by the potential for a disconnect in communications between differing jurisdictions that may be found when, for example, First Nations communities under federal jurisdiction overlap areas of provincial jurisdiction. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax scare in the United States, Canadians must be assured of a rapid, knowledgeable, expert response to emergency public health challenges. It is essential that the federal government take a leadership role to ensure that the communication tools and information technology necessary to allow for a more rapid and informed response to situations such as natural disasters, disease out-breaks, newly-discovered adverse drug reactions, man-made disasters, or bio-terrorism is accessible in real time in all regions of the country. A one time infusion of $30 million for the creation of a RREAL Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative would strengthen Canada’s public health infrastructure and enhance co-ordination and communication among all levels of government, public health officials, health care providers and multiple agencies such as police, fire, ambulance and hospitals. GOAL The RREAL Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative would address current deficiencies, and increase the capacity of the public health system to communicate in real time, both between multiple agencies and with health care providers in order to: * Provide a focal point for inter-jurisdictional communication and co-ordination in order to be better prepared in times of emergency; and * Disseminate emergency information, health alerts and current best practices in public health to health professionals and targeted public health officials in real time and in an effective and accessible fashion. GUIDING PRINCIPLES The RREAL Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative would involve such key players in public health service and delivery as the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Paediatrics Society, the Chief Medical Officers of Health, the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, the Canadian Red Cross and Health Canada in a collaborative model to ensure integrated co-ordination and communication. DELIVERABLES The initiative would undertake a planned program of demonstration projects over a five-year period. 1. To enable the widespread accessibility of information such as newly discovered adverse drug reactions to physicians and other health providers by rapid, reliable, and effective dissemination. 2. To ensure that rural and remote areas of the country and First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities under federal health jurisdiction are linked to public health information systems. 3. To enhance clinical practice guidelines to make them more user friendly and accessible to health care providers. 4. To improve the interoperability of communication technology between multiple agencies such as public health, police and fire services, disaster relief agencies and hospitals in times of emergency. FUNDING & ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS A one-time, lump sum endowment of $30 million in this fiscal year to a designated organization positioned to manage the administration of these funds over a five-year project duration. One option would be to establish a new Canadian Foundation for Public Health as an arms-length agency associated with the Office for Public Health at the Canadian Medical Association. PAN-CANADIAN NETWORKS OF CLINICAL EXCELLENCE RATIONALE Canada’s health care system commits to providing Canadians with reasonably comparable access to medically necessary care. This commitment must be met across the spectrum, from primary care to highly specialized care. However, low volumes associated with highly specialized care often does not warrant the ongoing maintenance of the physical and human resources necessary in all regions of the country to be able to respond to patients’ needs. Recent evidence has found that a critical volume of patients is required to ensure a high quality standard of care. In the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s 2002 Health Care in Canada report, they state that “for many types of care and for many different surgeries, research shows that patients treated in hospitals with higher numbers of cases are often less likely to have complications or to die after surgery”. 2 Although clinical centres of excellence (hospitals/clinics that house the human and physical resources necessary to deliver care that meets or exceeds accepted professional standards) currently exist, in Canada they are generally focussed on serving the patient needs of a single province and, in some cases, the city in which they reside. There are no formal mechanisms at the national level to facilitate needs-based planning and sharing of best practices and pooling of resources for highly specialized care. The resulting capacity “deficit” manifests itself in difficulties in accessing care – an issue that has become central to the debate on the renewal of Canada’s health care system. This proposal is about networking existing centres to achieve improved economies of scale and to accelerate quality improvement. It would build the infrastructure necessary to support and link these centres across the country. It would not aim to further consolidate or centralize the delivery of highly specialized services. GOAL Implement a Pan-Canadian Networks of Clinical Excellence program as a means to improve the quality and accessibility of highly specialized care in Canada. GUIDING PRINCIPLES This proposal is premised on: * A collaborative/partnership model between health organizations such as the Canadian Stroke Network, the Association of Canadian Academic Health Organizations (ACAHO); and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA); * Support the Provincial/Territorial Premiers’ commitment to develop Sites of Excellence in various fields such as paediatric cardiac surgery and gamma knife neurosurgery 3 ; * Consensus building and consultation; * Build on, and learn from, existing provincial models (e.g., Cardiac Care Network of Ontario, Ontario Stroke System); * Reliance on evidence-based practices; * Improved quality of care; * Rapid diffusion and adoption of new and emerging technologies; * Pilots and on-going evaluation leading to additional networks; and * Adoption of an evidence-based approach to network development. DELIVERABLES Building on the experience of earlier network models, activities envisioned for a Pan-Canadian Networks of Clinical Excellence program would be to: * Develop electronic registries to track and connect patients and physicians across the country; * Support collaborative research extending from the bench to bedside 4 ; * Establish and implement clinical best practices; * Develop and implement knowledge translation plans; and * Promote the sharing of human capital and expertise across jurisdictions. Beyond striving to reach optimum efficiency in the delivery of sub-acute care specialties, a Pan-Canadian Networks of Clinical Excellence program would support the development of internationally competitive centres of excellence that would offer attractive employment opportunities for the best and brightest in health human resources thereby helping to attract and retain health human resources in Canada. FUNDING & ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS A five year phased approach to the development of the networks is envisaged. The first phase (two years) would involve piloting and evaluating a small number of networks. Based on detailed evaluation of the pilots, the second phase (year 2) could involve additional networks to be determined through consultation with partners. It is anticipated that by year 5, there would be five networks fully operational. The funding would be ideally delivered through a single year endowment of $25 million to existing foundations such as the Canadian Stroke Network. The new consortium would allocate funding over a 5-year period based on established criteria with regular reporting to the funding consortium partnership and ultimate accountability to report back to Parliament. A steering committee would be struck with representatives from each of the participating partners to provide direction and guidance on the project’s implementation. 1 Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 1, 2001, 164(9), page 1269. 2 Dudley RA, Johansen KL, Brand R, Rennie DJ, Milstein A. (2000). Selective referral to high-volume hospitals: Estimating potentially avoidable deaths. Journal of the American Medical Association, 283(9), 1159-1166 as cited in Health Care in Canada, 2002, Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ottawa: May 2002, p. 52. 3 As agreed to at the January 24-25, 2002 Provincial-Territorial Premiers’ Meeting in Vancouver. Information available at: www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo02/850085004_e.html 4As discussed in a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health regarding Bill C-13: An Act to Establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Peter Vaughan, Secretary General and CEO, Canadian Medical Association, December 6, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario.

Documents

Less detail

Notes for an address by Dr. Eugene Bereza, Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association : Bill C-13 - An act respecting assisted human reproduction : Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1963

Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Ottawa, Ontario November 20, 2002 BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Madame Chair and Members of the Committee: My name is Dr. Eugene Bereza. I am a physician and clinical ethicist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and Chair of the Canadian Medical Association Committee on Ethics. I am here today representing our members, more than 54,000 physicians from across Canada. I also wish to speak as a advocate for our patients, especially those affected by infertility and those who are or will suffer from diseases for which medical science is searching for cures. I am accompanied today by Dr. John Williams, our Director of Ethics. You will recall that we appeared before this Committee on October 23, 2001 in company with representatives from eight other national health provider and scientific organizations to present our views on draft legislation on assisted human reproduction. Although we were pleased that your December 2001 report recommended the establishment of an assisted reproduction regulatory body outside the Department of Health, we were disappointed that you did not find favour with other recommendations we put forward. The government responded to your report with Bill C-56, now Bill C-13. It is this bill that we are here to address today. Although there are many details in the bill on which we would like either clarification or changes, we intend to focus our remarks on the issue that we consider of greatest importance for our patient’s wellfare and the practice of medicine. That issue is the use of the criminal power to deal with medical and scientific activities. The Standing Committee Report and Bill C-13 In your December 2001 report, you acknowledged our position on this issue: “Some witnesses recommended the elimination of the prohibited activities category altogether. Citing the benefits of regulatory flexibility, they felt that all activities should come under the controlled activity category, including the more reprehensible activities like reproductive cloning for which licences, arguably, would never be allowed under the regulations” (page 9). However, you rejected this view on the grounds that “a licence-related prohibition of this sort would not carry the same weight or degree of social censure as the statutory prohibition…. An outright statutory ban signals more clearly that certain activities are either unsafe or socially unacceptable. The use of the statutory ban also signals that these activities are of such concern to Canadians that their status as a prohibited activity may not be altered except with the approval of Parliament” (page 9). Bill C-13 reflects your views on this matter. We recognize your good faith in proposing and defending this position but we are convinced that its potential for harm outweighs its potential benefits. And so we are pleased to have this opportunity to reiterate the reason why the CMA believes that Bill C-13 will adversely affect the patient-physician relationship and the advance of medical science. Need to Change Bill C-13 As you know, our position on this matter is supported by legal scholars such as Patrick Healy, McGill University Faculty of Law, Tim Caulfield, Director of the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and Bartha Knoppers, Université de Montréal Centre de Recherche en Droit Publique. In essence, our position is that the criminal law is a blunt instrument and very difficult to change and is therefore appropriate for activities whose status is unlikely to change over time, such as murder and theft, rather than medical and scientific activities that are constantly developing. The latter are better left to a representative regulatory body to determine if and when changes in health and safety considerations and public attitudes and values might justify allowing certain formerly prohibited activities to take place under specific conditions. Bill C-13 begins with the statement: “This enactment prohibits assisted reproduction procedures that are considered to be ethically unacceptable.” This echoes the conclusions in your report. However, as the transcripts of your hearings demonstrate, many Canadians, especially those who are infertile, do not consider some or all of these procedures to be ethically unacceptable. As a matter of public policy, should Canadians who hold this view be denied access to medical treatment for infertility because others consider such treatments to be ethically unacceptable? Should patients who suffer from conditions for which research that is forbidden in Bill C-13 might lead to a cure be denied that opportunity? We question whether criminal prohibitions are appropriate for dealing with activities on which there is considerable ethical disagreement among Canadians. In Canada legislators have been justifiably reluctant to use the criminal law to deal with medical and scientific issues such as abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the conduct of medical research. Why is an exception being made for assisted reproduction? What sort of precedent will this set for other controversial bioethical issues? We are also concerned about the bill’s penalties for infractions: jail terms up to 10 years and fines up to $500,000. These are disproportionate to the penalties for crimes that injure persons or property and, as such, will create a climate of undue fear and excessive caution for physicians and scientists working in this area, such that they will avoid any activity that is potentially covered by the bill, even to the detriment of patient care. Given the rapid advance of science and medical practice and the difficulty of anticipating new developments, it will be difficult to adjust the law to deal with new applications of prohibited activities that may be ethically acceptable. An Alternate Solution The CMA has stated repeatedly that we are not opposed to the prohibition of certain assisted human reproduction activities. Instead of instituting criminal prohibitions within the legislation, we remain convinced that an independent body on an ongoing basis should determine the activities that are permissible or prohibited on the basis of up-to-date scientific research, public input and ethical review. This can be accomplished very easily in Bill C-13 by moving the procedures listed under “Prohibited Activities” (sections 5-9) to “Controlled Activities” and adding the words “except in accordance with the regulations and a licence” to each of the provisions in sections 5-9. Consistent with this recommendation we consider that the regulatory agency should be established as soon as possible and be given as much authority as possible over the matters that Bill C-13, section 65, reserves to regulations of Governor in Council. We hope that the agency will build upon the experience and expertise of existing organizations and structures in the field of assisted reproduction that deal with practice standards, education, certification and accreditation. Conclusion To summarize, we strongly support government efforts to regulate assisted human reproduction and related activities, including the prohibition of certain practices either temporarily or permanently. However, like others who have appeared before this Committee, we do not believe that criminalizing the medical and scientific activities named in the bill is an appropriate way to achieve those objectives. We consider that the objectives could be as well achieved by far less drastic means than criminalization and, moreover, that criminalization would create major obstacles to legitimate medical and scientific progress in the treatment of infertility. We recommend that the proposed agency be empowered to regulate these practices and that the criminal power be invoked when controlled activities are performed without authority of a licence from the agency or in defiance of the licensing conditions established by the agency. Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.

Documents

Less detail

Towards a Sustainable Health Care System in the New Millennium : Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance 2000 Pre-Budget Consultation Process

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1977

Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
1999-09-10
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
1999-09-10
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
On the cusp of the new millennium, it is appropriate to reflect with pride on our nation's past and to plan with compassion, innovation and creativity for our nation's future. The new century will present us with many challenges-an ageing population, increased knowledge with corresponding advances in technology and research, competitiveness at home and abroad- to meet the needs of Canadians. CMA recognizes that we live in a world that is increasingly interdependent. A world where globalization has meant that we, as a country, must look forward and beyond our borders when it comes to determining how we can reach our collective potential. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] As we plan for the future it is vital to recognize the importance of the social programs that must remain essential features of our society. Our health care system is an important and defining feature of what it is to be Canadian. CMA believes a well funded, sustainable, quality health care system must be at the forefront of the federal government's strategic priorities. The haste to reduce health care costs over the past several years has left a destabilized and demoralized health system in its wake. Diminished access to critical health care services and insufficient human resources are only part of the legacy. Rebuilding Canadians' confidence in the health care system will not be easy. CMA noted the important first step that was taken by the federal government in its 1999 budget. A reinvestment of $11.5 billion earmarked for health care was an important signal to Canadians. However, with the complete restoration of funds in 2003/04 the health care system will only be back to its 1995 nominal spending levels, some seven years after the fact - with no adjustment for the increasing health care needs of an increased number of more aged Canadians, inflation or economic growth. CMA is encouraged with federal government's recent initiatives to increase health research funding. This is of direct benefit to the health of Canadians; to the health care system; to foster the development of health care as an industry and to ensure our best and brightest medical scientists and health researchers are educated and remain in Canada. However, we know that more needs to be done to ensure innovation and competitiveness. We would like to echo the words of the Prime Minister who said we consider Medicare to be the best example of how good social policy can be good economic policy, too. While reflecting the desire of Canadians to show compassion for their fellow citizens, Medicare also serves as one of our key competitive advantages. A sustained health care system will ensure a healthy population, and a healthy labour force that contributes to the productivity of the nation. In seeking to place the health care system on the road to long-term sustainability, the CMA is committed to working in close partnerships with the federal government and others in identifying, developing and implementing policy initiatives that serve to strengthen Canadians' access to quality health care The CMA looks forward to contributing to the search for solutions. To work with the federal government and others in building a responsive, flexible and sustainable health care system for all Canadians. In this spirit of co-operation the CMA offers the following recommendations: 1. That the federal government fund Canada's publicly financed health care system on a long-term, sustainable basis to ensure quality health care for all Canadians. 2. That the federal government introduce a health-specific portion of federal cash transfers to the provinces and territories to promote greater public accountability, transparency and visibility. 3. That the federal government, at a minimum, increase federal cash for health care by an additional $1.5 billion, effective April 1, 2000. 4. That beginning, April 1, 2001, the federal government fully index the total cash entitlement allocated to health care through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account the changing needs of Canadians based on population growth, ageing, epidemiology, current knowledge and new technologies, and economic growth. 5. That the federal, provincial and territorial governments adopt the guiding principle of national self-sufficiency in the production and retention of physicians to meet the medical needs of the population, including primary to highly specialized medical care, and the requirements for a critical mass for teaching and research. 6. That the federal government establish and fund a national pool of re-entry positions in postgraduate medical education. 7. That the federal government establish a National Centre for Health Workforce Research. 8. That the federal government enhance financial support systems, such as the Canada Student Loans Program, for medical students in advance of any future tuition increase, and ensure that these support systems are set at levels that meet the financial needs of students. 9. That health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. 10. That the federal government establish a National Health Technology Fund to increase country-wide access to needed health technologies. 11. That the federal government continue to increase funding for health research on a long-term, sustainable basis. 12. That the federal government commit stable funding for a comprehensive tobacco control strategy; this strategy should ensure that the funds are invested in evidence-based tobacco control projects and programs, which would include programs aimed at prevention and cessation of tobacco use and protection of the public from tobacco's harmful effects. 13. That the federal government support the use of tobacco tax revenues for the purpose of developing and implementing tobacco control programs. 14. That the federal government place a high priority for funding tobacco prevention and evidence-based cessation programs for young Canadians as early as primary school age. 15. That the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy a) To implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: (1) reduce tobacco consumption, (2) minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, and (3) minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; b) To apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels; and c) To enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, raising Canadian tobacco price levels in line with or near the US border states, in order to minimize international smuggling. 16. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500, increase to $15,500 for the year 2000/01. 17. That the federal government explore mechanisms to increase RRSP contribution limits in the future given the delay in achieving pension parity, since 1988. 18. That the 20% Foreign Property Rule for deferred income plans such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Registered Retirement Income Funds be increased in 2% annual increments to 30% over a five year period, effective the year 2000. 19. That the federal government explores the regulatory changes necessary to allow easier access to RRSP funds for investment in small and medium-size businesses. 20. That the federal government undertake the necessary steps to creditor-proof RRSPs and RRIFs. I. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government in its second mandate, for continuing with the pre-budget consultation process. This visible and accountable process encourages public dialogue in the consideration and development of finance, economic and social policies of the country. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] As part of the 2000 pre-budget consultation process, the CMA welcomes the opportunity to submit its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, and looks forward to meeting with the Committee at a later date to discuss our recommendations and their rationale in greater detail. II. POLICY CONTEXT Over the past few years, there has been a significant amount of attention placed on the fact that Canada is living in a world that is increasingly interdependent. A world where globalization has meant that we, as a country, must look forward, outward and with others when it comes to determining how we can reach our collective potential. While further political and economic change is likely to continue, it is important to recognize that there are important social programs that must remain essential features of our society. One such program is our health care system - an important and defining feature of what it is to be Canadian. The CMA believes that when it comes to maintaining and enhancing the health of Canadians, a well-funded, sustainable health care system must be at the forefront of the federal government's strategic priorities. By 2002, it is estimated that there will be 2.3 million more Canadians and 444,000 more Canadians over the age of 65. As a consequence, Canada's health care system will continue to face significant challenges in the near future. The pan-Canadian haste of governments across the country to reduce health care costs as quickly as possible over the past several years left a destabilized and demoralized health system in its wake. Diminished access to critical health care services and insufficient human resources are only part of the legacy. The initial federal reinvestment will help ease some of the pressures but it will not be much more than a short-term solution given that expectations and demands on the system will continue to rise. Rebuilding Canadians' confidence in the health care system will not be easy. Reports of overcrowded emergency rooms, physician and nursing shortages, and of patients being sent to the United States for treatment to reduce waiting times will not help restore their faith. The CMA fully recognises the importance of the first step taken by the federal government. However, fundamental questions remain about future steps needed to sustain our cherished health care system over the short-, medium- and long-term - ensuring that all Canadians will have ready access when they or their families are in need. Given this first step, the CMA believes that we must shift our focus to the vision and overarching strategic framework the federal government must develop to ensure that the health care system will be funded on a sustainable basis. In seeking to place the health care system on the road to long-term sustainability, the CMA is committed to working closely with the federal government in identifying, developing and implementing policy initiatives that serve to strengthen Canadians' access to quality health care. III. TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM In its 1999 budget, the federal government took an important first step forward toward stabilizing Canada's health care system. The government announced a five-year fiscal framework, effective April 1, 1999 that reinvested $11.5 billion, on a cumulative basis, in the health care system. While this is an important first step, it must be placed in perspective. The $11.5 billion is a cumulative figure over five consecutive years. On an annual basis, this means that federal cash for health care is scheduled to increase by $2.0 billion for 1999/2000; it will remain at the same level for 2000/01 and then increase by $500 million (to $2.5 billion) in 2001/02, and remain at that level for the years 2002/03 and 2003/04. Only in year 4 does the CHST cash floor increase by a total of $2.5 billion. 1 Restoring $2.5 billion to the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) cash floor in 2002/03, the fourth year of the government's five-year timetable, means that the health system will only be back to its 1995 nominal spending levels, 7 years after the fact - with no adjustment for the increasing health care needs of Canadians, inflation or economic growth. 2 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] In current dollars, it is estimated that the federal government allocates approximately 41% of CHST cash for health care. Based on a cash floor of $12.5 billion this amounts to $5.13 billion. The CMA recognizes that the federal amount has increased cash by a minimum of $2.0 billion in 1999/00 to $7.13 billion, however, once again this figure must be placed in context; $7.13 billion represents only 9 cents of each dollar spent on health care in Canada. Another way to express the $11.5 billion is to adjust the figure by the number of Canadians (i.e., a per capita basis - see Figure 1). 3 Scenario 1 illustrates nominal per capita federal CHST cash for health care prior to the 1999 budget with projections to 2003/04. In absence of a five-year fiscal framework introduced by the government, federal CHST cash (formerly Established Programs Financing and the Canada Assistance Plan) would have gone from $247 in 1990/01 to $163 per Canadian in 2003/04 - a decrease of 34%. Adjusting for inflation, federal CHST cash for health care would have dropped from $247 to $131 per Canadian - a decrease of 47%. With the introduction of the $11.5 billion in 1999 (Scenario 2), nominal per capita CHST cash for health care increases from $168 to $233 in 1999/00. This, however, falls short of the $258 per capita in 1995/96. With an estimated population of 30.6 million Canadians, the CHST shortfall is estimated to be $765 million (i.e., $258 - $233 x 30.6 million). Recognizing that inflation since 1995 has eroded the value of the federal CHST cash in 1999, the figure is estimated to be closer to $1.5 billion than $1.0 billion. Furthermore, there is no escalator attached to the federal CHST cash to account for inflation, a growing and ageing population, epidemiological trends or the diffusion of new technologies. This is a departure from previous formulae under Established Programs Financing (EPF) and the CHST which included an escalator (i.e., a three-year moving average of nominal Gross Domestic Product) to grow the value of the cash transfer. 4 In summary, the context placed around $11.5 billion is important, for it underscores the importance of the initial step that has been taken by the federal government when it comes to shoring up funding for health care in Canada. However, the critical issue now becomes what immediate and successive steps will be taken by the government to place the funding of our health care system on a longer-term and sustainable basis. The CMA is not alone in its view that there must be a full restoration of CHST cash. The Communiqué issued by the First Ministers at the recent 40th Annual Premiers Conference in Quebec City was clear in the interpretation of sustainability. While we consider how to ensure that the health care system will be here for all Canadians over the short, medium and long-term, we know that our society is growing and ageing. It is projected that individuals over the age of 65 will increase from just over one in ten (12.2%) in 1996 to one in five (21.7%) in 2031. 5 [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The combination of population growth and ageing will place additional pressure on health expenditures. Estimated per capita health expenditures by age for 1994 (see Table 1), shows that per capita expenditures for the 65 and over age group were $8,068, in comparison to $2,478 for the population as a whole-just over a three-to-one ratio. 6 Of interest, while the 65 and over population represented less than 12% of the population in 1994, it is estimated to have accounted for almost 40% of total health expenditures. The Auditor General of Canada, using age-specific per capita health spending, has projected that government health expenditures may reach 12% of GDP. 7 This is a large estimated increase given that the 1998 total health expenditures, which includes both government and private sources, is approximately 9% of GDP. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1 Per Capita Health Expenditures By Age Group, 1994 Age Group Expenditures per capita 0-14 $1,156 15-44 $1,663 45-64 $2,432 65+ $8,068 Source: National Health Expenditures, CIHI, 1996. [TABLE END] While it may be argued that those are only estimates, the OECD study on population shows that they are not at all atypical of the international experience. 8 This information alone will present the health care system with a number of challenges when it comes to meeting the future needs of the population. Given the current and impending pressures on the health care system, it is incumbent on the federal government - the guardian of Medicare - to think how we, as a society, will be able to maintain our health care system well beyond the new millennium. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The CMA therefore recommends: 1. That the federal government fund Canada's publicly financed health care system on a long-term, sustainable basis to ensure quality health care for all Canadians. 2. That the federal government introduce a health-specific portion of federal cash transfers to the provinces and territories to promote greater public accountability, transparency and visibility. 3. That the federal government, at a minimum, increase federal cash for health care by an additional $1.5 billion, effective April 1, 2000. 4. That beginning April 1, 2001, the federal government fully index the total cash entitlement allocated to health care through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account the changing needs of Canadians based on population growth, ageing, epidemiology, current knowledge and new technologies, and economic growth. Recommendation 1 is principle-based and speaks to the importance of moving away from managing Canada's health care system on a crisis-to-crisis basis. While the balance between affordability and sustainability of our system should be at the forefront of our thinking, it must not deny Canadians reasonable access to quality health care. It also recognizes that although the federal government has an essential role to play, it cannot do it alone; it must work in close partnership with the provinces and territories. Consistent with the Minister of Health's call for increased accountability and transparency in our health care system, Recommendation 2 calls on the federal government to be measured by the very same principle when it comes to funding Canada's health care system. It is also consistent with the Social Union Agreement calling for greater public accountability on all levels of government. While last year's allocation under the CHST for health care sends an important message, consideration must be given as to how the CHST can be restructured to promote greater transparency and linkage between the sources of federal funding for health care and their intended uses at the provincial/territorial level. This is particularly important when one considers the need to better understand the relationship between defined health care expenditures and their relationship to health outcomes. In fact, it could be argued that last year's federal budget implicitly re-introduced the concept of earmarking CHST cash to health care. At a time of increased demand for accountability, the CHST mechanism appears to be anachronistic by having one indivisible cash transfer that does not recognize explicitly the federal government's contribution to health in a post-Social Union Agreement world. Last year, the CMA recommended to the federal government that it reinvest a total of $3.5 billion effective April 1, 1999 into the health care system with the principal objectives of: stabilizing the health care system; and assisting in the transitional process of expanding the continuum of care. As part of the $3.5 billion, the CMA recommended the creation of a Health System Renewal Fund which focused on four discrete areas of need: (1) acute care infrastructure; (2) community care infrastructure; (3) support Canadians at risk; and (4) health information technology. Given that the government reinvested $2.0 billion in 1999/2000, the CMA recommends that the federal government move immediately to reinvest an additional $1.5 billion for health care to facilitate continued system stabilization as well as further development toward an expanded continuum of care. These additional and necessary resources would be welcomed in addressing strategic policy challenges related to health human resource requirements - particularly those associated with the need for an adequate and stable supply of physicians and nurses; the cornerstone of our health care system. Furthermore, these resources would assist in the development of necessary capital infrastructure required to assist in the transition from institutional to community-based models of care, within a more integrated framework. While more specific and substantial funding announcements would be expected with any new shared programs announced by the federal and provincial/territorial governments (e.g., home care and pharmacare), there is a need now, while the system is in flux to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. This transitional funding will assist in the stabilization of the system and will also serve to ensure that as the system evolves toward an expanding continuum of care, it will remain accessible, with minimal interruption of service to Canadians. Based on recent estimates of the government's surplus in 1999 (standing at $4.8 billion through the first three months of fiscal 1999) and beyond, (9) it would appear that the government has an opportunity to make good on its commitment to make health care a key priority for future action. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] Recommendation 4 addresses the need for a fully indexed escalator to ensure that the federal cash contribution will continue to grow to meet the future health needs of Canadians. The escalator formula recognizes that health care needs are not always synchronized with economic growth. In fact, in times of economic hardship (e.g., unemployment, stress, and familial discord), a greater burden is placed on the health care system. If left as is, the current federal cash value will continue to erode over time with increasing demands from an ageing and growing population, and inflation. Combined, these recommendations speak not only to the fundamental principles of the necessity of having a sustainable health care system, but also in terms of the federal government continuing to take the necessary concrete leadership steps to ensure that adequate and long-term funding is available to meet the health care needs of all Canadians. The recommendations are strategic and targeted, and serve to build on and strengthen the core foundation of our health care system. If Canada's health care system is not only to survive, but thrive in the new millennium, we must give serious consideration to a range of possible solutions that place our system, and the federal role in that system, on a more secure and sustainable financial foundation. The CMA is prepared to continue to work with governments and others in developing innovative and lasting solutions to the challenges that face the health care system. IV. SUSTAINABLE HEALTH CARE AND PRODUCTIVITY In last year's report tabled in the House of Commons, the Standing Committee on Finance proposed the development of a productivity covenant. The Covenant "should subject all existing government initiatives (spending, taxation, regulation) to an assessment which evaluates their expected effects on productivity and hence the standard of living of Canadians. Every new budgetary initiative should be judged according to this productivity benchmark." 10 [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] In the context of reinvesting in health care, the Standing Committee's Covenant asks that a "business case" be made. The CMA is of the view that there exists an important relationship between a well-funded, sustainable, public health care system and economic productivity. Just as strong economic fundamentals are generally viewed as an essential requirement for Canada's prosperous future, stable, adequate and where required, increased resources for health and health care funding should also be considered as an investment in the future well-being of Canadians, and by extension, our economic ability to compete. Framed in this context, these "investments" strengthen the capacity of Canadians to live rewarding and productive lives. From a structural perspective, studies have recognized the link between a well-funded, sustainable health care system as an important contributor to Canada's economic performance. 11 [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The studies suggest that the nature in which Canada largely finances its health care system through general taxes is more efficient compared to the United States which finances its system predominantly through employer-sponsored programs. Compared to the United States, Canada finances its health care system more equitably by spreading the financial risk across all taxpayers. As well, issues related to job mobility and the portability of health care benefits are not in question in the Canadian system. However, recent federal underfunding in health care has significantly contributed to impaired access to care by injured and sick workers delaying their return to work, decreasing productivity and increasing the cost of doing business and the cost to society. 12 A well-funded, sustainable health care system can be viewed as an important component in the decision-making process of businesses to locate in Canada. 13 In this context, there are a number of benefits that may accrue to Canadians at the individual and societal level, for example: * it can attract medium- and long-term business investment; * lead to the development of new infrastructure (e.g., facilities, equipment); * nurture the development of new long-term (value-added) jobs; * generate real and growing incomes; * increase individual and societal economic activity/consumption, wealth and investment capital; * reduce overall dependence on publicly funded social programs (e.g., employment insurance, income support programs); and * contribute to a growing and sustainable tax base. Underscoring the important linkages between the quality of life of Canadians and productivity is the important role of an efficient and well-funded public health care system and sustained economic growth. Given that policy decisions impact on the economy, health and health care should not necessarily be considered in isolation. In fact, wherever possible, good economic policy and good health and health care policy should be mutually reinforcing, or at a minimum, better synchronized. In an increasingly global, interdependent and competitive marketplace, businesses are not looking to assume greater costs. When it comes to health care, they are not looking to absorb high risk and high cost cases that are currently funded through the public sector. Instead, it would appear that they prefer a well-funded, sustainable health care system that is responsive to the health and health care needs of Canadians. 14 As well, a sustainable publicly funded health care system affords Canadians full mobility (i.e., portability) when it comes to pursuing job opportunities, which in turn, improves productivity. Good economic policy and good health care policy are compatible Canadian societal priorities. One need not be sacrificed to achieve the other nor should they be considered to be in competition with each other. Access to quality health and health care services is an important contributor towards Canada's ability to remain competitive in an increasingly complex global economic environment. Governments at all levels, must take responsibility to ensure that the health system remains on a long-term sustainable financial footing to the extent that it continues to benefit Canadians at the individual and societal level, and in terms of maximizing our quality of life and our ability to be productive. V. PHYSICIAN WORKFORCE ISSUES Canada is now beginning to experience a physician shortage that will be significantly exacerbated in the early decades of the next century. One of the chief contributing factors to the emerging shortage of physicians has been the almost singular focus of governments in their efforts to contain health care costs in the 1990s. A key policy approach introduced by governments to reduce cost growth in health has been to decrease the supply of physicians. A 12-point accord on physician resource management reached by Health Ministers in Banff, Alberta in 1992 included a recommendation for a 10% reduction in undergraduate enrolment in medical schools, which was implemented in the fall of 1993, and a recommendation for a similar percentage reduction in the number of postgraduate training positions. In addition, the introduction in 1992 of the requirement for a minimum of 2 years of prelicensure training removed most of the flexibility that used to exist in the number of postgraduate training slots. For instance, the opportunity for re-entry was no longer available to practising physicians; these re-entry opportunities ensured that young graduates (in general and family medicine) who had opted to go out and do locums or rural placements could then come back into the system at a later date for skills enhancement or speciality training. What the federal/provincial/territorial Ministers of Health did not take into account, however was that the output of Canada's medical schools peaked in the mid-1980s. Between 1986 and 1989, physician supply increased on average by 1,900 per year. This growth was halved between 1989 and 1993 - dropping to an average increase of 960 physicians per year. After 1993, total physician supply dropped in three successive years. This period of declining growth occurred well before the 1993 reductions have had an opportunity to work through the undergraduate education and post-MD training systems. Part of the reason for the decrease in supply is fewer Canadian medical graduates, but a significant part is due to increased attrition from the physician population. One factor has been increased retirement of physicians. The annual number of physicians retiring increased by 40% between the 1985-1989 and 1990-1995 periods. Although there have been up turns in the total supply of physicians in 1997 (285) and 1998 (960), this is unlikely to be sustained, given our lower levels of output from the educational system and higher attrition. The removal of most of these positions was unfortunate because re-entry can provide for more flexibility in the system and can allow for a more rapid adjustment in the physician workforce to meet the health needs of the public. For the Committee's information, appended to the Brief is the CMA's Draft Principles for a Re-entry System in Canadian Postgraduate Medical Education. According to the CMA's projection via the Physician Resource Evaluation Template (PRET), if the current levels of enrolment and attrition patterns continue, Canada will definitely experience a physician shortage in the first decades of the next century, especially after 2011, when the baby-boomer cohort of physicians will begin to retire. There is additional evidence that Canada is experiencing a physician shortage. First, it can be demonstrated that physicians are working harder than ever. Data from the CMA Physician Resource Questionnaire survey show that the mean hours per week worked by physicians (excluding on-call) have increased from 46.9 per week in 1993 to 54.1 hours in 1999 - an increase of 15.4%. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] Second, population-based data suggest that it is becoming more difficult to access physician services. Tracking surveys conducted by the Angus Reid group on behalf of CMA show that in 1998, an estimated 60% of the population believed that access to specialist services has worsened in the past couple of years - up from 41% in 1996. Similarly, in 1998 27% of Canadians reported that access to services from a family physician had worsened - almost double the level of 14% that was reported in 1996. 15 An August 1999 poll conducted by Angus Reid asked Canadians to assess the availability of physicians in their own communities. Only a little over one half of Canadians (52%) feel there are enough physicians available to meet their community's needs. Furthermore, they expect the situation to worsen over the next five years. Less than one third (29%) feel that five years from now there will be enough physicians to meet the health care needs in their communities. 16 In summary, there is ample evidence that not only is Canada heading for a severe physician shortage, but that a shortage has been developing over the past few years. At the same time, it must be recognized that it takes on average six years to train a general practitioner and 8-12 years to train a specialist from the time one enters medical school. If we are to avoid what appears to be a significantly worsening crisis, planning for the future must begin immediately. The CMA therefore recommends: 5. That the federal, provincial and territorial governments adopt the guiding principle of national self-sufficiency in the production and retention of physicians to meet the medical needs of the population, including primary to highly specialized medical care, and the requirements for a critical mass for teaching and research. 6. That the federal government establish and fund a national pool of re-entry positions in postgraduate medical education. In close consultation and collaboration with the provinces and territories, the federal government could play an increasingly vital role when it comes to ensuring that Canada produces an adequate supply of physicians. Furthermore, it could play a role in giving physicians the flexibility they need should they require additional training to meet the emerging needs of Canadians. Cost containment initiatives have also led to decreased numbers of other health care providers all across the country, particularly nurses. The federal government could play a major role in funding and coordinating research across all jurisdictions in Canada on the appropriate supply, mix and distribution of the entire health workforce. Strategic planning in the short, medium and long-term would be greatly facilitated through the establishment of a national institution that could draw on existing national databases and compile research from all the centres in the jurisdictions across the land. The CMA therefore recommends: 7. That the federal government establish a National Centre for Health Workforce Research. RURAL-REMOTE ISSUES While there are physician shortages across the country, it is particularly acute in rural and remote regions of Canada. For a number of personal and professional reasons, physicians are not finding rural and remote practice as rewarding nor sustainable. In 1999, CMA conducted a survey of rural physicians who were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with rural medical practice both from a personal and professional perspective; this study was funded by Health Canada. A similar survey was previously done in 1991. 17 There has been little change in the level of satisfaction for the personal and family factors. However, the level of satisfaction with the professional factors has fallen significantly. In 1991, the proportion indicating they were very satisfied with work hours, professional backup, availability of specialty services and continuing medical education opportunities all decreased by at least 10 percentage points. Similarly, the percentage who were very satisfied with hospital services fell by more than half from 40% in 1991 to 17% in 1999. Likewise, in 1991 42% were very satisfied with their earning potential compared with 23% in 1999. ESCALATION AND DEREGULATION OF TUITION FEES The CMA remains very concerned about high, and rapidly escalating, medical school tuition fee increases across Canada. The CMA is particularly concerned about their subsequent impact on the physician workforce and the Canadian health care system. In addition to the significant impact of high tuition fees on current and potential medical students, the CMA believes that high tuition fees will have a number of consequences, they will: (1) create barriers to application to medical school and threaten the socioeconomic diversity of future health care providers serving the public; and (2) exacerbate the physician 'brain drain' to the United States so that new physicians can pay down their large and growing debts more quickly. In support of this priority matter, the CMA Board has struck a working group to develop a position paper on tuition fee escalation and deregulation; the working group is also planning a national, multiprofession stakeholder conference on this issue. In addition to the recommendation that follows, the CMA believes that governments should increase funding to medical schools to alleviate the pressures driving tuition increases, and that any further tuition increases should be regulated and reasonable. The CMA decries tuition deregulation in Canadian medical schools and recommends: 8. That the federal government enhance financial support systems, such as the Canada Student Loans Program, for medical students in advance of any future tuition increase, and ensure that these support systems are set at levels that meet the financial needs of students. BRAIN DRAIN The net loss of physicians from Canada to other countries has doubled since the beginning of the 1990s. Whereas a net loss of 223 physicians due to migration was recorded in 1991, the corresponding figure for 1997 was 432 physicians - which represents roughly the annual output of four to five medical schools. While these physicians leave for a variety of professional and personal reasons, what is particularly telling is that the figure has doubled over the course of the 1990s. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] For several years, the CMA has warned governments and policy makers about the impending crisis of physician shortages and their implications for the health care system. Regrettably, the calls for a more measured, responsible and deliberate approach to physician resource planning has fallen on deaf ears. There are a number of factors that contribute to physicians leaving Canada. While they would appear to be a combination of personal, professional and economic considerations, the bottom line is our brain drain is a de facto brain gain for another country - predominantly the United States. In reviewing the brain drain issue, Statistics Canada concludes that "there is significant net brain drain in the health professions. Brain gain in health is not enough to make up for brain drain to the United States." 18 This issue is very real for physicians - who are being asked to do more where colleagues are no longer practising; and to the public - who are being asked to be patient as access to the system is delayed or compromised. In the absence of timely, strategic and lasting policy measures, we are likely to continue to risk losing physicians - many of them our best and brightest - to other countries. In this regard, the CMA is of the view that the federal government has an important role to play when it comes to synchronizing policy in the areas of health care, finance and economics. One factor that may contribute to a physician's decision to leave or think about leaving Canada is our tax structure. It is important to note that Canada relies more heavily on personal income taxes than any other G-7 country. 19 While this is important, what is more of concern is how Canada's marginal tax structure compares to that of the United States. While it is understood that Canada has taken a fundamentally different approach with regard to the magnitude and role of the tax system in social policy, the gap between the two systems can no longer be ignored in a world of increasing globalization, economic interdependence and labour mobility. While Canada's personal income tax schedule should be reviewed, it should not come as a surprise to this Committee that other tax policies - such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) only serve to remind physicians of the severity and inequity of the problem. GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST) In its 1997 report to the House of Commons the Standing Committee noted the concerns of the medical profession about the application of the GST and by 1998 indicated that this issue merits further consideration by the government. The CMA believes that it has rigorously documented its concerns and further study is not required (20) - the time has come for concerted action from the federal government to remove this tax impediment. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] When it comes to tax policy and the tax system in Canada, the CMA is strongly of the view that both should be administered in a fair and equitable manner. This principle-based statement has been made to the Standing Committee on a number of different occasions. While these principles are rarely in dispute, the CMA has expressed its strong concerns regarding their application - particularly in the case of the goods and services tax (GST) and the recently introduced harmonized sales tax (HST) in Atlantic Canada. By designating medical services as "tax exempt" under the Excise Tax Act, physicians are in the unenviable position of being denied the ability to claim a GST refund (i.e., input tax credits - ITCs) on the medical supplies necessary to deliver quality health care, and on the other, cannot pass the tax onto those who purchase such services. This is a critical point when one considers the raison-d'être of introducing the GST: to be an end-stage consumer-based tax, and not having a producer of a good or a service bear the full burden of the tax. Yet this tax anomaly does precisely that. As a result, physicians are "hermetically sealed" - they have no ability to claim ITCs due to the Excise Tax Act, or pass the costs to consumers due to the Canada Health Act. The CMA has never, nor is currently asking for, 'special treatment' for physicians under the Excise Tax Act. However, if physicians, as self-employed individuals are considered as small businesses for tax purposes, then it is clearly reasonable that they should have the same tax rules extended to them that apply to other small businesses. This is a fundamental issue of tax fairness. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] While other self-employed professionals and small businesses claim ITCs, an independent (KPMG) study has estimated that physicians have "overcontributed" in terms of unclaimed ITCs by $57.2 million per year. Furthermore, with the introduction of the HST in Atlantic Canada, KPMG has estimated that it will cost physicians an additional $4.686 million per year. By the end of this calendar year, physicians will have been unfairly taxed in excess of $500 million. As it currently applies to medical services, the GST is bad tax policy and the HST will make a bad situation much worse for physicians. There are other health care providers (e.g., dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists, chiropractors, nurses) whose services are categorized as tax exempt. However, there is an important distinction between whether the services are publicly insured or not. Health care providers who deliver services privately have the opportunity to pass along the GST costs through their fee structures. It must be remembered that physicians are in a fundamentally different position given that 99% of their professional earnings come from the government health insurance plans: under the GST and HST, "not all health care services are created equal". There are those who argue that the medical profession should negotiate the GST at the provincial/ territorial level, yet there is no province or territory that is prepared to cover the additional costs that are being downloaded onto physicians as a result of changes to federal tax policy. Nor do these governments feel they should be expected to do so. The current tax anomaly, as it affects the medical profession, was created with the introduction of the GST - and must be resolved at the federal level. The principles that underpin the fundamental issue of tax fairness outlined by Chief Justice Hall are unassailable and should be reflected in federal tax policy. Clearly, it is fairness, not special treatment that the profession is seeking. As it currently stands for medical services, the GST and HST is bad tax policy that does not reinforce good health care policy in Canada. The CMA strongly recommends: 9. That health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. This recommendation would 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: "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. The CMA's recommendation fulfils at least two over-arching policy objectives: (1) it strengthens the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and (2) it applies the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases. In this regard, the CMA is committed to working closely, and on an ongoing basis, with the government to develop collaborative solutions to this tax anomaly. DIFFUSION OF HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES Recently, concerns have been raised about the lack of access to necessary diagnostic and treatment technologies in Canada. Many of the technologies are essential in the early detection of cancers (e.g., breast, prostate, lung), tumours, circulatory complications (e.g., stroke, hardening of the arteries) and other illnesses. A recent study concluded that Canada is generally in the bottom third of OECD countries in availability of technology. Canada ranks 18th (of 29 OECD countries) in making available computed tomography; 19th (of 24 OECD countries) in lithotriptor availability; and 18th (of 27 OECD countries) in availability of magnetic reasonance imagers. Canada ranks favourably only in the availability of radiation equipment (5th out of 16 OECD countries). 21 [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] Given the very real concerns that have been raised with regard to waiting lists across the country, Canadians deserve better when it comes to making available needed health technologies that can effectively diagnose and treat disease. Furthermore, it is clear that we must facilitate the diffusion of new cost-effective health technologies that are properly evaluated and meet defined standards of quality. While physicians are trained to provide quality medical care to all Canadians- they must, at the same time, have the "tools" to do so. In this context, the federal government should establish a National Health Technology Fund that would allow the provinces and territories to access funds. While the provinces and territories would be responsible for determining their respective technological priorities, the federal government would very clearly link the sources of funding with their intended uses, with full recognition for an essential investment in the health care of Canadians. The CMA recommends: 10. That the federal government establish a National Health Technology Fund to increase country-wide access to needed health technologies. The CMA is prepared to work closely with the federal government to assist in the development of objectives and deliverables of such a fund within a reasonable period of time. In so doing, the federal government would work in a strategic partnership with the provinces and territories such that monies from the fund to purchase equipment would be supported by ongoing operational resources at the site of delivery. VI. SYNCHRONIZING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY: WHERE FINANCE, ECONOMICS AND HEALTH CARE COME TOGETHER In appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, the CMA is well aware that policy considerations in finance and economics have an important and direct impact on the funding and delivery of health care in Canada. In the world of public policy, rarely are difficult decisions portrayed as simply being black or white. In most instances, where tough choices are made amongst a series of competing ends, they are often in varying shades of grey. While this is true when it comes to health care policy in Canada or any other discipline, it is important that it be placed in a broader context in terms of being consistent with, or reinforcing other good policy choices that have been implemented. This concept is critical to ensure that, if possible, all policy decisions are moving consistently in the same direction. In effect, synchronized in a way that the "policy whole" is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Such an approach also ensures that policy decisions taken in one sector are not countering decisions taken in other sectors. HEALTH RESEARCH IN CANADA In previous submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance, the CMA has encouraged the federal government to take the necessary steps to establish a national target and implementation plan for health research in Canada. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The CMA was very encouraged with the federal government's announcement in last year's budget to set aside significant resources to develop the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR). By 2001, funding for the CIHR is expected to increase to $484 million. The CMA was also pleased with the Minister's recent announcement to earmark $147 million to attract and retain health researchers in Canada. In offering a vision and structure to facilitate health research in Canada, the government should be congratulated. The CMA believes that significantly increasing funding in support of health research is of direct benefit to: (1) the health of Canadians; (2) Canada's health care system; and (3) to foster the development of health care as an industry. This is where good economic policy goes hand-in-hand with good health and health care policy in Canada. The CMA strongly supports the CIHR model and is prepared to work closely with government and others to do what is necessary to make this become a reality. Recognizing that Canada is moving into a new phase when it comes to funding and undertaking health research, the government is taking an important step to ensure our best and brightest medical scientists and health researchers are developed and remain in Canada. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] As a national organization representing the views of practising physicians across the country, the CMA strongly believes it has a meaningful contribution to make in moving the CIHR model forward. Specifically, in the areas of: * knowledge management (the CMA contributed greatly to stimulating clinical and health services research in Canada) * contributing to the research agenda (the CMA contributes to the research agenda in health services research, for example the Western Waiting List project funded by the Health Transition Fund) * ensuring quality peer-reviewed research (the CMA publishes the leading peer-reviewed medical journal in Canada) * research transfer (the CMA plays a leading role in developing tools to transfer research into practice - such as the Clinical Practice Guideline Database) * ethics (the CMA maintains a standing committee on ethics) * sustainability (the CMA has advocated for a strong Canadian presence in health research) While the CIHR will have a broad mandate for health research, physicians will have a key role to play in medical and health services research. The CMA looks forward to playing a more substantive role as the model moves to become reality. The CMA recommends: 11. That the federal government continue to increase funding for health research on a long-term, sustainable basis. TOBACCO CONTROL PROGRAMS Tobacco taxation policy should be used in conjunction with other strategies for promoting health public policy, such as public education programs to reduce tobacco use. The CMA continues, however, to maintain that a time-limited investment is not enough. Substantial and sustainable fund-ing is required for programs in prevention and cessation of tobacco use. 22 [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] A possible source for this type of program investment could be tobacco tax revenues or the tobacco surtax. The CMA believes that that the federal government should designate 0.6 cents per cigarette sold to a fund to defray the costs of tobacco interventions, including those provided by physicians with the expertise in the treatment of nicotine addiction. This would generate approximately $250 million per year to help smokers quit. 23 The CMA recommends: 12. That the federal government commit stable funding for a comprehensive tobacco control strategy; this strategy should ensure that the funds are invested in evidence-based tobacco control projects and programs, which would include programs aimed at prevention and cessation of tobacco use and protection of the public from tobacco's harmful effects. 13. That the federal government support the use of tobacco tax revenues for the purpose of developing and implementing tobacco control programs. 14. That the federal government place a high priority for funding tobacco prevention and evidence-based cessation programs for young Canadians as early as primary school age. TOBACCO TAXATION POLICY Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality in Canada. The most recent estimates suggest that more than 45,000 deaths annually in Canada are directly attributable to tobacco use. The estimated economic cost to society from tobacco use in Canada has been estimated from $11 billion to $15 billion. 24 Tobacco use directly costs the Canadian health care system $3 billion to $3.5 billion (25) 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 aged 10-14. 26 A 1997 Canada Health Monitor Survey found that smoking among girls 15-19 is at 42%. 27 A Quebec study found that smoking rates for high school students went from 19% to 38%, between 1991 and 1996. 28 The CMA congratulates the federal government's initiatives to selectively increase federal excise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco sticks. This represents the first step toward the development of a federal integrated tobacco tax strategy, and speaks to the importance of strengthening the relationship between good health policy and good tax policy in Canada. 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 interprovincial/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 do not make international smuggling profitable. The selective stepwise increase in tobacco taxes can be combined with other tax strategies. The federal government should be congratulated for reducing the export exemption available on shipments in accordance with each manufacturers' historic levels, from 3% of shipments to 2.5%. However the CMA believes that the federal government should remove the exemption. The objective of implementing the export tax would be to make cross-border smuggling unprofitable. The federal government should establish a dialogue with the US federal government. Canada and the US should hold discussions regarding harmonizing US tobacco taxes with Canadian levels at the factory gate. Alternatively, Canadian tobacco tax policy should raise price levels such that they approach US tobacco prices. The CMA therefore recommends: 15. That the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy (a) To implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: (1) reduce tobacco consumption, (2) minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, and (3) minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; (b) To apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers' historic levels; and (c) To enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, raising Canadian tobacco price levels in line with or near the US border states, in order to minimize international smuggling. REGISTERED RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS (RRSPS) 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 standard of living upon retirement. Reviewing the demographic picture in Canada, we know that an increasing portion of society is not only aging, but is living longer. Assuming that current trends will continue and peak in the first quarter of the next century, it is important to recognize the role that private RRSP savings will play in ensuring that Canadians may continue to live in dignity well past their retirement from the labour force. In its 1996 budget statement, the federal government announced that the contribution limits of RRSPs was to be frozen at $13,500 through to 2002/03, with increases to $14,500 and $15,500 in 2003/04 and 2004/05 respectively. As well, the maximum pension contribution 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. This policy runs counter to the 1983 federal government White Paper on 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 principle of 'pension parity' was explicitly recognized and endorsed. Since that time, in three separate papers released by the federal government (1983, 1984, 1987), the principle of pension parity would have been achieved between money-purchase (MP) plans (i.e., RRSPs) and defined-benefit (DB) plans (i.e., Registered Pension Plans) had RRSP contribution limits risen to $15,500 in 1988. As a founding member of the RRSP Alliance, the CMA, along with others has been frustrated that eleven years of careful and deliberate planning by the federal government around pension reform has not come to fruition. In fact, if the current policy remains in place it will have taken more than 17 years to implement needed reforms to achieve parity (from 1988 to 2005). While pension parity will be achieved between RRSP plans and RPP plans in 2004/05, it will have been accomplished on the backs of Canadians whose RRSP contribution levels have been frozen for far too long. As a consequence, the current policy of freezing RRSP contribution limits and RPP limits without adjusting the RRSP contribution limits to achieve pension parity serves to maintain inequities between the two plans until 2004/05. This situation is further compounded by the implementation of this policy because the RRSP/RPP plans are frozen and therefore unable to grow at the rate in the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) Specifically, if the recommended policy of pension parity had been implemented in 1988, the growth in RRSP and RPP contribution limits could have grown in line with the yearly maximum pensionable earnings - and would be approximately $21,000 today. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] TABLE 2 - RRSP Contribution Limits Adjusted by the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE Earnings (YMPE) Year YMPE % change RRSP Limits 1988 $27,700 $15,500 1989 $28,500 2.89 $15,948 1990 $28,900 1.40 $16,171 1991 $30,500 5.54 $17,067 1992 $32,200 5.57 $18,018 1993 $33,400 3.73 $18,690 1994 $34,400 2.99 $19,249 1995 $34,900 1.45 $19,529 1996 $35,400 1.43 $19,809 1997 $35,800 1.13 $20,032 1998 $36,900 3.07 $20,648 1999 $37,400 1.36 $20,928 YMPE Source: Revenue Canada, April 1999 [TABLE END] Each year the Department of Finance publishes revenue cost to the federal treasury of a number of policy initiatives. For RRSP contributions, the net tax expenditure (i.e., tax revenue not collected) is estimated to be $7.5 billion in 1998. The net tax expenditure associated with registered pension plans is estimated to be $6.2 billion in 1998. In this context, it is critical to understand the difference between tax avoidance and tax deferral. RRSPs allow Canadians to set aside necessary resources to provide for their retirement years. In the medium and longer-term, when RRSPs are converted to annuities, they bring increased tax revenues to government. While current contributions exceed withdrawals, this will not continue indefinitely as the baby boom generation retires at an accelerated rate. In sum, at a time when the government is reviewing the role of public benefits in society, there is a social responsibility placed on government to ensure a stable financial planning environment is in place which encourages greater self-reliance on private savings for retirement. From the standpoint of synchronizing good tax policy with good social policy, it is essential that the RRSP system be expanded such that it gives Canadians the means and incentive to prepare for retirement, while at the same time, lessening any future burden on public programs. The CMA recommends: 16. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 increase to $15,500 for the year 2000/01. 17. That the federal government explore mechanisms to increase RRSP contribution limits in the future given the delay in achieving pension parity, since 1988. Under current federal tax legislation, 20% of the cost of an RRSP, RRIF or Registered Pension Plan's investments can be made in 'foreign property'. The rest is invested in 'Canadian' investments. If the 20% foreign content limit is exceeded at the end of a month, the RRSP pays a penalty of 1% of the amount of the excess. In its December 1999 pre-budget consultation, the Standing Committee on Finance made the following recommendation (p. 58): "The Committee recommends that the 20% Foreign Property Rule be increased in 2% increments to 30% over a five year period. This diversification will allow Canadians to achieve higher returns on their retirement savings and reduce their exposure to risk, which will benefit all Canadians when they retire." A study by Ernst and Young demonstrated that Canadian investors have experienced substantially better investment returns over the past 20 years with higher foreign content limits. As well, the Conference Board of Canada concluded that lifting the foreign content limit to 30% would have a neutral effect on Canada's economy. The CMA strongly supports the Standing Committee's position that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that Canadians would benefit from an increase in the Foreign Property Rule, from 20% to 30%. The CMA therefore recommends: 18. That the 20% Foreign Property Rule for deferred income plans such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Registered Retirement Income Funds be increased in 2% annual increments to 30% over a five year period, effective the year 2000. As part of the process to revitalize and sustain our economy, greater expectations are being placed on the private sector to create long-term employment opportunities. While this suggests that there is a need to re-examine the current balance between public and private sector job creation, the government nonetheless has an important responsibility in fostering an environment that will accelerate job creation. In this context, the CMA strongly believes that current RRSPs should be viewed as an asset rather than a liability. With proper mechanisms in place, the RRSP pool of capital funds can play an integral role in bringing together venture capital and small and medium-size business and entrepreneurs. The CMA would encourage the federal government to explore current regulatory impediments to bring together capital with small and medium-size businesses. The CMA recommends: 19. That the federal government explores the regulatory changes necessary to allow easier access to RRSP funds for investment in small and medium-size businesses. Currently, if an individual declares bankruptcy, creditors are able to launch a claim against their RRSP or RRIF assets. As a consequence, for self-employed Canadians who depend on RRSPs for retirement income, their quality of life in retirement is at risk. In contrast, if employees declare bankruptcy, creditors are unable to lay claim on their pensionable earnings. This is an inequitable situation that would be remedied if RRSPs were creditor-proofed. The CMA recommends: 20. That the federal government undertake the necessary steps to creditor-proof RRSPs and RRIFs. ENDNOTES: 1. It is important to keep in mind that in addition to the CHST, a separate accounting procedure was established through what is called a CHST Supplement. The Supplement, which totals $3.5 billion, was charged to the 1998 federal government public accounts, but is allocated over a three-year period (i.e., $2.0 billion, $1.0 billion, and $0.5 billion). However, at any point in time, a province or territory can take its portion of the $3.5 billion. 2. The $2.5 billion dollars to be reinvested represents the amount of federal cash that was removed with the introduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) beginning in April 1996 through to 1998. The amount is calculated on the basis of the recent historical federal cash allocation (approximately 41%) under EPF and CAP (now the CHST) to health care as a proportion of the $6.0 billion required to restore the CHST cash floor to $18.5 billion (1995/96 level). 3. The data sources for Figure 1 are: (1) CHST: Canadian Medical Association, Looking Toward Tomorrow, September 1998, p. 4.; (2) Historical national cash transfer to health from Established Programs Financing Reports, Federal-Provincial Relations Division, Department of Finance; (3) Population Statistics: Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91-213; (4) CPI annual % change: Source for 1990-96 is Canadian Economic Observer, cat. No. 11-210-XPB, Historical Statistical Supplement 1996/97, p. 45. For 1996, 1997 and 1998 the source is Canadian Economic Observer, cat. No. 11-010-XPB, April 1999. For 1999 and 2000 the source is Royal Bank of Canada Econoscope, May 1999, p.14. For 2001, 2002 and 2003 CPI % change is assumed to stay constant at the 2000 level of 1.3%. 4. Thomson A. Federal Support for Health Care. Health Action Lobby. June 1991, p. 13. 5. Statistics Canada, Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, Medium Growth Scenario, 1993-2016, December, 1994 (Catalogue #91-520). 6. Health Canada. National Health Expenditures in Canada, 1975-1994. January 1996. 7. 1998 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, Chapter 6, Population Aging and Information for Parliament: Understanding the Choices, April. WWW: http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/html/9860xe12.html, available on 06/09/99 at 17:38:37. 8. Maintaining Prosperity in an Ageing Society. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, 1998. 9. The Fiscal Monitor, Department of Finance. August 1999. Current Analysis, The Royal Bank of Canada, August 1999. The Bank estimates that the fiscal dividend will reach $25.9 billion in 2004/05, and $41.2 billion in 2007/08. 10. Facing the Future - Challenges and Choices for A New Era. Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, December 1998, p. 30-31. 11. Green JP, MacBride-King J. Corporate Health Care Costs in Canada and the U.S.: Does Canada's Medicare System Make a Difference? Conference Board of Canada, 1999. Purchase B. Health Care and Competitiveness. School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, 1996. KPMG. The Competitive Alternative: A Comparison of Business Costs in Canada and the United States, 1996. Amanor-Boadu, Martin LJ. Canada's Social Programs, Tax System and the Competitiveness of the Agri-Food Sector, Guelph, Agri-Food Competitiveness Council, 1994. 12. Green JP, MacBride-King J. Corporate Health Care Costs in Canada and the U.S.: Does Canada's Medicare System Make a Difference? Conference Board of Canada, 1999. 13. KPMG. The Competitive Alternative: A Comparison of Business Costs in Canada and the United States, 1996. 14. Baillie C. Health Care in Canada: Preserving a Competitive Advantage, Speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, April, 1999. 15. National Angus Reid Poll, 1998. 16. National Angus Reid Poll, 1999. 17. Canadian Medical Association. The 1991 Survey of Physicians in Rural Medical Practice, 1991. Canadian Medical Association. Survey on Rural Medical Practice in Canada, 1999. 18. Presentation by Statistics Canada Officials to the Standing Committee on Industry, May 1999. 19. Business Council on National Issues: Creating Opportunity, Building Prosperity. October 1998, p. 6. 21. KPMG, Review of the Goods and Services Tax on Canadian Physicians, June 12, 1992. KPMG, Review of the Impact of a Provincial Value Added Tax on Physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, August 12, 1996. 21. Harriman D, McArthur W, Zelder M. The Availability of Medical Technology in Canada: An International Comparative Study. The Fraser Institute. August 1999. 22. In California, between 1988 and 1993, when the state was carrying on an aggressive public anti-smoking campaign, tobacco consumption declined by over 25%. Goldman LK, Glantz SA. Evaluation of Antismoking Advertising Campaigns. JAMA 1988; 279: 772-777. 23 In 1998, 45.613 billion cigarettes were sold in Canada. Statistics Canada, Catalogue #32-022, December, 1998. In 1997/98, total tobacco revenues were $2.04 billion, Public Accounts, Volume II, Part 1, Excise Tax Revue. The rationale for 0.6 cents per cigarette is based on a total amount of 25 cents per pack, of which the federal and provincial/territorial governments would contribute on an equal basis (i.e., 12 cents each). Recently, California passed Proposition 99 which added 25 cents to each pack of cigarettes. 24. Health Canada, Economic Costs Due to Smoking (Information Sheet). Ottawa: Health Canada, November 1996. 25. Health Canada, Economic Costs Due to Smoking (Information Sheet). Ottawa: Health Canada, November 1996. 26. Health Canada, Youth Smoking Behaviour and Attitudes (Information Sheet). Ottawa: Health Canada, November 1996. 27. Canada Health Monitor, Highlights Report, Survey #15. Price Waterhouse, January-February 1997. 28. Editorial. Raise Tobacco Taxes. The Gazette [Montreal] 1997 Sept 23. Sect B:2.

Documents

Less detail

Putting Patients First : Comments on Bill C 6 (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) : Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1979

Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1999-11-25
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1999-11-25
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
Text
CMA commends the federal government for taking this important first step that begins the debate on privacy and the protection of personal information. The issues are complex and the interests at stake significant. CMA welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on Bill C-6 and hopes that its input will strengthen the Bill by ensuring that patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records are adequately protected. CMA’s chief concern with Bill C-6 is the inadequacy of its provisions to protect the right of privacy of patients and the confidentiality of their health information. The right of privacy encompasses both the right to keep information about ourselves to ourselves if we so choose and to exercise control over what subsequently happens to information we confide in trust for the purpose of receiving health care. In recent years, this right, and the ability of physicians to guarantee meaningful confidentiality, have becoming increasingly threatened. Computerization of health information facilitates easy transfer, duplication, linkage and centralization of health information. Captured in electronic form, patient information is potentially more useful for the purpose of providing care. However, thus captured, it also becomes much more valuable and technically accessible to various third parties -- private and public, governmental and commercial -- wishing to use this information for other purposes unrelated to providing direct care. An additional concern is that the demand for health information, referred to by some commentators as ‘data lust’, is growing, partly as a consequence of ‘information hungry’ policy trends such as population health. There is also a disturbing tendency toward ‘function creep’, whereby information collected for one purpose is used for another, often without consent or even knowledge of the individual concerned and without public knowledge or scrutiny. Furthermore, initiatives concerning health information technology tend to be dominated by those who seek access to this information for secondary purposes. From this perspective, privacy may appear less as a fundamental right than as a hindrance or even roadblock. As we move further into the information age there is some danger that we will become so spell-bound by the promise of information centralization and database linkages that we lose sight of the patients who confided this information or reduce them to impersonal ‘data subjects’. To avoid this danger and the allure of the technology we need to ground the application of information technology and practices in well-tested, enduring principles. We need to put privacy first rather than treat it as a nuisance or impediment. Rules and regulatory regimes concerning health information should be based on the principle of patient privacy because ultimately health information technology is not about ‘bits and bytes’ or ‘data’ or even ‘data subjects’ but about patients, and patients deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and to have their wishes and choices valued and respected. If we are to put patients first the right of privacy must be given primacy in rules concerning health information. This does not mean that this right is absolute. What it does mean is that the burden of proof must rest with those whose purposes, however compelling they may be, encroach upon the right of privacy. It means that we value patient privacy at least enough to demand explicit justification of any proposal that would diminish privacy. Bill C-6 begins with the right premise: that “rules to govern information collection, use and disclosure” should recognize the “right of privacy”. However, it fails to recognize the special nature of health information and to tailor its provisions accordingly. In consequence there is confusion and uncertainty about Bill C-6's application to health care. Even more seriously, however, Bill C-6 fails to recognize that health information requires stronger or greater privacy protection than other types of information. The inadequacy of Bill C-6 for health care is not surprising because clearly it was not drafted with health information in mind. Rather, it is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. The world of health care is very different from that of commerce and consequently requires distinct rules that are more protective of privacy. Confiding information to your physician under the trust of the patient-physician relationship is not on par with giving your address to a salesclerk when you purchase a toaster or rent a movie. Health information is special by nature. Canadians know this. In a recent Angus Reid poll commissioned by CMA Canadians told us loudly and clearly that they regard their health information as especially sensitive. However, the obvious sensitivity of health information is not the only thing that makes it special and in virtue of which it warrants distinct rules to strengthen privacy protection. It is important to recognize that this information is typically collected under the trust patients vest in their physicians. Patients confide their information for the purpose of receiving care and in the expectation that it will be held in the strictest confidence. This purpose, and the preservation of this trust, should be given primacy in rules concerning health information. It is also important to recognize that the trust under which patients confide in their physicians is fundamental to the patient-physician relationship. If patients can not trust their physicians to protect their information and keep it secret they will not confide it as freely as they do. In consequence, the ability of physicians to provide the care needed would be severely diminished. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature and the circumstances of trust and vulnerability in which it is initially collected or confided. Patients confide in their physicians for the purpose of receiving care. The potential that the information thus confided may subsequently be used for other purposes must not impede the therapeutic purpose or diminish the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. In recent years the secondary use of information for purposes other than those for which it was collected has been increasing without adequate oversight or public knowledge. This ‘function creep’ undermines the trust of patient-physician relationship. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context and for purposes unrelated to the provision of direct care should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. To the extent that they are permitted to occur without patient consent they should be explicitly authorized in legislation to ensure transparency and adequate oversight. Putting patients first means ensuring that health information, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, is used only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Moreover, a distinction must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use. Bill C-6 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The laxness and breadth of these exemptions as applied to health information is unacceptable. These uses, without the patient’s consent (or even knowledge), reduce the patient to a means to someone else’s end, however worthwhile that end may be. Moreover, the absence of consent (or even knowledge) undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. CMA has developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code (Appendix A) in recognition of the special nature of health information and to give primacy to patients and to the right of privacy. This Code begins from the same starting point as Bill C-6, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Code which the Bill includes as Schedule 1. However, unlike Bill C-6, the CMA Code tailors the CSA Code to the specific circumstances of health information. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code, therefore, is able to address issues specific to health information that Bill C-6 either fails to address or, even worse, exacerbates. In light of the clear deficits in Bill C-6 and the inadequate protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality, CMA urges this committee to accept the recommendations put forward in this brief to strengthen the Bill’s provisions for protecting privacy and to accept the amendment (Appendix B) CMA has prepared to give effect to these recommendations. CMA believes that Canadians desire and deserve no less than this as concerns the right of privacy with respect to health information. I. Introduction The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Our mission is to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standard of health and health care for Canadians. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and 43 affiliated medical organizations. On behalf of its 46,000 members and the Canadian public, CMA performs a wide variety of functions, including addressing the emerging issue of electronic health information and confidentiality and privacy. It is in this capacity that we present our position on Bill C 6, The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. CMA commends the federal government for taking this important first step of beginning the debate on privacy and the protection of personal information. The issues are complex and the interests at stake significant. CMA welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on Bill C-6 and hopes that its input will strengthen the Bill by ensuring that patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records are adequately protected. In preparing this brief CMA has had the benefit of the final report of the federal Advisory Council on Health Infostructure, Canada Health Infoway: Paths to Better Health: Final Report. (“Advisory Council Report”) Where appropriate, CMA cites the findings contained in the Report. CMA wishes to underscore the key themes of its brief: A. Health information is special by its nature. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature. Ensuring protection of privacy and confidentiality of the patient record must take precedence over other considerations. Bill C-6 fails to do this. Bill C-6 is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. The world of health care is very different from that of commerce and consequently requires distinct rules. B. Typically, health information is confided in the context of the therapeutic relationship and under the trust upon which this relationship is built. Rules concerning health information -- and in particular its collection, disclosure and use for purposes unrelated to the provision of direct care -- must be consistent with the expectations of patients about confidentiality and must not exploit the trust patients have in their physicians or compromise the ability of physicians to earn and maintain this trust. C. Health information must, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, be used only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Moreover, a distinction must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use. Bill C-6 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The laxness and breadth of these exemptions as applied to health information is unacceptable. These uses, without the patient’s consent (or even knowledge), reduce the patient to a means to someone else’s end, however worthwhile that end may be. Moreover, the absence of consent (or even knowledge) undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. D. The root of most of the problems in applying Bill C-6 to health care information is its failure to distinguish among purposes for the collection, use and disclosure of health information. In particular, the Bill fails to distinguish between the primary purpose, which is to deliver care to and for the benefit of an individual patient, and secondary purposes, which are not for the direct benefit of the patient (and indeed may even use the patient’s information to his or her detriment). Provisions to protect privacy should give recognition to the difference between these purposes and should not hinder the ability of physicians and others to provide care consistent with the patient’s wishes. Moreover, the Bill has no effective mechanism to distinguish legitimate purposes, which should be permitted, from illegitimate purposes, which should not, notwithstanding the limitation to “purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances” in Section 5(3). E. In recent years the secondary use of information for purposes other than the purpose for which it was collected has been increasing without adequate oversight or public knowledge. This ‘function creep’ undermines the trust of patient-physician relationship. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context and for purposes unrelated to the provision of direct care should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. To the extent that they are permitted to occur without patient consent they should be explicitly authorized in legislation to ensure transparency and adequate oversight. This Brief will first look at the apparent rationale of Bill C-6 and its potential application to health information. The brief will then describe why CMA considers health information to be special in nature and worthy of special protection. Finally, the brief reviews the difference in approach between Bill C-6 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code to illustrate that Bill C-6 provides inadequate protection to patient privacy and medical confidentiality. II. Rationale and Scope of Bill C-6 A. Rationale of Bill C-6 The driving force behind Bill C-6 is the support and promotion of electronic commerce. The second part of the Bill is devoted to permitting electronic versions of documents and signatures to be legitimate or ‘originals’ if the provisions of the Act are followed. Part 2 of the Bill is quite distinct from Part 2 and both parts could stand alone as separate pieces of legislation. Part 2 simply allows electronic versions of documents and signatures to be recognized as legitimate. On its face, this has little to do with the protection of personal information except to the extent that storage of documents in electronic form provides greater ability to access, link and merge information. Certainly, the Bill appears to draw on this connection by including, in its statement of purpose, the provision of a right of privacy in an era in which technology increasingly facilitates the collection and free flow of information. Part 1 concerns all forms of personal information, electronic and otherwise. It gives some protection to personal information by requiring consent in some instances. In CMA’s view, a fundamental difficulty with Part 1 and with the Bill in general is that its goal is to promote commerce and thus all information is implicitly considered as falling within the ‘commercial’ realm. In the case of health information this is surely not the case or the only consideration. Moreover, this creates a clash of values when applied to a health care system that is a public system. The Advisory Council Report takes a firm stand on this issue and states that legislation respecting the privacy protection of health information, “should also contain a clear prohibition against all secondary commercial use of personal health information.”Moreover, Bill C-6 fails to distinguish and priorize different purposes for collecting, using and disclosing information and in doing so treats all purposes as more or less equal and subject to the same rules. CMA takes a quite a different view when it comes to health information and will expound its view throughout this brief. B. Scope - Application to Health Records CMA has argued from the outset that C 6 (and its predecessor C 54) will apply to some health information. This view now appears to be widely accepted. Nevertheless, it is unclear as to what extent Bill C 6 will apply to health records. The full name of the Act states, in part: An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances . . . . What are these circumstances? Section 4(1) states that Part 1 (the part protecting personal information) applies in respect of personal information that: (a) the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities; or (b) is about an employee of the organization and that the organization collects, uses or discloses in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business. The definition of commercial activity given in 2(1) that commercial activity Ameans any particular transaction, act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a commercial character@ is circular and does nothing to clarify uncertainties concerning the Bill’s scope. There are two points to be made here as concerns the application of this Bill to health information. The first concerns clarity around where commercial ends and health care begins. Which health care settings that operate for profit are excluded from the Act? This question speaks to the difficulty of delineating what activity is considered health care and what activity is considered commercial. Moreover the increase in public/private partnerships and joint funding of endeavours within the health care sector, which the government appears to be promoting, may make it increasingly difficult to make this distinction; for example in the area of research. The second concerns the specification of different regimes for information protection and privacy rights, depending on whether the information is deemed to come under commercial activity. This is clearly not desirable. However, the solution to this problem is not to reduce the privacy rules for all health information to the lowest common denominator but to raise them to a higher level of protection than is afforded commercially acquired information. Subjecting all health information to the regime laid out in the CMA Health Information Privacy Code would achieve this objective. In preparing this brief CMA has assumed that the Bill will provide a scheme that applies to at least some health information. Three years after it is in force it will apply equally to activities that occur strictly within the provinces, unless there is legislation in the province that is substantially similar to the Bill (see sections 27(2)(b) and 30). No doubt the extent of the federal government’s ability to legislate in this area generally will be the subject of extensive debate. However, CMA has no comment on this debate and provides its opinion in the interests of ensuring that the rules that relate to health information are compatible with preserving the integrity of the patient physician relationship and the protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality. The federal government has an opportunity to provide Canadians with strong privacy rights in health information. It is incumbent upon the government to do so. C. Scope - Government Excluded Bill C-6 expressly excludes a large part of government activity from its ambit. Although government activity is to some extent governed by the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, P-21, the rules of this Act provide less protection than those of Bill C-6. Government should subject itself to at least the same rules that it requires of the private sector in so far as it is a collector and user of information. Indeed, government’s practices relating to the collection, storage, merging, transfer and use of health information should be subject to more stringent rules than those found in either the Privacy Act or Bill C-6. The Advisory Council Report also calls for the same rules to apply to the public and private sectors, rules that are more stringent than those found in the Privacy Act or Bill C-6. Therefore, CMA recommends: That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors. III. Considerations Regarding Patient Privacy and Confidentiality: Medical Context Versus Commercial Context A. CMA’s Position The world of health care is very different from that of commerce and consequently requires distinct rules that are more protective of privacy. Confiding information to your physician under the trust of the patient-physician relationship is not on par with giving your address to a salesclerk when you purchase a toaster or rent a movie. Health information is special by nature. Canadians know this. In a recent Angus Reid poll commissioned by CMA Canadians told us loudly and clearly that they regard their health information as especially sensitive. However, the obvious sensitivity of health information is not the only thing that makes it special and in virtue of which it warrants distinct rules to strengthen privacy protection. It is important to recognize that this information is typically collected under the trust patients vest in their physicians. Patients confide their information for the purpose of receiving care and in the expectation that it will be held in the strictest confidence. This purpose, and the preservation of this trust, should be given primacy in rules concerning health information It is also important to recognize that the trust under which patients confide in their physicians is fundamental to the patient-physician relationship. If patients could not trust their physicians to protect their information and keep it secret they would not confide it as freely as they do. In consequence, the ability of physicians to provide the care needed would be severely diminished. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature and the circumstances of trust and vulnerability in which it is initially collected or confided. Patients confide in their physicians for the purpose of receiving care. The potential that the information thus confided may subsequently be used for other purposes must not impede the therapeutic purpose or diminish the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. In recent years the secondary use of information for purposes other than those for which it was collected has been increasing without adequate oversight or public knowledge. This ‘function creep’ undermines the trust of patient-physician relationship. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context and for purposes unrelated to the provision of direct care should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. To the extent that they are permitted to occur without patient consent they should be explicitly authorized in legislation to ensure transparency and adequate oversight. Putting patients first means ensuring that health information, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, is used only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Moreover, a distinction must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use. Bill C-6 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The laxness and breadth of these exemptions as applied to health information is unacceptable. These uses, without the patient’s consent (or even knowledge), reduce the patient to a means to someone else’s end, however worthwhile that end may be. Moreover, the absence of consent (or even knowledge) undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. CMA has developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code (Appendix A) in recognition of the special nature of health information and to give primacy to patients and to the right of privacy. In commenting on this Code the Advisory Council Report notes: The Code represents an important contribution to the deliberations of Canadians and legislators on how to safeguard privacy across the health domain. In his 1998-99 Annual Report, the Federal Privacy Commissioner writes in support of the Health Information Privacy Code: Legislators looking for guidance on health information privacy law need not re-invent the wheel; the Canadian Medical Association’s Health Information Privacy Code is a comprehensive benchmark for achieving a high national level of protection for personal information. The Code could be the basis for drafting legislation. Given the grumblings that the Code sets the bar too high, perhaps some Health Infoway funds should be used to study the impact of its implementation. The patients at the heart of this system deserve no less. There are several key principles that guided the development of the Health Information Privacy Code and upon which it is based: 1. The provision of health care to all Canadians irrespective of social circumstances or health status is a highly regarded value in Canadian society. The system is publicly funded and universally accessible. 2. The right of privacy is fundamental to a free and democratic society. 3. Rules relating to health information must recognize its special nature. Health information has a high level of sensitivity and is confided or collected in circumstances of vulnerability and trust for the primary purpose of benefiting the patient. 4. The hallmark of the medical profession since the time of Hippocrates has been the willingness and ability to hold information confided secret. 5. The patient-physician relationship is one of trust. A central feature of this trust is the belief of patients that information confided in or collected by physicians and other health care providers will be kept secret. 6. Patients believe that the information they disclose or that is gathered as a result of their seeking health care will be used to provide them with health care. Use beyond the provision of health care without knowledge or consent goes beyond what a patient’s reasonable expectations were when information was confided or collected and therefore is a breach of the trust patients place in their physicians. 7. Except in very limited circumstances, consent is required for health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any purpose. 8. Information required to provide patients with the health care sought should be readily available to those who require it to provide an aspect of care as consistent with the wishes of the patient. 9. Uses of health information for purposes other than the provision of health care to the person seeking care should be subject to rules that: - protect and promote privacy and confidentiality; - generally require express consent; - can be justified according to specific criteria. 10. Patients should know the uses to which their health information may be put prior to disclosing it. 11. Patients may be reluctant to disclose information if they are concerned about the uses to which the information is put or the persons entitled to access it. B. Public Opinion To determine the public’s views on issues concerning privacy and health information, CMA commissioned Angus Reid to conduct research in two forms, quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus groups), and has found the following: 1. Canadians believe that health information is the most sensitive type of information, and indeed more sensitive than their financial information. 1. 2. Canadians believe that their health information will be kept confidential and consider this to be important. 3. Canadians believe it important to know and control how their health information is shared with others. 4. Canadians do not want their health information released to third parties (including governments and researchers) without their knowledge and consent. 5. Canadians have concerns about the release of delinked or anonymous information to third parties without their consent. 6. Some Canadians are reluctant to confide information to their physicians due to concerns about it subsequently being disclosed to others without their consent. 7. Patients believe that privacy rules should apply equally to the public and the private sector. These findings are consistent with the published literature and other findings relating to the public’s concerns about privacy and confidentiality. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code was developed in consideration of these views. Once developed, its principles were subsequently tested with the public in a series of cross-country focus groups and it was found that the Code appears to enjoy considerable public support. C. The Advisory Council Report The Advisory Council Report relates to the electronic health record. However, given the direction towards the greater use of technology and the underlying principles informing the Advisory Council, its recommendations are generalizable to all health information. A key principle of the Advisory Council Report is that access by health care professionals should be based on a need-to-know basis under the strict control of the patient. The Council, like CMA, calls for scrutiny and justification of secondary uses of health information. The Council is opposed to the use of multipurpose identifiers on the grounds that it becomes too easy for government officials from one department to gain access to a person’s health record or to combine a number of records to assemble a comprehensive profile. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that this concern may be justified and that there are insufficient safeguards preventing the flow of health information among government departments.) The Council recommends that all governments ensure that they have legislation to address privacy protection specifically aimed at protecting personal health information through explicit and transparent mechanisms. Included in these mechanisms are: * The provision of a precise definition of free and informed consent, as well as a statement of principle that informed consent should be the basis for sharing personal health information; * Any exemption to the requirement of informed consent should be clearly set out in law. More specifically, legislative guidance should be provided on how to balance the right of privacy with the public good for research purposes to implement a coherent and harmonized pan-Canadian system for independent, ethical review. * There should be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information. These provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. * Legislation should set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system. To prevent the serious invasions of privacy that can result from the unrestricted linking of personal health information with other kinds of information on the same individual, the legislation should contain provisions prohibiting the use for any other purpose of unique personal identifiers in health information systems. D. The Approach in Bill C-6 Bill C-6 begins with the right premise: that “rules to govern information collection, use and disclosure” should recognize the “right of privacy”. However, it fails to recognize the special nature of health information and to tailor its provisions accordingly. In consequence, there is confusion and uncertainty about Bill C-6's application to health care. Even more seriously, however, Bill C-6 fails to recognize that health information requires stronger or greater privacy protection than other types of information. The Bill makes a cursory attempt at distinguishing among varying types of personal information and gives inadequate additional protection to information that is highly sensitive (such as health information), notwithstanding the provisions in Paragraph 4.3.4 of Schedule 1 concerning consent which do provide some latitude for more stringent requirements in the case of sensitive information. The Bill permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purposes. In the context of health information, these grounds should be subject to intense scrutiny to determine their relevance and legitimacy. Some of these grounds would not withstand scrutiny if subjected to the tests established in the CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code. E. Conclusion CMA believes that health information is special and deserves a higher level of privacy protection than other types of information. The Advisory Council Report also recognizes that distinct rules, more protective of privacy, are required for health information. The Council’s Report places strong emphasis on the protection of privacy, recognizes that, as a general rule, the flow of health information should be on a need-to-know basis and under the control of the patient through the exercise of free and informed consent, and requires limits on the secondary use of health information. The inadequacy of Bill C-6 for health care is not surprising because clearly it was not drafted with health information in mind. Rather, it is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. However, the world of health care is very different from that of commerce and distinct rules that are more protective of privacy. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code begins from the same starting point as Bill C-6, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Code which the Bill includes as Schedule 1. However, unlike Bill C-6, the CMA Code tailors the CSA Code to the specific circumstances of health information. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code, therefore, is able to address issues specific to health information that Bill C-6 either fails to address or, even worse, creates. It offers a template for the protection that should be specifically accorded to the right of privacy in health information, a template that appears to have considerable public support and is designed to uphold patient confidence in their physicians and the health care system. Amending Bill C-6 to incorporate the principles in the CMA Code would ensure adequate privacy protection. CMA recommends: That Bill C-6 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Health Information Privacy Code provide the basis of such provisions. CMA developed the Health Information Privacy Code in recognition of trends and developments that pose new threats to patient privacy and the trust of the therapeutic relationship. In recent years the secondary use of information for purposes other than the purposes for which it was collected has been increasing without adequate oversight or public knowledge. This ‘function creep’ undermines the trust of patient-physician relationship. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context and for purposes unrelated to the provision of direct care should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. To the extent that they are permitted to occur without patient consent they should be explicitly authorized in legislation to ensure transparency and adequate oversight. CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code provides a test to which legislation addressing health information should be subjected. This test (found in section 3.6 of the CMA Code) states: Any proposed or existing legislation or regulation made under legislative authority that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access shall be subjected to the following legislative test: (a) There must be demonstration that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public and has been duly considered prior to the introduction of legislation [section 3.5 of the Code provides guidance with respect to the patient privacy impact assessment]; (ii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be limited to the greatest degree possible to ensure that * the collection of health information by persons external to the therapeutic context will neither trade on nor compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; * patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; * the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; and, * patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (iii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes; (iv) provisions exist for ensuring that patients are provided with knowledge about the purpose(s) and that, subject to 3.6(b), patient consent is clearly voluntary; (v) the means used are proportionate and the collection will be limited to purposes consented to or made known to the patient; (vi) the patient’s privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to or made known to the patient; (vii) linkage of the health information will be limited; and (viii) unless clear and compelling reasons exist: * all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; and * if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous would render it inadequate for legitimate uses, the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format. (b) When nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access is permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of the Code, the following conditions must also be met: (i) the right of privacy has to be violated because the purpose(s) could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and (ii) the importance of the purpose(s) must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society. (c) Any legislative provision or regulation that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access nonconsensually shall not, without compelling reasons, be applied retroactively to existing health information. In its current form, Bill C-6 would not pass the scrutiny of the test. Consequently, CMA recommends: That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code and formulated in light of this process. IV. Specific Comments on Bill C-6 From the Perspective of CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code This section highlights some key distinctions between the approach taken by Bill C-6 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code. It uses examples to illustrate divergent approaches taken for the purpose of demonstrating that Bill C-6 is inadequate in the protection it accords health information and to show how the CMA Health Information Privacy Code would address the issues adequately. A. General Bill C-6 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code are based on the Canadian Standards Association’s Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information (CSA Code). Bill C-6 and the CMA Code also augment the CSA Code’s provisions where considered necessary. The need to extend the provisions of the CSA Code demonstrates that the CSA Code, being general in nature, provides inadequate protection to information in many instances. The CSA recognized this at the time it developed its Code and specifically issued additional, specific guidance for health information in the form of an appendix to the Workbook for applying the Code. The Workbook begins: Information regarding one’s health and health records may be among the most sensitive of all personal data. Individuals are concerned that inappropriate disclosure of such information could unduly affect their employment status or their lives in general. . . Some health information is obtained directly from health care providers who have been given a patient’s private information with the expectation that this information will remain as a private communication. Health care providers . . . in turn, feel that such concerns could influence individuals to withhold vital information or avoid treatment to ensure their private information remains as such. Implementation of privacy procedures that adhere to the principles in the CSA Code and rigid applications of such procedures are essential steps for organizations that require access to health information, to maintain an individual’s trust that sensitive personal information remains confidential. In designing and implementing such procedures, organizations should recognize the sensitive nature of such information and also the fact that the primary reason that health care providers maintain records is to ensure that safe and efficacious care is provided. The Workbook goes on to list 7 interpretative points to augment the CSA Code, providing additional privacy protection as it applies to health information, including the following: requirements for the individual’s knowledge and consent be rigidly followed. Consent to acquire and disclose health information should be undertaken with the individual’s full knowledge of the scope of information to be requested. Bill C-6 does not include these additional interpretive points. It does not give due recognition that health information, because of its high sensitivity, deserves even stronger protection than is provided in the CSA Code as appended in Schedule 1 of the Bill (which even the Committee that drafted the CSA Code recognized). Although Bill C-6 and the CMA Code are based on the CSA Code, each takes a different approach to the ultimate protection accorded information and to the right of privacy. This divergence demonstrates that there are many ways to resolve issues left unresolved by the CSA Code. In other words, it is not a foregone conclusion that basing provisions on the CSA Code will result in appropriate or adequate protection of information. Rather, resolution of issues requires thought and deliberation and will depend in some measure on the primacy given to certain values. Bill C-6 appears to have given access primacy in the pursuit of commerce, whereas CMA gives privacy protection primacy in the pursuit of the provision of health care in accordance with physicians’ fiduciary obligations to patients and the integrity of the patient-physician relationship. CMA did not develop its approach in a vacuum. It reviewed, and was inspired by, the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Privacy: Where Do We Draw the Line? This report articulates and makes explicit many of the issues that should be informing the current debate on Bill C-6. In addition, the Report of the Advisory Council takes a very different approach than Bill C-6. The Report recognizes the need to pay more than lip service to protecting privacy and confidentiality and recommends specific measures aimed at doing this. B. Primacy of the Therapeutic Purpose The root of most of the problems in applying Bill C-6 to health care is its failure to distinguish among purposes for the collection, use and disclosure of health information. In particular, the Bill fails to distinguish between the primary purpose, which is to deliver care to and for the benefit of an individual patient, and secondary purposes, which are not for the direct benefit of the patient and indeed may even involve using the patient’s information to his or her detriment. Under Bill C-6, the same rules apply equally to both the primary and to secondary purposes. In other sectors this failure to distinguish different purposes and to fashion rules in light of salient differences may not pose problems. In the health care sector, however, the consequences could be quite serious. As applied to secondary purposes, the provisions in Bill C-6 fail to limit access appropriately. Access to information may occur in ways that are inappropriate and violate the privacy of patients. As applied to the primary purpose -- the use of a person`s information to provide that person with care -- the rules in the Bill, if rigidly construed, may inhibit access that would otherwise be appropriate and consistent with the patient`s right of privacy. For example, the consent provisions in the Bill could create impediments to information flow where various members of a ‘health care team’ require information about the patient in order to be effective for the patient’s benefit; the provisions in the Bill that seek to limit the extent of information collection could inhibit physicians from being as extensive as they sometimes are and should be in collecting information from patients for the purpose of providing care; the provisions in the Bill requiring that the patient`s request to review his or her record be in writing could in fact be a barrier to patient access which might otherwise be facilitated informally and consistently with the patient`s wishes by a simple verbal request. Such consequences no doubt would be unintended by the drafters of the Bill; the drafters might even argue that for someone to interpret the provisions mentioned above as potentially leading to these consequences would be to misinterpret them. Regardless, the fact is that the Bill, on these matters and others, is somewhat strained when its provisions are applied to health care. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code, however, is not. It begins from the same starting point as Bill C-6, which is the CSA Code. However, the CMA, recognizing (as the drafters of the CSA Code apparently also did) that the CSA Code would need to be tailored to deal adequately with health information, did so in drafting its Health Information Privacy Code. This document was written from the ground up not just with privacy first and foremost as a value but also with specific reference to the health sector. And it is based on the fundamental premise that not all purposes for the use of health care are equal and that the therapeutic purpose must be given primacy. Thus the CMA Health Information Privacy Code avoids the kind of problems identified above that might arise as Bill C-6 is applied to health information. For example, it specifies that the collection of health information for the primary purpose of providing care “may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context” (3.2) but that for any secondary purposes it should be “as minimal as necessary in recognition of the need to protect the patient’s right of privacy in the therapeutic context” (3.3.). As concerns consent, which CMA recognizes to be core to the protection of privacy, the CMA Code articulates rules for consent in recognition of the importance of timely information flow in the team context and as appropriate to meet the purpose for which the patient has confided the information in the first place, which is to receive care. It stipulates that consent for the primary purpose may therefore be implied, albeit with certain qualifications. Moreover, where consent is required, the provisions of the Code allow that “the conveyance of generic information is a reasonable means of providing knowledge” in most circumstances, which means that this requirement is unlikely to create unreasonable burdens that would diminish rather than strengthen the therapeutic relationship. Finally, the CMA Code limits itself to issues of principle concerning patient access to their records; Bill C-6, by specifying that requests must be in writing, could in fact be creating a barrier to patient access or an undue burden upon the patient-physician relationship as there may be instances when an informal request would be quite appropriate. C. Knowledge of Purpose Prior to Collection Bill C-6 Bill C-6 is ambiguous in its provisions relating to whether or not a person should know the purposes for which information will be used prior to disclosure. This is due in part to the use of the term “knowledge and consent” as one concept rather than distinguishing the knowledge requirement from the consent requirement. What a person should know in relation to the purposes for which information might be used or disclosed, prior to its being given, is distinct conceptually from whether the person must consent before information can be used or disclosed for a particular purpose. Schedule 1 of the Bill contains a number of principles. For the purposes of this Brief the schedule will be referred to in terms of the principles (and their subparagraphs). Principle 2 addresses the identification of purposes for which information will be used or disclosed. Provided a purpose is identified it becomes a legitimate purpose (this Brief recognizes that the addition of the “reasonable person” clause in 5(3) takes precedence and provides some grounds for distinguishing legitimate and illegitimate purposes). Subparagraph 3 states that the identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection. Section 5(2) of the Bill states that the use of ‘should’ in schedule 1 indicates a recommendation and does not impose an obligation. Therefore, according to subparagraph 3, it is recommended but is not obligatory that disclosure occur. On the other hand, principle 3 addresses consent and appears to impose an obligation by stating that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate. Similarly subparagraph 2 appears to create something of an obligation by stating, “organizations shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that the individual is advised of the purposes for which the information will be used.” Section 7(1)(a) permits the collection of information without knowledge and consent when collection is clearly in the interests of the individual and consent cannot be obtained. The intent of this section could be made clearer, particularly in terms of who determines the “interests of the individual.” Otherwise this exception could give undesirable licence to collect without knowledge or consent. The provision in section 7(1)(b) is more problematic. This section appears to favour withholding knowledge from an individual if such knowledge would compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use. In some instances it may well be that, if an individual is provided with knowledge of the purposes for which information is collected and the uses to which it will be put, he or she may choose to withhold information rather than disclose it, and in doing so would clearly compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use to which the information will be put. This is contrary to principle 4.4.2, which recognizes that information should not be collected by misleading or deceiving individuals. The intent of this section should be far clearer and circumscribed in such a way as to make it clear that it is not permissible to withhold knowledge or not seek consent simply on the basis that if a person had knowledge they would not wish to disclose information. Section 7(1)(c) allows collection without knowledge or consent for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes. This provision is totally inappropriate in the case of health information. CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Health Information Privacy Code is considerably more restrictive that Bill C-6. It recognizes that, in the therapeutic context, health information is confided or collected under the patient’s presumption that it is necessary to meet his or her therapeutic needs. The potential that health information may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without patient consent should be made known to patients before information is confided or collected for the primary therapeutic purpose. Moreover, it is not acceptable to withhold knowledge from patients deliberately out of concern that knowledge could inhibit them from confiding important information fully and truthfully. The CMA Health Information Privacy Code limits the nonconsensual collection of health information to circumstances where it is either permitted or required by legislation or ordered or decided by a court of law. In addition, the CMA Code gives explicit direction to legislators with respect to the conditions under which legislation should permit or require health information collection (see section 3.6 of CMA Code). In the case of nonconsensual collection, the following conditions are stipulated: 1. The right of privacy has to be violated because the purposes could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and 2. The importance of the purposes must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society. D. Use Without Knowledge Or Consent Bill C-6 Once information has been collected and despite the limits, inadequate though they be, placed on collection without knowledge or consent, it can be put to even greater use than for the purposes for which it has been collected (with or without knowledge or consent). Section 7(2) opens up dramatically the uses to which collected information may be put without either knowledge or consent. At a minimum, and with little additional administrative effort, the enumerated grounds of section 7(2) (and 7(3) should be made known to an individual prior to their disclosure of information, which would be in keeping with the principle of openness and explicitness. Section 7(2)(a) allows use in connection with the investigation of an offence. In the medical context this could be problematic, particularly if it is interpreted to impose an obligation. Generally, there is no obligation to assist in the investigation of an offence, and indeed the fiduciary duty between patient and physician and the duty of confidentiality owed to the patient by the physician would suggest that physicians not offer information, despite its usefulness. Section 7(2)(b) recognizes emergency situations. However, as worded, section 7(2)(b) would allow access to anyone’s information if it is for the purpose of acting in an emergency threatening the life, health or security of an individual. The implications of this section should be carefully thought through. It is not desirable to give such a broad licence to access anyone’s information on the basis of an emergency. There should be some limiting principle that takes into account the prevailing view that people generally are not required to go to the assistance of others (emergency or otherwise) and that information about oneself is considered worthy of protection against use or disclosure, despite its potential benefit to others (for example, genetic information or HIV or Hepatitis C status). Section 7(2)(c) is very problematic as it permits the use of “identifiable” information for a host of purposes, including statistical and research, when it is impractical to seek consent. Even though the Commissioner must be informed of the use before the information is used the Commissioner has no power to approve or reject the use. If the use is legitimate under the Bill there would be no grounds open to the Commissioner to cause an audit to occur. This section gives significant scope for the secondary use of information that has been collected without knowledge or consent; in the case of health information it is very problematic. CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Code makes a clear distinction between the primary purpose for the collection and use of health information and secondary purposes for its use. The key distinction between these two categories is that primary purposes relates to the provision of the health care benefit sought whereas secondary purposes are ends or aims that are not directly related to the provision of care. The CMA Code divides secondary purposes into two categories: 1. Secondary legislated purposes are those purposes that have been subjected to the legislative test specified in the Code and have subsequently been written into law; 2. Secondary nonlegislated purposes are any other purposes, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meet the provisions of the CMA Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by the Code. The tests that the CMA Code requires of both relate to: 1. Impact on privacy. 2. Impact on the patient-physician relationship, especially confidentiality and trust. 3. Impact on the willingness of patients to disclose information. 4. Impact on patients’ ability to receive care. 5. Evidence of broad public support for the measure. 6. The use will not exploit or compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship. 7. Patient vulnerability will not be exploited. 8. Under most circumstances patients will be fully informed of the purpose and patient consent will be clearly voluntary. 9. Patient privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible. 10. Linkage of health information will be restricted and consented to by patients. In other words, the CMA Code does not permit any and all secondary purposes for the use of health information. Rather, it requires justification for the secondary use and assurance that the secondary use will neither impede nor undermine the patient-physician relationship and the provision of health care to the patient. This test is much more privacy protective than the “reasonable person” test the Bill contains in Section 5(3). Moreover, the CMA Code only permits use without consent if it is permitted or required by legislation or when ordered or decided by a court of law. The Advisory Council Report Like the CMA, the Advisory Council Report makes distinctions among various types of uses. The Report calls for legislation to clearly prohibit all secondary commercial use of personal health information (in which respect the Advisory Council takes an even stronger position than the CMA). In addition, the Report recommends that there be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information and that such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which such data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. In this context, the Report recommends that legislation set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system. In addition the Report reviews the uses of health information for statistical and research purposes. In connection with research, the Report calls for a number of safeguards and restrictions: 1. Where the data sets used have a higher level of potential identifiability, “the general rule should be informed consent and stringent assurances about privacy protection and security arrangements are necessary before a researcher can have access to personally identifiable information.” 2. The Report recognizes that in some instances it may be impractical to obtain consent from patients. Whether in anonymous or identifiable form, the Report requires that notice be given about the use of the information. In the case of the use of identifiable information, the Report states that the research should be subject to independent ethics review with the onus on the person seeking to use the information without consent to demonstrate that: (a) a tangible public good of significant benefit will result; (b) consent is impossible to secure at a reasonable cost; (c) less identifiable data will not serve the same purpose; and (d) no harm can occur to any person directly or indirectly as a result of this use of his or her personal information. E. Disclosure Without Knowledge Or Consent Bill C-6 The comments found under C. and D. above apply equally here. Section 7(3) adds further instances when collected information can be disclosed to others without knowledge or consent. CMA Health Information Privacy Code In the case of secondary use of health information, the CMA Code takes a far more restrictive approach. As concerns use, disclosure or access, it states: The potential that health information, in whole or in part, may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without their consent, and what those purposes might be, must be made known to the patient by reasonable means before it is confided or collected for primary purposes. Moreover, the CMA Code recognizes that information disclosed by one organization is collected by another. The Code defines collection to mean: the act of accessing, receiving, compiling, gathering, acquiring or obtaining health information from any source, including third parties, and by any means. It includes information collected from the patient, as well as secondary collection of this information in whole or in part by another provider or user. The collecting organization should be bound by the provisions of the CMA Code, which generally requires consent for use for any purpose and always requires knowledge of the potential purposes that information will or must be put to prior to the information being disclosed. CMA’s Code states: Health information custodians must ensure that third parties privy to health information have adopted this Code or are bound by equivalent provisions. Finally, the CMA Code explicitly recognizes that information can be retrieved from a variety of sources to formulate records. Any and all such practices and the composite form developed are given the same degree of protection as that accorded information collected directly from the patient. F. Consent Bill C-6 In those cases where consent for collection, use or disclosure are required, the provisions in Bill C-6 are inadequate as applied to health care. Schedule 1 distinguishes between express and implied consent. Express consent is not adequately defined and it appears that this is not equivalent to what in health care is called ‘informed consent’. For example, Principle 4.3.2. says that “organizations shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that the individual is advised of the purposes for which the information will be used”. In the health care context, the notion of ‘reasonableness’ with respect to the doctrine of informed consent applies not to the effort to advise or inform (that much is assumed or given) but rather to determinations regarding what information should be provided to the patient. In addition, the application of some of the means described in Principle 4.3.7 by which individuals can give consent, and in particular the ‘negative option’ checkoff box in (b), may be quite problematic in the health care context. The broad scope allowed to implied consent in the Bill is also worrisome as applied to the health care setting. Principle 4.3.6 says “implied consent would generally be appropriate when the information is less sensitive”. However, with implied consent the issue is not the sensitivity of the information but rather the wishes of the patient. It is appropriate to infer consent even when the information is very sensitive provided one has reason to believe this is grounded in the patients wishes; conversely, it is not appropriate to infer consent, even in the case of information deemed not to be sensitive, if there is reason to believe the patient would object if asked explicitly. CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Code furnishes clear definitions for consent: “Consent” means a patient’s informed and voluntary agreement to confide or permit access to or the collection, use or disclosure of his or her health information for specific purposes. For purposes other than the provision of direct care, which is the purpose for which the patient presents in the first place, the consent must always be explicit or express since there is no logical connection between secondary purposes and the desire to achieve care. Therefore inferences cannot be made with any confidence. The Code defines express consent as follows: “Express consent” is given explicitly, either orally or in writing. Express consent is unequivocal and does not require any inference on the part of the provider seeking consent. The CMA Code defines implied consent to disallow the loose use of the term, which is increasing today, to justify access for purposes (secondary purposes in particular) that the patient may not wish to occur: Implied consent arises where agreement may reasonably be inferred from the action or inaction of the individual and there is good reason to believe that the patient has knowledge relevant to this agreement and would give express consent were it sought. The CMA Code also lays out clear rules for the use of the concept of consent and makes clear that consent can be inferred for primary purposes (i.e., the provision of health care to the patient) but not for secondary ones, which require express consent. The Code grounds the notion of implied consent not in the desire to subvert express consent and thereby gain access to information that might otherwise be denied but rather in the wishes of the patient and the importance of providing health care for therapeutic purposes as consistent with those wishes. Advisory Council Report In addition to being more stringent than Bill C-6 about exemptions to consent, the Advisory Council Report also gives greater importance to defining the term clearly and strictly. It says that any legislation concerning health information should: contain a precise definition of free and informed consent, as well as a statement of principle that informed consent should be the basis for sharing personal health information. Although not as precise and emphatic on the subject of consent as is the CMA Health Information Privacy Code, the Report is certainly more so than is Bill C-6. G. Information Flow Within Organizations Bill C-6 Bill C-54 defined use to include “the transfer of personal information within an organization.” Bill C-6 no longer defines use, which leaves it uncertain whether the definition of use quoted above from Bill C-54 would be a reasonable interpretation of Bill C-6. If so, this would create a problem. Interpreting use in this way could have the effect of inappropriately restricting the free flow of information within an organization. In the health care context this is not a reasonable or desirable outcome and would hinder, rather than promotes, the patient’s right of privacy. CMA Code The CMA Code recognizes that the free flow of health information is desirable to the extent that it furthers the provision of the health care benefit sought and that it occurs with patient consent. The Code defines the primary purpose to mean: (i) Primary therapeutic purpose is the initial reason for a patient seeking or receiving care in the therapeutic context, and pertains to the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to the presenting health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. (ii) Primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to the presenting health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. The Code goes on to state that: Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for the primary therapeutic and longitudinal purposes may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context. And further states that: Security safeguards shall impede as little as possible health information collection, use, access and disclosure for primary purposes. Finally, in addressing consent the Code states: Consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose may be inferred. Consent to subsequent collection, use, disclosure and access on a need-to-know basis by or to other physicians or health providers for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, may be inferred, as long as there is no evidence that the patient would not give express consent to share the information. The principles in the CMA Code that give effect to the patient’s right to control what happens to his or her information are not incompatible with the free flow of information among members of a health team for the purpose of providing care to the patient. Indeed, they facilitate and enable this flow to the extent this is in keeping with the patient’s wishes. H. Information Protected Bill C-6 The Bill covers “personal information” which is defined to mean “information about an identifiable individual, but does not include the name, title or business address or telephone number of an employee of an oganization.” This definition raises a host of questions: 1. Does the Bill cover information that has been delinked to an identifiable individual but that could be relinked to identify them? 2. Does the Bill only exclude anonymous information - that is, information that could never be relinked to an identifiable individual? And if so, is there an unjustified assumption that information can, in all cases, be rendered truly anonymous? 3. In the case of delinked and anonymous information, who decides that information about an identifiable individual can be rendered delinked or anonymous? The holder of the information or the person to whom the information pertains? 4. Is it accurate or reasonable to assume that people have no interest in information emanating from them once it has been rendered delinked or anonymous? 5. Given that anonymous information is generated from personal information, is the act or process rendering personal information into anonymous form considered a use under the terms of the Bill, and if so does this use require consent? In considering these questions, it is important to keep in mind that the concept of “anonymity” means different things to different people. Moreover, there are no generally used or accepted standards that address what is required to render identifiable information truly anonymous. As a consequence, different people use different standards (of varying degrees of rigour), if they use a standard at all. It is also important to note that, in virtue of sophisticated techniques for identifying individuals from supposedly anonymous information, there is debate about the extent to which true anonymity can ever be achieved or guaranteed. CMA Health Information Privacy Code In light of issues concerning the definition of ‘personal information’ and in the interest of ensuring a thorough scrutiny of information practices, the CMA Code provides a broad definition of health information: Health information means any information about a patient that is confided or collected in the therapeutic context, including information created or generated from this information and information that is not directly or indirectly linked to the provision of health care. It includes all information formats. The CMA Code covers identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form that is produced when health information is linked to other information about the patient. CMA’s research indicates that patients have an interest in their information even when it is in delinked and in anonymous formats. This view has recently received support from a decision of the High Court of Justice in England that is particularly relevant in the context of the commercial use of health information (Source Informatics Ltd. v. Department of Health). The issue arose because a prescription database company sought judicial review of a Department of Health policy document that advised National Health Service GPs and pharmacists not to sell “anonymous” prescribing or dispensing information. The document contained the following analysis: Anonymisation (with or without aggregation) does not, in our view, remove the duty of confidence towards the patients who are the subject of the data. Apart from the risk of identification of a patient despite anonymisation, the patient would not have entrusted the information to the GP or the pharmacist for it to be provided to the data company. The patient would not be aware of or have consented to the information being given to the data company, but would have given it to be used in connection with his care and treatment and wider NHS purposes. Anonymisation of the data (with or without aggregation) would not obviate a breach of confidence. . . .The duty of confidence may in some circumstances be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure. However we have severe reservations that disclosure by GPs or NHS pharmacists of dispensing information to X or other data companies would be argued to be in the public interest. Indeed it might well be contrary to the public interest if the data company is further selling the information on doctors prescribing habits to the pharmaceutical industry. High Court Justice Latham upheld the policy document, arguing that the information in question, though anonymous, was nonetheless confidential. He also argued that consent to its release was necessary and could not be implied, and that the breach of confidentiality involved in selling this information could not be justified as being in the public interest: In my view, it is impossible to escape the logic . . . that the proposal involves the unauthorised use by the pharmacist of confidential information. . . . In my judgement what is proposed will result in a clear breach of confidence unless the patient gives consent, which is not part of the proposal at present. Nor is it suggested that the patient can be said to have given implied consent. . . . I recognize that, for some, the sensitivity, as they see would see it, of the information may be such that they would feel that any use of the information without their consent, would be unconscionable. In other words it would be a breach of trust which they were reposing in the pharmacist. . . I have come to the conclusion that . . . this [is] a type of situation . . . in which there is a public interest in ensuring that confidences are kept. It is important that those who require medical assistance should not be inhibited in any way from seeking or obtaining. As I have indicated, I believe that there may be some patients who will feel very strongly that the pharmacist should not give any information obtained from the prescription without their consent. In view of the fact that there is a growing industry in so-called anonymous health information, it is important to ensure that this information is protected as consistent with the duties of health care providers and the expectation patients have that their providers will keep their information confidential. Advisory Council Report The Advisory Council Report addresses this issue in a number of ways. In making recommendations concerning the definition of health information, the Report calls for legislation that embodies: a clear definition of health information, broad enough to incorporate health information collected in public and private systems and to ensure that equal obligations and penalties apply to both public and private sectors. The Report recognizes a spectrum of data formats: completely anonymous, linked to pseudo-identities, code linked and reidentifiable, completely identifiable. In terms of sensitivity, the Report notes that information that can be re-identified is somewhat more sensitive than completely anonymous data or anonymous data linked to pseudo-identities and that completely identifiable health information is the most sensitive type of health information. The Report also notes that there can be some degree of risk of re-identification of what was believed to be anonymous data through such processes as data matching and the results of analysis using small cells. In this light, the Report recommends that legislation should recognize: A definition of personal health information, which takes into account the spectrum of potential identifiability in the case of health information. Furthermore, in the case of secondary uses of health information, the Report notes that provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information must form part of any comprehensive legislation. Such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. The Report raises further issues relating to the use of delinked and anonymous data. The Report notes that there may be group interests and concerns regarding data collected and states: Privacy can also be a concern for groups such as Aboriginal and immigrant communities. These communities worry that research on their members could be released to the media without notice and used in a negative way. This emerging issue is growing in importance and, in the Council’s view, should be a serious consideration in the context of ethical reviews of proposed research projects. It is important to note that, in these instances, it is not the fact that data is linked to an identifiable individual that is of concern. Rather, it is the ability to accumulate, process and dissect information that has ramifications for an individual because they are part of a group segregated and identified by the research. Finally, the Report considers the use of person-oriented data (data linked to individuals in a form where personal identifiers have been replaced by a code) for statistical purposes and notes that this too raises concerns about privacy. The Report notes that: “These concerns have traditionally been seen as a tradeoff against data access for research and analysis in the public interest.” The Report restates this to provide a more positive view of privacy and states: the best way for analysts to maintain the public’s consent to use sensitive (but anonymous) health data is to show the public that privacy, confidentiality and security are being taken seriously. In view of the issues concerning the definition of personal information and in the interest of ensuring maximum scrutiny of practices concerning health information and maximum protection of the right of privacy with respect to health information, CMA recommends: That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite information produced when health information is linked to any information about a person from any other source. I. Individual Access Bill C-6 Bill C-6 restricts the right of individual access to personal information. The grounds for denying access to information are inappropriate in the health care context. CMA Code The CMA Code follows the prevailing case law as it relates to medical records. Primarily this gives patients a right of access to their record in all but very limited circumstances. These circumstances are when there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus lies on the provider to justify denial of access on these grounds. J. Accuracy and Amendment Bill C-6 Bill C-6 requires that information be as accurate, complete and up-to-date as possible and that it shall not be routinely updated unless this is necessary to fulfil the purpose for its collection. In so far as amendment is concerned, Bill C-6 permits amendment to the record in specified circumstances. CMA Code The CMA Code takes a different approach in light of the nature and purpose of health information. The Code recognizes that the recording of statements of fact, clinical judgements and determinations or assessments should reflect as nearly as possible what has been confided by the patient and what has been ascertained, hypothesized or determined to be true using professional judgement. In terms of amending the record in light of a patient’s request, the CMA Code seeks to preserve the original record but also provide for noting the patient’s concerns. To accommodate both requirements the CMA Code states: Patients who have reviewed their information and believe it to be inaccurately recorded or false have the right to suggest amendments and to have their amendments appended to the health information. K. Sensitivity Bill C-6 Schedule 1 recognizes that medical records have a high level of sensitivity attached. For this reason this information may warrant special attention concerning consent, reasonable expectations, individual access and the degree of security that is appropriate. CMA Code The CMA Code recognizes that, even as all health information is sensitive (when considered against other forms of information about individuals), there are also variations in the level of sensitivity in various aspects of the health record. The CMA Code defines the “sensitivity of health information” to refer to: the patient’s interest in keeping the information secret. It varies according to the nature of the information, its form, and the potential negative repercussions of its collection, use or disclosure on the patient’s interests. Under the Code’s consent provisions it is stated that: Although all health information is sensitive and should be treated as such, the more sensitive the health information is likely to be, given what is known about the circumstances or preferences of the patient, the more important it is to ensure that consent is voluntary and informed. With respect to security the Code states: The development of security safeguards with respect to levels of access for various users shall recognize the differences in the sensitivity of health information and permit access accordingly. Moreover, the Code recognizes that health information is special and therefore requires distinct rules that afford stronger privacy protection not just due to its sensitivity but also to the circumstances of vulnerability and trust under which it is initially confided or collected. These special circumstnaces, which include much more than sensitivity, are outlined in Principle 2 of the Code. Bill C-6, by contrast, fails to consider these other features that make health information a special case. In consequence its provisions are not adquately tailored to the special nature of health information and do not accord it the strong privacy protection it warrants. V. Conclusions The increased capacity to collect, store, transfer, merge and access information, coupled with trends that support increased use of and access to information, have the potential to erode our traditional understanding and protection of privacy and confidentiality. The issues are complex and the choices we must make are difficult. Nevertheless, these issues should be squarely on the table and the choices that we make must be clear, transparent and defensible. Of paramount importance is that the public is not mislead into believing that their information is being protected or kept confidential when in fact it is not. Therefore, even to refer to Bill C-6 as the “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act” should be the subject of debate. Is the Bill truly about information protection or is it actually about permitting access to information? The approach to rules for information in Bill C-6 is directed toward commerce and appears to have access, and not privacy, as its dominant value, notwithstanding the Bill’s reference to a “right of privacy”. In CMA’s view, the Bill’s approach is inadequate when applied to health information. Based on the evidence, it seems highly likely that the public would also find Bill C-6 inadequate. Bill C-6 was not developed with health information in mind. In consequence there is confusion and uncertainty about its application to the health care context. Even more seriously, however, Bill C-6 fails to recognize that privacy with respect to health information requires stronger or greater protection than other types of information. CMA presents a different approach, an approach that recognizes the special nature of health information; an approach that puts patients first and values privacy and the preservation of the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. This approach appears to be well-grounded in the values that Canadians hold about privacy and would likely enjoy broad public support. In addition, the CMA approach draws support from the Federal Advisory Council Report, which like CMA recognizes the importance of preserving patient privacy and the confidentiality of the health record in an era of increased use of technology. Implicitly, the Report recognizes that the benefits of such technology cannot be realized if public support, based on respect for privacy, cannot be secured. The CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code does what Bill C-6 fails to do. Amending Bill C-6 to incorporate the principles in the CMA Code would ensure adequate privacy protection. In light of the clear deficits in Bill C-6 and the inadequate protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality, CMA urges this Committee to accept its recommendations and the amendment that incorporates them. Nothing less would give Canadians the high level of privacy protection they desire and deserve when it comes to their health information. VI. Summary of Recommendations That Bill C-6 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Health Information Privacy Code provide the basis of such provisions; and That any proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code and formulated in light of this process; and That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite information produced when health information is linked to any other information about a person from any other source; and That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors. CMA has drafted an amendment to Bill C-6 (Appendix B) which, if accepted, would achieve all of these recommendations and adequately give Canadians the kind of privacy protection with respect to their health information that they deserve and desire.

Documents

Less detail

Listening to our Patient's Concerns : Comments on Bill C 54 (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act) : Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1980

Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1999-03-18
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1999-03-18
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
Over the last year, CMA has become increasingly concerned that debate on the issues concerning health information have been framed in terms of access to information with an attendant erosion of privacy and confidentiality. This one-sided approach comes at a time of expansion in our capacity to collect, store, merge, transfer and access information, coupled with trends both in the health care sector and generally related to the use of information To address these concerns and to ensure that privacy and confidentiality in the medical context are valued, protected and preserved, CMA developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code. This Code should form the basis of all legislation governing the collection, use and disclosure of health information. Health information is special by its nature. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature. Ensuring protection of privacy and confidentiality of the patient record must take precedence over other considerations. Bill C-54 fails to do this. Bill C-54 is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. CMA considers the world of health care to be very different from that of commerce and consequently requiring distinct rules. Health information use must, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, occur only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Bill C-54 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The evident lack of protection accorded health information based on such ground, is unacceptable. The absence of protection undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. Moreover, distinctions must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use. Not all purposes for the collection and use of health information are equal. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. Bill C-54 fails to make such a distinction and treats all purposes that could be identified for information collection or use as equal. Moreover, the Bill has no mechanism to distinguish legitimate purposes, which should be permitted from illegitimate purposes, which should not. In light of the clear deficits in Bill C-54 and the inadequate protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality, CMA makes the following recommendations: That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions; and That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process; and That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source; and That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors. I. Introduction The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Our mission is to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standard of health and health care for Canadians. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and 43 affiliated medical organizations. On behalf of its 45,000 members and the Canadian public, CMA performs a wide variety of functions, including addressing the emerging issue of electronic health information and confidentiality and privacy. It is in this capacity that we present our position on Bill C 54, The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. CMA commends the government for taking the first, important step of beginning the debate on the protection of personal information. The issues are complex and the interests at stake significant. CMA welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on Bill C-54. CMA hopes that its input will strengthen the Bill by ensuring that patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records are adequately protected. In preparing this brief CMA has had the benefit of the final report of the federal Advisory Council on Health Infostructure, Canada Health Infoway: Paths to Better Health: Final Report. (“Advisory Council Report”) Where appropriate, CMA cites the findings contained in the report. CMA wishes to underscore the key themes of its brief: A. Health information is special by its nature. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature. Ensuring protection of privacy and confidentiality of the patient record must take precedence over other considerations. Bill C-54 fails to do this. Bill C-54 is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. CMA considers the world of health care to be very different from that of commerce and consequently requiring distinct rules. B. Health information use must, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, occur only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Bill C-54 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The evident lack of protection accorded health information based on such ground, is unacceptable. The absence of protection undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. Moreover, distinctions must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use. C. Not all purposes for the collection and use of health information are equal. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. Bill C-54 fails to make such a distinction and treats all purposes that could be identified for information collection or use as equal. Moreover, the Bill has no mechanism to distinguish legitimate purposes, which should be permitted from illegitimate purposes, which should not. This brief will first look at the apparent rationale of Bill C-54 and its potential application to health information. The brief will next describe why CMA considers health information to be special in nature and worthy of special protection. Finally, the brief reviews the difference in approach between Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code to illustrate that Bill C-54 provides inadequate protection to patient privacy and health record confidentiality. II. Rationale and Scope of Bill C-54 A. Rational of Bill C-54 The driving force behind Bill C-54 is the support and promotion of electronic commerce. The second part of the Bill is devoted to permitting electronic versions of documents and signatures to be legitimate or ‘originals’ if the provisions of the Act are followed. Part two of the Bill is quite distinct from part one and both parts could stand alone as separate pieces of legislation. Part two simply allows electronic versions of documents and signatures to be recognized as legitimate. On its face, this has little to do with the protection of personal information except to the extent that storage of documents in electronic form provides greater ability to access, link and merge information. Certainly, the Bill appears to draw on this connection by including, in its statement of purpose, the provision of a right of privacy in an era in which technology increasingly facilitates the collection and free flow of information. Part one concerns all forms of information, electronic and otherwise. It gives some protection to personal information by requiring consent in some instances. In CMA’s view, a fundamental difficulty with part one and the Bill in general is that it’s goal is to promote commerce and thus all information is implicitly considered as falling within the ‘commercial’ realm. In the case of health information this is surely not the case or the only consideration. Moreover, this creates a clash of values when applied to a health care system that is a public system. The Advisory Council Report takes a hard line on this issue and states that legislation respecting the privacy protection of health information, “should also contain a clear prohibition against all secondary commercial use of personal health information.” Because all information is subjected to similar rules, there is no attempt within the Bill to distinguish some purposes for collecting information from other purposes. The Bill takes the approach that the purposes should be known and documented. While not stated explicitly, the assumption is that all purposes identified are legitimate and are permitted. CMA has quite a different view when it comes to health information and will expound its view throughout this brief. B. Scope - Application to Medical Records CMA is uncertain whether or to what extent Bill C-54 will apply to health records. The full name of the Act states, in part: An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances.... What are these circumstances? Section 4(1) states that Part 1 (the part protecting personal information) applies in respect of personal information that: (a) the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities; (b) the organization collects, uses or discloses interprovincially or internationally; or (c) is about an employee of the organization and that the organization collects, uses or discloses in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business. It should further be noted that three years after the Act is in force it will apply equally to activities that occur strictly within the province unless there is legislation in the province that is substantially similar to the Bill (see sections 27(2)(d) and section 30). The first issue is the provision of section 4(1)(a) - collection, use and disclosure in the course of commercial activities. There seems to be an assumption on the part of government that this automatically excludes health records, (although the Act fails to define what is meant by commercial activity). Is this accurate or does the assumption fail to recognize that there is not a clear, unambiguous distinction between what might constitute commercial activity or other activity? There are two points to be made here. The first concerns clarity around where commercial ends and health care begins. Which health care settings that operate for profit are excluded from the Act? This question speaks to the difficulty of delineating what activity is considered health care and what activity is considered commercial. Moreover it recognizes that the increased encouragement to public/private funding of endeavours within the health care sector may make it increasingly difficult to make this distinction; for example in the area of research. The second concerns the movement of health information from the health care setting (recognizing that this is not easily distinguished from the commercial setting) to the commercial setting; for example, health information provided to insurance companies. When health care information is collected in a health care setting and transferred to a commercial setting, which rules apply - Bill C-54 or no rules? In CMA’s view, there is no clear way of distinguishing commercial activity from health care activity in a way that ensures that the health care record is subject to different rules than those pertaining to other records. Moreover, the dilemma for government is that even if such distinction could occur, would it be desirable that health records be subject to no rules? Put in another way, will those organizations that currently collect health care information be entitled to claim that since the information forms part of the health record they are not subject to the provisions of C-54? Under such a regime health care records would be subject to an even lower standard than that provided for information collected in the commercial context. In terms of the provisions of 4(1)(b) - interprovincial and international transfer of information. This appears to apply to all information. In the existing environment and developments such as the “health information highway,” interprovincial transfers of information, the capacity for the central collection and storage of information, mechanisms such as telephone and cable to transfer information and general trends related to population health, it seems likely that interprovincial traffic will grow rather than diminish. The significance of this section, therefore, cannot be underestimated. Finally, the provisions of 4(1)(c) may well contain health information about the employee. In preparing this brief CMA has assumed that the Bill will provide a scheme that applies to some health information. No doubt the extent of the federal governments ability to legislate in this area generally will be the subject of extensive debate. However, CMA has no comment on this debate and provides its opinion in the interests of ensuring that the rules that relate to health information are compatible with preserving the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and the protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality. CMA considers that the government has an opportunity to provide Canadians with strong privacy rights in health information. Indeed, CMA believes that it is incumbent upon the government to do so. C. Scope - Government Excluded Bill C-54 expressly excludes a large part of government activity from its ambit. While government activity is to some extent governed by the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, P-21, the rules of this act provide less protection than those of Bill C-54. Government should subject itself to at least the same rules that it requires of the private sector in so far as it is a collector and user of information. Moreover, CMA is of the view that government’s practices relating to the collection, storage, merging, transfer and use of health information must be subject to more stringent rules than those found in either the Privacy Act or Bill C-54. The Advisory Council Report also calls for the same rules to apply to the public and private sectors, rules that are more stringent than those found in the Privacy Act or Bill C-54. Therefore, CMA recommends: That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors. III. Considerations Regarding Patient Privacy and Confidentiality: Medical Context Versus Commercial Context A. CMA’s Opinion Over the last year, CMA has become increasingly concerned that debate on the issues concerning health information have been framed in terms of access to information with an attendant erosion of privacy and confidentiality. This one-sided approach comes at a time of expansion in our capacity to collect, store, merge, transfer and access information, coupled with trends both in the health care sector and generally related to the use of information To address these concerns and to ensure that privacy and confidentiality in the medical context are valued, protected and preserved, CMA developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code, which is appended to and forms part of this brief. In commenting on this Code the Advisory Council Report notes: The code represents an important contribution to the deliberations of Canadians and legislators on how to safeguard privacy across the health domain. There are a number of principles underpinning the Health Information Privacy Code: 1. The provision of health care to all Canadians irrespective of social circumstances or health status is a highly regarded value in Canadian society. The system is publicly funded and universally accessible. 2. The right of privacy is fundamental to a free and democratic society. 3. Rules relating to health information must recognize its special nature. Health information has a high level of sensitivity, it is confided or collected in circumstances of vulnerability and trust for the primary purpose of benefiting the patient. 4. Physicians now and historically promise that they will keep their patients’ information secret; this is a hallmark of the profession. 5. The patient-physician relationship is one of trust and a central feature of this trust is the belief in patients that information confided in or collected by physicians and other health care providers will be kept secret. 6. Patients believe that the information they disclose or that is gathered as a result of their seeking health care will be used to provide them with health care; uses beyond the provision of health care without knowledge or consent go beyond what a patient’s reasonable expectations were when information was disclosed or gathered and is a breach of the trust patients place in their physicians. 7. Except in very limited circumstances, consent is required for health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any purpose. 8. Information required to provide patients with the health care sought should be readily available to those who require it to provide an aspect of care. 9. Uses of health information for purposes other than the provision of health care to the person seeking care should be subject to rules that: - protect and promote privacy and confidentiality; - generally require express consent; - can be justified according to specific criteria. 10. Patients should know the uses to which their health information is put prior to their disclosure of it. 11. Patients may be reluctant to disclose information if they are concerned about the uses to which the information is put or the persons entitled to access it. B. Public Opinion To determine the public’s view on these issues, CMA commissioned Angus Reid to conduct research in two forms, quantative (survey) and qualitative (focus groups), and has found the following: 1. Patients believe that their health information will be kept confidential and consider this to be important. 2. Patients believe it important to know and control how their health information is shared with others. 3. Patients do not want their health information released to third parties (including governments and researchers) without their knowledge and consent. 4. Patients may have concerns about the release of delinked or anonymous information to third parties without their consent. 5. Patients may be reluctant to confide information as a result of concerns related to its use or disclosure. These findings are consistent with general findings relating to the public’s concerns about privacy and confidentiality. C. The Advisory Council Report The Advisory Council Report relates to the electronic health record. However, given the direction towards the greater use of technology and the underlying principles informing the Advisory Council, CMA believes that the recommendations are generalizable to all health information. A key principle of the Advisory Council is that access by health care professionals should be based on a need-to-know basis under the strict control of the patient. The Council, like CMA calls for scrutiny and justification of secondary uses of health information. The Council is opposed to the use of multipurpose identifiers on the grounds that it becomes too easy for government officials from one department to gain access to a person’s health record or combine a number of records to assemble a comprehensive profile. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that this concern may be justified and that there are insufficient safeguards preventing the flow of health information among government departments) The Council recommends that all governments ensure that they have legislation to address privacy protection specifically aimed at protecting personal health information through explicit and transparent mechanisms. Included in these mechanisms are: * The provision of a precise definition of free and informed consent, as well as a statement of principle that informed consent should be the basis for sharing personal health information; * Any exemption to the requirement of informed consent should be clearly set out in law. More specifically, legislative guidance should be provided on how to balance the right of privacy with the public good for research purposes to implement a coherent and harmonized pan-Canadian system for independent, ethical review. * There should be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information. These provisions should address privacy concern surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. * Legislation should set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system. To prevent the serious invasions of privacy that can result from the unrestricted linking of personal health information with other kinds of information on the same individual, the legislation should contain provisions prohibiting the use for any other purpose of unique personal identifiers in health information systems. D. The Approach in Bill C-54 Bill C-54 is inadequate in its protection of health information. The Bill makes a meagre attempt at distinguishing among varying types of personal information and gives no additional protection to information that is highly sensitive (such as health information). The Bill permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purposes. In the context of health information, these grounds should be subject to intense scrutiny to determine their relevance and legitimacy. In CMA’s view and according to the tests established in the CMA’s Code, some of these grounds would not withstand such scrutiny. E. Conclusion CMA’s Code offers a template for the protection that should be accorded health information, a template that appears to have some public support and that strives to retain patient confidence in their physicians and the health care system. The Report of the Federal Advisory Council also recognizes that special rules are required for health information. The Council’s Report places strong emphasis on the protection of privacy, recognizes that as a general rule the flow of health information should be on a need-to-know basis and under the control of the patient through the exercise of free and informed consent and requires limits on the secondary use of health information. In CMA’s view, Bill C-54 should incorporate specific rules relating to health information and CMA’s Code should form the basis of these rules. CMA recommends: That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions. In addition, CMA’s Code provides a test that legislation addressing health information should be subjected to. This test (found in section 3.6 of the CMA Code) states: Any proposed or existing legislation or regulation made under legislative authority that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access shall be subjected to the following legislative test: (a) There must be demonstration that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public and has been duly considered prior to the introduction of legislation [section 3.5 of the Code provides guidance with respect to the patient privacy impact assessment]; (ii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be limited to the greatest degree possible to ensure that * the collection of health information by persons external to the therapeutic context will neither trade on nor compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; * patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; * the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; and, * patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (iii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes; (iv) provisions exist for ensuring that patients are provided with knowledge about the purpose(s) and that, subject to 3.6(b), patient consent is clearly voluntary; (v) the means used are proportionate and the collection will be limited to purposes consented to or made known to the patient; (vi) the patient’s privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to or made known to the patient; (vii) linkage of the health information will be limited; and (viii) unless clear and compelling reasons exist: * all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; and * if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous would render it inadequate for legitimate uses, the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format. (b) When nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access is permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of the Code, the following conditions must also be met: (i) the right of privacy has to be violated because the purpose(s) could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and (ii) the importance of the purpose(s) must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society. (c) Any legislative provision or regulation that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access nonconsensually shall not, without compelling reasons, be applied retroactively to existing health information. In its current form, Bill C-54 would not pass the scrutiny of the test. Consequently, CMA recommends: That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process. IV. Specific Comments on Bill C-54 From the Perspective of CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code This section highlights some key distinctions between the approach taken by Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code. The purpose of this section is to illustrate through examples the divergence of approaches taken with the ultimate aim of demonstrating that Bill C-54 is inadequate in the protection it accords health information. A. General Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code are based on the Canadian Standards Association’s Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information (CSA Code). Bill C-54 and the CMA Code also augment the CSA Code’s provisions where considered necessary. The need to extend the provisions of the CSA Code demonstrates that the CSA Code, being general in nature, provides inadequate protection to information in many instances. Although Bill C-54 and the CMA Code are based on the CSA Code, each takes a different approach to the ultimate protection accorded information. This divergence demonstrates that there are many ways to resolve issues left unresolved by the CSA Code. In other words, it is not a foregone conclusion that basing provisions on the CSA Code will result in appropriate or adequate protection of information. Rather, resolution of issues requires thought and deliberation and will depend in some measure on the primacy given to certain values. Bill C-54 appears to have given access primacy in the pursuit of commerce, whereas CMA gives privacy protection primacy in the pursuit of the provision of health care in accordance with physicians fiduciary obligations to patients and the integrity of the patient-physical relationship. CMA did not develop its approach in a vacuum. It reviewed and was inspired by the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Privacy: Where Do We Draw the Line? This report articulates and makes explicit many of the issues that should be informing the current debate on Bill C-54. In addition, the Report of the Advisory Council takes a very different approach to Bill C-54. The Report recognizes the need to pay more than lip service to protecting privacy and confidentiality and recommends specific measures aimed at doing this. B. Information Protected Bill C-54 The Bill covers “personal information” which is defined to mean “information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form.” This definition raises a host of questions: 1. Does the Bill cover or not information that has been delinked to an identifiable individual but that could be relinked to identify them? 2. Does the Bill only exclude anonymous information - that is, information that could never be relinked to an indentifiable individual? And if so, is there an unjustified assumption that information can, in all cases, be rendered truly anonymous? 3. In the case of delinked and anonymous information, who decides that information about an identifiable individual can be rendered delinked or anonymous? The holder of the information or the person to whom the information pertains? 4. Is it accurate or reasonable to assume that people have no interest in information emanating from them once it has been rendered delinked or anonymous? CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Code provides a broad definition of health information: Health information means any information about a patient that is confided or collected in the therapeutic context, including information created or generated from this information and information that is not directly or indirectly linked to the provision of health care. It includes all information formats. In addition, the CMA Code covers identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form that is produced when health information is linked to other information about the patient. CMA’s research indicates that patients may have an interest in their information when it is in delinked and anonymous formats. Advisory Council Report The Advisory Council Report addresses this issue in a number of ways. In making recommendations concerning the definition of health information the Report calls for legislation that embodies: a clear definition of health information, broad enough to incorporate health information collected in public and private systems and to ensure that equal obligations and penalties apply to both public and private sectors. The report recognizes a spectrum of data formats: completely anonymous, linked to pseudo-identities, code linked and reidentifiable, completely identifiable. In terms of sensitivity, the Report notes that information that can be re-identified is somewhat more sensitive that completely anonymous data or anonymous data linked to pseudo-identities and that completely identifiable health information is the most sensitive type of health information. The Report also notes that there can be some degree of risk of re-identification of what was believed to be anonymous data through such processes as data matching and the results of analysis using small cells. In this light, the Report recommends: A definition of personal health information, which takes into account the spectrum of potential identifiability in the case of health information. Furthermore, in the case of secondary uses of health information, the Report notes that provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information must form part of the legislation. Such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. The Report raises further issues relating to the use of delinked and anonymous data. The Report notes that there may be group interests and concerns regarding data collected and states: Privacy can also be a concern for groups such as Aboriginal and immigrant communities. These communities worry that research on their members could be released to the media without notice and used in a negative way. This emerging issue is growing in importance and, in the Council’s view, should be a serious consideration in the context of ethical reviews of proposed research projects. It is important to note that in these instances it is not the fact that data is linked to an identifiable individual that is of concern. Rather, it is the ability to accumulate, process and dissect information that has ramifications for an individual because they are part of a group segregated and identified by the research. Finally, the Report considers the use of person-based data but not people’s names, for statistical purposes and notes that this too raises concerns about privacy. The Report notes that: “These concerns have traditionally been seen as a tradeoff against data access for research and analysis in the public interest.” The Report restates this to provide a more positive view of privacy and states: “the best way for analysts to maintain the public’s consent to use sensitive (but anonymous) health data is to show the public that privacy, confidentiality and security are being taken seriously.” Recommendation That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source. C. Knowledge of Purpose Prior to Collection Bill C-54 Bill C-54 is ambiguous in its provisions relating to whether or not a person should know the purposes for which information will be used prior to disclosure. This is due in part to the use of the term “knowledge and consent” as one concept rather than distinguishing the knowledge requirement from the consent requirement. What a person should know in relation to the purposes information might be used or disclosed for, prior to its being given is distinct conceptually from whether the person must consent before information can be used or disclosed for a particular purpose. Schedule 1 of the Bill contains a number of principles. For the purposes of this brief the schedule will be referred to in terms of the principles (and their subparagraphs). Principle 2 addresses the identification of purposes that information will be used or disclosed for. Provided a purpose is identified it becomes a legitimate purpose under the Bill. Subparagraph 3 states that the identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection. Section 5(2) of the Bill states that the use of ‘should’ in schedule 1 indicates a recommendation and does not impose an obligation. Therefore, according to subparagraph 3, it is recommended but is not obligatory that disclosure occur. On the other hand, principle 3 addresses consent and appears to impose an obligation by stating that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate. Similarly subparagraph 2 appears to create something of an obligation by stating, “organizations shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that the individual is advised of the purposes for which the information will be used.” The relationship between these sections should be clarified and made consistent. CMA is pleased to note that principle 3 has been modified to define when, and only when, organizations may collect information without knowledge or consent. Section 7(1)(a) permits the collection of information without knowledge and consent when collection is clearly in the interests of the individual and consent cannot be obtained. The intent of this section could be made clearer, particularly in terms of who determines the “interests of the individual.” Otherwise this exception could give undesirable license to collect without knowledge or consent. The provision in section 7(1)(b) is more problematic. This section appears to favour withholding knowledge from an individual if such knowledge would compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use. In some instances it may well be that if an individual is provided with knowledge of the purposes for which information is collected and the uses to which it will be put, they may choose to withhold information rather than disclose it, and in doing so would clearly compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use the information will be put to. This is contrary to the principle found in principle 4.1 which recognizes that information should not be collected by misleading or deceiving individuals. The intent of this section should be far clearer and circumscribed in such a way as to make it clear that it is not permissible to withhold knowledge or not seek consent simply on the basis that if a person had knowledge they would not wish to disclose information. Section 7(1)(c) allows collection without knowledge or consent for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes. This provision is totally inappropriate in the case of health information. CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Code is considerably more restrictive that Bill C-54. It recognizes that in the therapeutic context, health information is confided by or collected from patients under the patient presumption that it is necessary to meet his or her therapeutic needs. CMA also believes that the potential that health information may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without patient consent should be made known to patients before information is confided or collected for the primary therapeutic purpose. CMA further notes that it is not acceptable to withhold knowledge from patients deliberately out of concern that knowledge could inhibit them from confiding important information fully and truthfully. CMA limits the circumstances the nonconsensual collection of health information to those: 1. Permitted or required by legislation; 2. When ordered or decided by a court of law. Moreover, the CMA gives explicit direction to legislators with respect to the conditions under which legislation should permit or require health information collection (see section 3.6 of CMA Code). In the case of nonconsensual collection, the following conditions are stipulated: 1. The right of privacy has to be violated because the purposes could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and 2. The importance of the purposes must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society. While Bill C-54 is clearly enabling the collection of information, it does not, in CMA’s opinion put sufficient emphasis on or provide protections that preserve privacy and confidentiality, especially in the medical context. D. Use Without Knowledge Or Consent Bill C-54 Once information has been collected and despite the, albeit inadequate, limits placed on collection without knowledge or consent, it can be put to even greater use than the purposes it has been collected for with or without knowledge or consent. Section 7(2) opens up dramatically the uses to which collected information may be put without either knowledge or consent. At a minimum and without little additional administrative effort, the enumerated grounds of section 7(2) (and 7(3))should be made known to an individual prior to their disclosure of information, which would be in keeping with the principle of openness and explicitness. Section 7(2)(a) allows use in connection with the investigation of an offence. In the medical context this might be problematic particularly if it is interpreted to impose an obligation. Generally, there is no obligation to assist in the investigation of an offence and indeed the fiduciary duty between patient and physician and the duty of confidentiality owed to the patient by the physician would suggest that physicians not offer information despite its usefulness. Section 7(2)(b) recognizes emergency situations. However, as worded, section 7(2)(b) would allow access to anyone’s information if it is for the purpose of acting in respect of an emergency threatening the life, health or security of an individual. The implications of this section should be carefully thought through. Do we really intend to give such a broad licence to access anyone’s information on the basis of an emergency. In CMA’s view there should be some limiting principle that takes into account the prevailing view that people generally are not required to go to the assistance of others (emergency or otherwise) and that information about oneself is considered worthy of protection against use or disclosure despite its potential benefit to others for example, genetic information or HIV, Hepatitis C status. Section 7(2)(c) is very problematic as it permits the use of “identifiable” information for a host of purposes, including statistical and research, when it is impractical to seek consent. Even though the Commissioner must be informed of the use before the information is used the Commissioner has no power to approve or reject the use, and since the use is legitimate under the Bill provided the Commissioner has been notified there would be no grounds open to the Commissioner to cause an audit to occur. This section gives significant scope to use information that has been collected without knowledge or consent and certainly in the case of health information is problematic. CMA Health Information Privacy Code The CMA Code makes a clear distinction between the primary purpose for the collection and use of health information and secondary purposes for its use. The key distinction between these two categories is that primary purposes relates to the provision of the health care benefit sought whereas secondary purposes are ends or aims that are not directly related to the provision of care. The CMA Code divides secondary purposes into two categories: 1. Secondary legislated purposes, those purposes that have been subjected to the legislative test specified in the Code and have subsequently been written into law; 2. Secondary nonlegislated purposes are any other purposes, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meet the provisions of the CMA Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by the Code. The tests that CMA requires both to go through relate to: 1. Impact on privacy. 2. Impact on the patient-physician relationship, especially confidentiality and trust. 3. Impact on the willingness of patients to disclose information. 4. Impact on patients’ ability to receive care. 5. Evidence of broad public support for the measure. 6. The use will not exploit or compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship. 7. Patient vulnerability will not be exploited. 8. Under most circumstances patients will be fully informed of the purpose and patient consent will be clearly voluntary. 9. Patient privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible. 10. Linkage of health information will be restricted and consented to by patients. In other words, CMA is not satisfied that any and all secondary purposes for the use of health information should be permitted. Rather, CMA seeks justification for the secondary use and assurance that the secondary use will neither impede nor undermine the patient-physician relationship and the provision of health care to the patient. Moreover, the CMA Code only permits use without consent if it is permitted or required by legislation or when ordered or decided by a court of law. The Advisory Council Report Like CMA, the Advisory Council Report makes distinctions among various types of uses. The report calls for legislation to clearly prohibit all secondary commercial use of personal health information. In addition, the Report recommends that there be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information and that such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which such data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. In this context, the Report recommends that legislation set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system. In addition the Report reviews the uses of health information for statistical and research purposes. The Report’s findings with respect to statistical use have already been discussed. In connection with research, the Report calls for a number of safeguards and restrictions: 1. Where the data sets used have a higher level of potential identifiability, “the general rule should be informed consent and stringent assurances about privacy protection and security arrangements are necessary before a researcher can have access to personally identifiable information.” 2. The Report recognizes that in some instances it may be impractical to obtain consent from patients. Whether in anonymous or identifiable form the Report requires that notice be given about the use of the information in either form. In the case of the use of identifiable information, the Report states that the research should be subject to independent ethics review with the onus on the person seeking to use the information without consent to demonstrate that: (a) a tangible public good of significant benefit will result; (b) consent is impossible to secure at a reasonable cost; (c) less identifiable data will not serve the same purpose; and (d) no harm can occur to any person directly or indirectly [note the above discussion on group privacy] as a result of this use of his or her personal information. E. Disclosure Without Knowledge Or Consent Bill C-54 The comments found under C. and D. above apply equally here. Section 7(3) adds further instances when collected information can be disclosed to others without knowledge or consent. CMA Code In the case of health information CMA takes a far more restrictive approach. In the case of use, disclosure or access the CMA Code states: The potential that health information, in whole or in part, may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without their consent, and what those purposes might be, must be made know to the patient by reasonable means before it is confided or collected for primary purposes. Moreover, the CMA Code recognizes that information disclosed by one organization is collected by another. The Code defines collection to mean: the act of accessing, receiving, compiling, gathering, acquiring or obtaining health information from any source, including third parties, and by any means. It includes information collected from the patient, as well as secondary collection of this information in whole or in part by another provider or user. The collecting organization should be bound by the provisions of the CMA Code, which generally requires consent for use for any purpose and always requires knowledge of the potential purposes that information will or must be put to prior to the information being disclosed. CMA’s Code states: Health information custodians must ensure that third parties privy to health information have adopted this Code or are bound by equivalent provisions. Finally, the CMA Code explicitly recognizes that information can be retrieved from a variety of sources to formulate records. Any and all such practices and the composite form developed are given the same degree of protection as that accorded the original data collected by or through the patient. F. Information Flow Within Organizations Bill C-54 Bill C-54 defines use to include, “the transfer of personal information within an organization.” Therefore, to the extent that Bill C-54 restricts the free flow of information it restricts in within an organization. In the health care context this is not a reasonable or desirable outcome. CMA Code The CMA Code recognizes that the free flow of health information is desirable to the extent that it furthers the provision of the health care benefit sought and that it occurs with patient consent. The CMA Code defines the primary purpose to mean: (i) Primary therapeutic purpose is the initial reason for a patient seeking or receiving care in the therapeutic context, and pertains to the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to the presenting health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. (ii) Primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to the presenting health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. The Code goes on to state that: Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for the primary therapeutic and longitudinal purposes may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context. And further states that: Security safeguards shall impede as little as possible health information collection, use, access and disclosure for primary purposes. Finally, in addressing consent the Code states: Consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose may be inferred. Consent to subsequent collection, use, disclosure and access on a need-to-know basis by or to other physicians or health providers for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, may be inferred, as long as there is no evidence that the patient would not give express consent to share the information. G. Individual Access Bill C-54 Bill C-54 restricts the right of individual access to personal information. The grounds for denying access to information are inappropriate in the health care context. CMA Code The CMA Code follows the prevailing case law as it relates to medical records. Primarily this gives the patients a right of access to their record in all but very limited circumstances. These circumstances are, if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus lies on the provider to justify denial of access. H. Accuracy and Amendment Bill C-54 Bill C-54 requires that information be as accurate, complete and up-to-date as possible and that it shall not be routinely updated unless this is necessary to fulfil the purpose for its collection. In so far as amendment is concerned, Bill C-54 permits amendment to the record in specified circumstances. CMA Code The CMA Code takes a different approach in light of the nature and purpose of health information. The Code recognizes that the “recording of statements of fact, clinical judgements and determinations or assessments should reflect as nearly as possible what has been confided by the patient and what has been ascertained, hypothesized or determined to be true using professional judgement.” In terms of amending the record in light of a patient’s request, the CMA Code seeks to preserve the original record but also note the patient’s concerns. To accommodate both requirements the CMA Code states: Patients who have reviewed their information and believe it to be inaccurately recorded or false have the right to suggest amendments and to have their amendments appended to the health information. I. Sensitivity Bill C-54 In a number of instances Bill C-54 and in particular schedule 1 recognize that medical records have a high level of sensitivity attached. Which in turns warrants special attention concerning consent, reasonable expectations, individual access and implicity, the degree of security that is appropriate. CMA Code The CMA Code seeks to recognize that while all health information is sensitive (when considered against other forms of information about individuals) there are also variations in the level of sensitivity in various aspects of the health record. The CMA Code defines the “sensitivity of health information” to refer to: the patient’s interest in keeping the information secret. It varies according to the nature of the information, its form, and the potential negative repercussions of its collection, use or disclosure on the patient’s interests. Under the Code’s consent provisions it is stated that: Although all health information is sensitive and should be treated as such, the more sensitive the health information is likely to be, given what is known about the circumstances or preferences of the patient, the more important it is to ensure that consent is voluntary and informed. With respect to security the Code states: The development of security safeguards with respect to levels of access for various users shall recognize the differences in the sensitivity of health information and permit access accordingly. V. Conclusions The increased capacity to collect, store, transfer, merge and access information coupled with trends that support increased use of and access to information have the potential to erode our traditional understanding and protection of privacy and confidentiality. The issues are complex and the choices we must make are difficult. Nevertheless, these issues should be squarely on the table and the choices that we make must be clear, transparent and defensible. Of paramount importance is that the public is not mislead into believing that their information is being protected or kept confidential when in fact it is not. Therefore, even to refer to Bill C-54 as the “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act” should be the subject of debate. Is the Bill truly about information protection or is it actually about permitting access to information? Bill C-54 presents one approach, an approach that values commerce and access. In CMA’s view the approach is totally inadequate when applied to health information. CMA also believes that the public would also find Bill C-54 inadequate. CMA presents a different approach, an approach that values privacy and the preservation of the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. CMA believes that its approach would receive broad public support. Moreover, CMA believes that to the extent the CMA Code presents tests rather than conclusions, these tests should be administered in good faith prior to legislative initiatives related to health information or in the case of secondary usage of health information in general. CMA believes that its approach draws support from the Federal Advisory Council Report, which also recognizes the importance of preserving patient privacy and the confidentiality of the health record in an era of increased use of technology. Implicitly, the Report recognizes that the benefits of such technology cannot be realized if public support, based on assurance of privacy protection, cannot be secured. CMA urges this committee to implement CMA’s recommendations and in doing so provide the type of protection that health information deserves and that Canadians desire. VI. Summary of Recommendations That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions; and That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process; and That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source; and That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors.

Documents

Less detail

A Prescription for sustainability

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1967

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-06-06
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-06-06
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Medicare emerged from the 1990s bent, but not broken — in large measure due to the tireless efforts of health professionals whose commitment has always been, first and foremost, to their patients. However, this level of effort cannot continue. Canadian health providers and the facilities they work in are stretched to the limit. Over the past decade there have been countless studies on what is wrong with Canada’s health care system. However, very little action has been taken to solve the problems identified in the reports because very few of these reports provided a roadmap with concrete recommendations on how to achieve change. Furthermore, many decisions regarding the health care system have been made by governments without meaningful input from health professionals. As we indicated in our first submission, there is clearly a need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. However, before consideration is given to how to solve the woes of the health care system, it is essential to establish a shared vision of Canada’s health care system. Several attempts have been made to this end; however, few have included health care providers or the public in the process. The CMA has established its own vision for a sustainable health care system, upon which the recommendations we have presented in this submission are based. To ensure that our health care system in Canada is sustainable in the future, longer-term structural and procedural reforms are required. The CMA proposes 5 recommendations involving the implementation of three integrated “pillars of sustainability” that together will improve accountability and transparency in the system. These pillars would also serve as the basis for addressing the many short- to medium-term issues facing Medicare today and into the future. To this end, we put forward 25 recommendations suggesting specific “hows” for solving these critical problems. The three “pillars” are: a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission, and a renewal of the federal legislative framework. A Canadian Health Charter would underline governments’ shared commitment to ensuring that Canadians will have access to quality health care within an acceptable time frame. It would also clearly articulate a national health policy that sets out our collective understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers, and governments. The existence of such a Charter would ensure that a rational, evidence-based, and collaborative approach to managing and modernizing Canada’s health system is being followed. In conjunction with the Canadian Health Charter, a permanent, independent Canadian Health Commission would be created to promote accountability and transparency within the system. It would have a mandate to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards Charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference on Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers on key national health care issues. Recognizing the shared federal and provincial/territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Canadian Health Charter is to reinforce the national character of the health system. The federal government would be expected to make significant commitments in a number of areas, including a review of the Canada Health Act, changes to the federal transfers to provinces and territories, and a review of federal tax legislation. While these three “pillars” will address the broader structural and procedural problems facing Canada’s health care system, there are many other changes required to meet specific needs within the system in the short to medium term. The CMA has provided specific recommendations in the following key areas: * Meaningful stakeholder input and accountability * Defining the public health system (e.g. core services, a “safety valve”, Public Health, Aboriginal health) * Investing in the health care system (e.g. human resources, capital infrastructure, surge capacity, information technology, and research and innovation) * Health system financing * Organization and delivery of services (e.g. consideration of the full continuum of care, physician compensation, rural health, the private sector, the voluntary sector and informal caregivers) The following is a summary of the key recommendations set out in A Prescription for Sustainability. While we have put an emphasis on having the recommendations as self-contained as possible, readers are encouraged to consult the corresponding section of this paper as appropriate for further details. The first five recommendations refer specifically to the three pillars. The remaining recommendations address the more specific and immediate needs of the health care system. Recommendation 1 That the governments of Canada adopt a Canadian Health Charter that * reaffirms the social contract that is Medicare * acknowledges the ongoing roles of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * sets out the accessibility and portability rights and responsibilities of residents of Canada * sets out the rights and responsibilities of the governments, providers and patients in Canada * provides for a “Canadian Health Commission.” Recommendation 2 That a permanent Canadian Health Commission be established and operate at arm’s length from governments. The Commission’s mandate would include * monitoring compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * reporting annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * advising the Conference of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health on critical issues. Recommendation 3 That the federal government undertake a review of the Canada Health Act with the view to amending it * to embody the Canadian Health Charter within it * to provide for the Canadian Health Commission and * to allow for a broader definition of core services and for certain service charges under certain terms and conditions. Recommendation 4 (a) That the federal government’s contribution to the publicly funded health care system * be harmonized with the five-year review of the federal equalization program * be locked-in for a period of five years, with an escalator tied to a three-year moving average of per capita GDP * rise to a target of 50% of provincial/territorial per capita health spending for core services * provide for notional earmarking of funds for health. (b) That the federal government create special purpose, one-time funds totalling $2.5 billion over five years (or build on existing funds) to address pressing issues in the following areas * health human resources planning * capital infrastructure * information technology * accessibility fund. Recommendation 5 That a blue ribbon panel of Parliament be established to work with the Canadian Health Commission to review the current provisions of federal tax legislation with a view to identifying ways of enhancing support for health policy objectives through tax policy. Recommendation 6 That governments and regional health authorities initiate or enhance significant efforts to secure the participation of and input from practicing physicians at all levels of health care decision-making. Recommendation 7 That all Canadians be provided coverage for a basket of core services under uniform terms and conditions. Recommendation 8 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and be updated regularly to reflect and accommodate the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. (b) That the scope of core services should not be limited by its current application to hospital and physician services, provided that access to medically necessary hospital and physician services is not compromised. Recommendation 9 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and regularly updated by a federal-provincial-territorial process that has legitimacy in the eyes of Canadians – patients, taxpayers and health care professionals. (b) That the values of transparency, accountability, evidence-based, inclusivity and procedural fairness should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services to include under Medicare. Recommendation 10 (a) That governments develop a new framework to govern the funding of a basket of core services with a view to ensuring that * Canadians have reasonable access to core services on uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories * governments, providers and patients are accountable for the use of health care resources * no Canadian is denied essential care because of her or his personal financial situation. (b) That legislation be amended to permit at least some core services to be cost-shared under uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories. (c) That once the basket of core services is defined, minimum levels of public funding for these services be uniformly applied across provinces and territories, with flexibility for individual governments to increase the share of public funding beyond these levels. Recommendation 11 (a) That Canada’s health system develop and apply agreed upon standards for timely access to care, as well as provide for alternative care choices – a “safety valve” – in Canada or elsewhere, if the publicly funded system fails to meet these standards. (b) That the following approach be implemented to ensure that governments are held accountable for providing timely access to quality care. * First, governments must establish clear guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. An independent third-party mechanism must be put in place to measure and report on waiting times and other dimensions of health care quality. * Second, governments must develop a clear policy which states that if the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options available to them that will allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Public funding at the home province rate would follow the patient in this circumstance, and patients would have the opportunity to purchase insurance on a prospective basis to cover any difference in cost. Recommendation 12 (a) That governments demonstrate healthy public policy by making health impact the first consideration in the development of all legislation, policy and directives. (b) That the federal government provide core funding to assist provincial and territorial authorities in improving the coordination of prevention and detection efforts and the response to public health issues among public health officials, educators, community service providers, occupational health providers, and emergency services. (c) That governments invest in the human, infrastructure and training resources needed to develop an adequate and effective public health system capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health issues. (d) That governments undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in preventing, detecting and responding to emerging public health problems and furthermore, facilitate an ongoing, inclusive process to establish national public health priorities. Recommendation 13 That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples which involves a partnership among governments, nongovernmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities. Recommendation 14 (a) That the federal government establish a $1 billion, five-year Health Resources Education and Training Fund to (1) further increase enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education (including re-entry positions), (2) expand the infrastructure (both human and physical resources) of Canada’s 16 medical schools in order to accommodate the increased enrolment and (3) enhance continuing medical education programs. (b) That the federal government increase funding targeted to institutions of postsecondary education to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases. (c) That the federal government enhance financial support systems for medical students that are (1) non-coercive, (2) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase, (3) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase and (4) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. (d) That incentives be incorporated into medical education programs to ensure adequate numbers of students choose medical fields for which there is greatest need. Recommendation 15 (a) That governments and communities make every effort to retain Canadian physicians in Canada through non-coercive measures and optimize the use of existing health human resources to meet the health needs of Canadian communities. (b) That the federal government work with other countries to equitably regulate and coordinate international mobility of health human resources. (c) That governments adopt a policy statement that acknowledges the value of the health care workforce in the provision of quality care, as well as the need to provide good working conditions, competitive compensation and opportunities for professional development. Recommendation 16 (a) That a national multistakeholder body be established with representatives from the health professions and all levels of government to develop integrated health human resource strategies, provide planning tools for use at the local level and monitor supply, mix and distribution on an ongoing basis. (b) That scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public, safely, efficiently, and competently. Recommendation 17 (a) That hospitals and other health care facilities conduct a coordinated inventory of capital infrastructure to provide governments with an accurate assessment of machinery and equipment. (b) That the federal government establish a one-time catch-up fund to restore capital infrastructure to an acceptable level. (see Recommendation 4(b).) (c) That governments commit to providing adequate, ongoing funding for capital infrastructure. (d) That public-private partnerships (P3s) be explored as a viable alternative source of funding for capital infrastructure investment. Recommendation 18 That the federal government cooperate with provincial and territorial governments and with governments of other countries to ensure that a strong, adequately funded emergency response system is put in place to improve surge capacity. Recommendation 19 That federal government make an additional, substantial, ongoing national investments in information technology and information systems, with the objective of improving the health of Canadians as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. Recommendation 20 That governments adopt national standards that facilitate the collection, use and exchange of electronic health information in a manner which ensures that the protection of patient privacy and confidentiality are paramount. Recommendation 21 That the federal government’s investment in health research be increased to at least 1% of national health expenditures. Recommendation 22 (a) That the provincial and territorial governments’ commitment to funding core services be locked-in for an initial five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial population demographics and inflation. (b) That governments establish a health-specific contingency fund to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the business cycle and to promote greater stability in health care financing. Recommendation 23 That any effort to change the organization or delivery of medical care take into account the impact on the whole continuum of care. Recommendation 24 (a) That governments work with the provincial and territorial medical associations and other stakeholders to draw on the successes of evaluated primary care projects to develop a variety of templates of primary care models that would * suit the full range of geographical contexts and * incorporate criteria for moving from pilot projects to wider implementation, such as cost-effectiveness, quality of care and patient and provider satisfaction. (b) That family physicians remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly funded medical services, to ensure comprehensive and integrated care, and that there are sufficient resources available to permit this. Recommendation 25 (a) That governments develop a national plan to coordinate the most efficient access to highly specialized treatment and diagnostic services. * This plan should include the creation of defined regional centres of excellence to optimize the availability of scarce specialist services. * Any realignment of services must accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers. * That the federal government create an accessibility fund that would support interprovincial centres of excellence for highly specialized services. Recommendation 26 That governments respect the principles contained in the CMA’s policy on physician compensation and the terms of duly negotiated agreements. Recommendation 27 That governments work with universities, colleges, professional associations and communities to develop a national rural and remote health strategy for Canada. Recommendation 28 That Canada’s health care system make optimal use of the private sector in the delivery of publicly financed health care provided that it meets the same standards of quality as the public system. Recommendation 29 That governments examine ways to recognize and support the role of the voluntary sector in the funding and delivery of health care, including enhanced tax credits. Recommendation 30 That governments support the contributions of informal caregivers through the tax system. 1. Introduction Medicare emerged from the 1990s bent, but not broken — in large measure, due to the tireless efforts of professionals whose commitment has always been, first and foremost, to their patients. But this level of effort cannot continue. Canadian health care providers and the facilities they work in are stretched to the limit. Our system is truly at a crossroads. The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada has a unique opportunity to sculpt a health care system that will meet the needs and expectations of Canadians for the 21st century. Fundamentals and principles of change management must be satisfied for change to be of lasting value. Decision-making processes must become more accessible, accountable and transparent to those most affected. Canadians are tired of the “blame game,” and physicians and other health providers are tired of being marginalized. Why is it that those who have the most at stake and those who have the most invested in the health system — namely patients, physicians and other providers — have the least say in system change? All parties need to be at the table. Health professionals have not been involved in an early, ongoing or meaningful way in discussions about the future of their health and health care systems. This must change. Another prerequisite for effective change is to reaffirm that there is more to health than health care. Although Canada has led the world in thinking about the overall determinants of health, the same cannot always be said when it comes to action. Canada needs broad consensus around a multi-year, national health action plan — one that is developed in collaboration with all the key players in the system and one that has clear goals, objectives and milestones. At the same time, sustainability must be seen as ensuring that Canadians have access to required services at the time and to the extent of their need. Canadians have lost confidence that the system will be there for them and for their children. Sustainability is about the legacy of Medicare. These are some of the key issues and challenges that the CMA stressed in earlier submissions to the Commission. In our first report, entitled Getting the Diagnosis Right (November 2001; see Appendix A), we described the signs and symptoms of a system in distress. Earlier this year, in our interim submission, entitled Getting It Right (Appendix B), we outlined some of the broad choices that we have to make as a society to help stabilize the Medicare “patient” and transport it into a sustainable future. As part of this future, the interim report proposed a Canadian Health Charter, which has received considerable attention. In this, our final submission to the Commission, we have built on the earlier work and ask the Commission to consider our Prescription for Sustainability. It is important to note that the recommendations we present to the Commission are integrated; and therefore we ask that they not be “cherry-picked”. This document also refers to a number of appendices that will be available as a separate volume. A great deal of policy research has been done on what changes are needed to make progress. The weak link has been in dealing with the “how.” The CMA believes that if we get the structures and processes right in terms of accountabilities, positive health outcomes will follow for our patients and for the future sustainability of the system. 2. Vision Several attempts have been made over the years to articulate a national vision for Medicare, but they have all proven inadequate. However laudable these attempts may be, they all suffer the fatal flaw of isolationism: they were all developed by governments — federal, provincial or territorial — in isolation from health care providers and the public. Goodwill, collaboration and partnership cannot be legislated or dictated from on high. In planning for the future, we have consistently argued for a values-based approach centred on a shared vision. The CMA has established a vision for Medicare that forms the basis of our recommendations for improving the design and functioning of the health care system. CMA’s Vision for a Sustainable Health System The goal of Canada’s health system is to preserve, protect and improve the health and well-being of each Canadian. This will be achieved through timely access to services that not only keep people well or restore health, but also enhance their quality of life and add longevity. Health care is an investment in both economic and social terms, providing benefits of value to both individuals and society. The objective of publicly funded health care is timely access to quality care through a defined set of core services that — as the principal building blocks of Canada’s overall health care system — must be provided on a sustainable basis. These core services must be determined and regularly reviewed in an inclusive and transparent manner. This will result in clear choices as to which services will be fully publicly funded, partly publicly funded and fully privately funded. The special nature of care related to illness — the original focus of Medicare — must continue to be recognized. Core services must reflect the immediacy with which such care is required, the potential to place a financial burden on individuals and families, and the unpredictability as to when such care will be required by an individual. Canadians should be able to choose who will provide their care, what the treatment(s) will be and where it will be provided. Every Canadian should have access to a physician of their choice and, in particular, should be encouraged to select a primary care physician who provides continuity of care. Physicians play key roles as agents and advocates for their own patients and for the public at large; they seek a health care system that respects the integrity and primacy of the patient–physician relationship. Payment and delivery mechanisms should be structured to foster and support these roles and to protect clinical and professional autonomy. Evidence-based care with explicit standards and benchmarks (e.g., maximum, acceptable waiting times) is a prerequisite to achieving high-quality health care — a primary objective of the public system. Individuals should have the opportunity to purchase health services where they are not publicly funded and where the public system does not meet agreed-upon standards. 3. Three Pillars of Sustainability The CMA believes that the current health policy decision-making system is fundamentally flawed and that three steps must be taken to help put the health of Canadians first. The three inextricably linked “pillars of sustainability” presented here are long-term structural and procedural reforms needed to improve accountability and transparency and, thus, enhance the overall sustainability of the system. In Getting the Diagnosis Right, we contended that Canadians had lost confidence that the system would be there for them and their families at the time and to the extent of their need. In our interim report, we also indicated that Canadian health care providers have never felt more demoralized or disenfranchised. The shortages of providers, poor access, resource constraints and passive privatization that occurred through most of the 1990s have combined to create uncertainties around the scope of coverage and the standard of care Canadians can expect from their health care system. The CMA believes that these uncertainties that accompany unplanned changes have also had a deleterious effect on the Canadian economy and a demoralizing effect on the health care community. On both counts, a clarification of the social contract for health is required at the highest level. 3.1 Canadian Health Charter The need to renew the social contract underlying Medicare raises a number of fundamental questions. What will this new social contract look like? Where will it be vested? Who will oversee its development and implementation? And what difference will it make for Canadians? The answers to these questions are set out below in the CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Charter. 3.1.1 What is it? The concept of a Canadian Health Charter is not new. The 1964 report of the Royal Commission on Health Services chaired by Justice Emmett Hall recommended a charter that set out a vision for a universally accessible system of prepaid health care, including the roles and responsibilities for individual Canadians, providers and governments. Currently, neither the Canada Health Act nor the Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers Canadians an explicit right of access to quality health care delivered within an acceptable time-frame.1 Moreover, Canadians do not have the benefit of a clearly articulated national health policy that sets out our shared understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers and governments. Without such a national policy statement to set the broad parameters around which Canada’s health system can be managed and modernized, the Medicare debate will continue to be characterized by rhetoric, hidden agendas and fruitless finger-pointing. To be certain, the notion of a Canadian Health Charter raises many issues in a decentralized federation such as Canada, where the constitutional responsibility for health care delivery lies with provinces and territories. Having examined the relevant legal, political and health policy considerations, the CMA is proposing the development and formal approval of a Canadian Health Charter based on a renewed partnership between levels of government and with the agreement of patients and providers.2 3.1.2 What would it look like? The CMA envisions a charter with three main parts: a vision statement, a section on national planning and coordination and a section on roles, rights and responsibilities. The CMA has developed an illustrative example of a charter in a separately released paper, Charter at a Glance. Vision Although there is no shortage of vision statements for Medicare, there is no single shared vision. The federal government, provinces and territories and individual stakeholders have all developed their own visions for various purposes and at various times. In some cases, such as the September 2000 Health Accord, governments have gone as far as issuing jointly approved vision statements. What is needed is for all parties to come together and achieve consensus on a shared vision that will lay out a modern view of Canada’s health system. The CMA has articulated its own vision in section 2, above. National planning and coordination The Canadian Health Charter would set out the requirement for national planning and coordination based on such principles as collaboration, evidence-based decision-making, stable and predictable funding, regional and local flexibility, and accountability. It could also specify areas where national planning and coordination are required, particularly with respect to the determination and regular review of core health care services; the development of national benchmarks for timeliness, accessibility and quality of health care; health system resources including health human resources and information technology; and the development of national goals and targets to improve the health of Canadians. The charter would also provide for the creation of a Canadian Health Commission to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference of Federal–Provincial–Territorial Ministers on key national issues. Roles, rights and responsibilities One of the key aims of the charter would be to develop a common understanding of the roles, rights and responsibilities of the key players in the renewal of Medicare. Key aspects of understanding would include * Acknowledgement of the ongoing role of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * Reinforcement of the accessibility and portability rights of the residents of Canada by a clear and unequivocal statement that governments must do everything in their power to provide reasonably comparable access to timely, high-quality health care3 * Establishment of the rights and responsibilities of patients, providers and governments in Canada. 3.1.3 Development and implementation of a charter Key features of our proposed Canadian Health Charter are as follows. * National mandate: It will be an inclusive document — one that is truly national as opposed to federal or interprovincial or interterritorial. * Values-based: It will be consistent with publicly accepted values and principles. * Enforceable: It will achieve compliance to its provisions through administrative mechanisms rather than through the courts. * Non-derogational: It will respect federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictional boundaries. The Canadian Health Charter will only be as good as the process put in place to develop it and to oversee its implementation. Although it may be too early to speculate on how this would be orchestrated, we make the following observations. * The development of the Canadian Health Charter will require a broad consultative process. Although this process could be led by governments, it should be developed in an inclusive manner with all stakeholders, including organizations representing health care providers and consumers. * Once consensus is reached on a proposed Canadian Health Charter, it will be important for the federal, provincial and territorial governments to give it formal approval. This could be accomplished in a number of ways, including approval at a first ministers meeting, through the elected assemblies or by way of a royal proclamation.4 Recommendation 1 That the governments of Canada adopt a Canadian Health Charter that * reaffirms the social contract that is Medicare * acknowledges the ongoing roles of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * sets out the accessibility and portability rights and responsibilities of residents of Canada * sets out the rights and responsibilities of the governments, providers and patients in Canada * provides for a “Canadian Health Commission.” 3.2 Canadian Health Commission What is clear from the past decade — through numerous provincial Commissions, a three-year National Health Forum, a Senate study and now the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada — is that strategic health planning is a never-ending challenge. This is why we need a permanent, depoliticized forum at the national level for ongoing dialogue and debate — a Canadian Health Commission. 3.2.1 Structure, composition and mandate Our thinking on the development of a Canadian Health Commission has been guided by a number of precedents and models that have been used in the Canadian context, beginning with the Dominion Council of Health, which was provided for in the Act constituting the Department of Health in 1919. It was formed to facilitate coordination with the provinces and territories and various private organizations on health matters and was the principal advisory agency to the Minister of National Health and Welfare. Membership comprised the federal deputy minister (chair), provincial deputy ministers and external members representing women’s organizations, labour, agriculture and medical science. We also examined more recent models of national advisory and oversight bodies. More details on the structures and basic mandates of these bodies are provided in Appendix C. Our assessment of these Commissions, roundtables and councils leads us to a number of conclusions about the structure and composition of the Canadian Health Commission: * Independence: The Commission should be at arm’s length from governments and have the freedom to conduct research and advise governments on a broad range of health and health care issues. However, it should have close links with government agencies such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to facilitate its work. * Transparency: The Commission should be open and transparent. We do not want to recreate the black box of executive federalism. Government representatives would be welcome as observers, and the Commission’s deliberations would be made public. * Credibility: The composition of the Commission should reflect a broad range of perspectives and expertise necessary fulfill its mandate. Appointments should not be constituency-based, to ensure that constituency politics do not interfere with the Commission’s deliberations. * Legitimacy: Although the Commission would be established by the federal government, its structure, composition and mandate will have to be legitimate in the eyes of provincial and territorial governments. * Permanence: The Commission should be permanent and it should be afforded adequate resources to do its job, subject to a regular review of its mandate and effectiveness. * Stakeholder engagement: The Commission should include representation from the general public and should seek to engage Canadians at large through research, consultation and public education activities. * Authoritative leadership: The Commission should be chaired by a Canadian Health Commissioner, who would be an officer of Parliament (similar to the Auditor General) appointed for a five-year term by consensus among the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Health Commissioner would not be a substitute for the federal minister of health. The minister of health would continue to be responsible to Parliament for federal health policies and programs, as well as for promoting intergovernmental collaboration on a range of health and health care issues. The Commissioner would be afforded the powers necessary to conduct the affairs of the Commission, such as the power to call witnesses before hearings of the Commission. The Commission’s mandate would include the following responsibilities: * Monitor compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * Report annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * Advise the Conference of Federal–Provincial–Territorial Ministers of Health on critical questions such as: - defining the basket of core services that would be publicly financed - establishing national benchmarks for timeliness, accessibility and quality of health care - planning and coordinating health system resources at the national level, including health human resources, information technology, and capital infrastructure - developing national goals and targets to improve the health of Canadians. Recommendation 2 That a permanent Canadian Health Commission be established and operate at arm’s length from governments. The Commission’s mandate would include * monitoring compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * reporting annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * advising the Conference of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health on critical issues. 3.3 Renewing the Federal Legislative Framework Flowing from the Canadian Health Charter will be a number of moral and political obligations directed at the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, providers and patients. Recognizing the shared federal, provincial and territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Charter is to reinforce the national character of Canada’s health system. The federal government would be expected to make significant commitments in a number of areas. 3.3.1 The Canada Health Act The Canada Health Act (CHA) was adopted by Parliament in 1984 as the successor to federal legislation governing cost-sharing agreements for hospital and medical insurance. Its principles have become the cornerstone of Medicare. The CHA articulates the underlying vision and values of Medicare and sets out the five conditions with which provincial and territorial health insurance plans must comply — universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration — to receive the full federal financial contribution that they are entitled to under the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST). Thus, the Canada Health Act is the linchpin that holds together 13 separate provincial and territorial health systems. Although the CHA has been a lightning rod for several federal–provincial–territorial disputes over the years, the reasons for these disagreements have had more to do with politics than with the substance of the act. In fact, if there is one public policy issue in Canada over which there is near unanimity across provinces and territories and across political parties, it is that the principles of the CHA are sound. Recently, federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to establish a formal dispute avoidance and resolution mechanism to deal more openly and transparently with issues arising from the interpretation of the Canada Health Act. The CMA applauds this development. In section 5.1.3 of this report, the CMA calls for the establishment of a process at the national level to determine and review regularly the basket of core services in an open, transparent and evidence-based manner. The CHA should be amended to provide for such a process. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the CHA should be amended to reflect the Canadian Health Charter. This would include changing the preamble to ensure that it reflects a modern vision and values of Medicare, provides for a Canadian Health Commission, recognizes the federal role and reflects the accessibility and portability rights of Canadians. Recommendation 3 That the federal government undertake a review of the Canada Health Act with the view to amending it * to embody the Canadian Health Charter within it * to provide for the Canadian Health Commission and * to allow for a broader definition of core services and for certain service charges under certain terms and conditions. 3.3.2 Transfers to provinces and territories The nature of Canada’s publicly funded health care system creates unique challenges and opportunities regarding accountability and sustainability. Provinces and territories have the constitutional responsibility for health care and provide most of the funding; the federal government’s role includes funding and is based on the desire of Canadians to have the semblance of a national health care program. The CMA has been a strong advocate of stable, predictable and adequate federal funding for health care. The federal government has responded by introducing a cash floor for the CHST and by restoring some of the cuts made during the 1990s. However, the federal government still has a long way to go. Cash transfers must be increased if the federal government is to be considered a credible partner in Medicare. A larger and continuing federal role in health care financing is required, and the allocation of funds must be done more transparently and in support of a longer planning horizon. Transparency in federal funding for health care means that the federal government can no longer claim to be spending its CHST contribution three ways. Canadians have a right to know how much of their federal tax dollars is being transferred to provinces and territories to support Medicare. The same should hold for transfers related to postsecondary education and social services. Although this may be at odds with the prevailing doctrine in the ministries of finance and intergovernmental affairs, it is the least that Canadians can expect from their governments in terms of accountability. It also serves to underscore the fact that the underlying purpose of fiscal federalism is to support Medicare and other important social programs, not the reverse. In addition to the transfer of block funds to provinces and territories, the sheer magnitude and pressing nature of many issues facing Medicare warrant the use of one-time only, targeted, special-purpose transfers. Precedents for these types of transfers include the National Health Grants Program created in 1948 to develop hospital infrastructure across the country, as well as the more recent funds created to support early child development, medical equipment, the health infoway and primary care renewal. This type of approach, coupled with more stringent accountability provisions to ensure that the funds are spent as intended, should be used to address serious system shortcomings in the areas of health human resources, capital infrastructure and information technology. Recommendation 4 (a) That the federal government’s contribution to the publicly funded health care system * be harmonized with the five-year review of the federal equalization program * be locked-in for a period of five years, with an escalator tied to a three-year moving average of per capita GDP * rise to a target of 50% of provincial/territorial per capita health spending for core services * provide for notional earmarking of funds for health. (b) That the federal government create special purpose, one-time funds totalling $2.5 billion over five years (or build on existing funds) to address pressing issues in the following areas * health human resources planning * capital infrastructure * information technology * accessibility fund. 3.3.3 Tax policy in support of health In the past, the Government of Canada has relied heavily on its spending power and legislation to influence the development of Medicare across Canada. However, increasing concern associated with Canada’s health care system has obliged the federal government to maximize all its available policy levers, including taking another look at how the tax system can be used to support renewal of the health sector. Although taxes are widely used as a public policy tool, to date the role of taxation in the area of health has been relatively small. In total, personal income tax assistance (i.e., foregone government revenue) for health was estimated at $3.8 billion in 2001, equal to only a little more than 3.7% of total health expenditures for that year. The tax system interfaces with the health sector at three levels — health care financing, health care inputs and lifestyle choices. Key questions of reform that could be addressed through a review of the tax system at these levels include the following. Health care financing * Could tax incentives be used to improve access to private supplemental insurance? * How could increased tax relief be provided to people with high out-of-pocket medical expenses? * Should the tax system be used to encourage personal savings for long-term care? Health care inputs * How could tax incentives be used to address health human resource issues (e.g., attracting physicians and nurses to rural and remote areas, off-setting high costs of medical education, promoting continuing education)? * How can the federal government proceed with changes to the tax system to ensure equitable treatment of all health providers (e.g., GST)? * Could enhanced tax credits be developed to support informal caregivers? * Could tax incentives be used to promote research and innovation in health care beyond the pharmaceutical sector? Lifestyle choices * How could the tax system be used to encourage healthy lifestyles (e.g., incentives to eat well and exercise; disincentives for unhealthy choices)? The level of support provided by the tax system for people facing high out-of-pocket expenses is a particularly pressing question. Currently, the medical expenses tax credit provides limited relief to those whose expenses exceed $1,637 or 3% of net income. The 3% threshold was established before Medicare was introduced. Does it still make sense in 2002? Are there ways to enhance this provision to reduce financial disincentives facing many Canadians when they have to pay for health services that may not be medically necessary, but are beneficial and worthy of government support? The CMA encourages the federal government to undertake a comprehensive review of these and other tax questions pertaining to health. Clearly, we do not believe tax policy will, by itself, solve all of the challenges facing Canada’s health care system. Nevertheless, the CMA believes that the tax system can play a key role in helping the system adapt to changing circumstances, thereby complementing the other two components of our renewal strategy. Recommendation 5 That a blue ribbon panel of Parliament be established to work with the Canadian Health Commission to review the current provisions of federal tax legislation with a view to identifying ways of enhancing support for health policy objectives through tax policy. 4. Meaningful Stakeholder Input and Accountability In the Commission’s interim report, the question was posed: why are those who have the most to contribute, who are the most committed — Canada’s health professionals — not at the table when the future of health and health care is being discussed by this country’s leaders? Physicians individually and collectively feel disempowered and disengaged. They feel frustrated, marginalized and left out at all levels of decision-making. Nowhere is this more evident than at the national level, where physicians and other health care providers have tried in vain to gain access to the “black box” of executive federalism. Physicians and other providers have been systematically excluded from participating in decisions about the future of health and health care. During the past decade, with the exception of successful joint management ventures at the provincial, territorial or regional levels, physicians have been increasingly marginalized in terms of policy decisions. At the federal–provincial–territorial level, physicians have been frozen out since the late 1980s. At the federal level, organized medicine had no opportunity for formal input to the National Forum on Health. Physicians were specifically excluded from many regional boards when they were established in the early 1990s. Finally, the consolidation of many local governance structures (e.g., hospital boards) into regional boards has reduced opportunities for local decision-making. A basic principle of justice states that those who are affected directly by decisions ought to be present when such decisions are made. Physicians, nurses and others bring much to the table. The grounds for exclusion are often not clear, but tend to be a result of the misguided notion that self-interest might prevail over the collective interest. In today’s environment, with the rapid turnover of senior health officials, we believe the pendulum must swing toward building a table where enlightened self-interest is promoted. Whereas elected officials are in the health business for only a short time, physicians and other providers have their careers on the line. We have the most invested, the most to give and, next to our patients, the most to lose. Why is it that we have the least say in decisions about the future of health and health care? Why is it that we learn about decisions after the fact and are then expected to support them? Canada has paid an enormous price for this policy of exclusion. Ill-informed policy decisions in human health resources planning have had catastrophic results. Recently, the shell game around investments in medical technology has typified how federal, provincial and territorial governments working behind closed doors tend to promote solutions that minimize friction between the two levels of government, but are of little or no concrete benefit to the health care system. We need a more transparent and accountable process. Recommendation 6 That governments and regional health authorities initiate or enhance significant efforts to secure the participation of and input from practicing physicians at all levels of health care decision-making. 5. Defining the Public Health Care System Sustainability and accountability are overarching themes of this submission, and our ultimate goal is timely access to quality care for all Canadians. The time has come to stop making excuses for rationing the publicly funded health care system. Our patients deserve health care that is available to them in a timely fashion in their own country. Canada’s physicians support publicly funded health care, but not if it means patients are denied timely access to quality care and not if it means rationing and denial of necessary care. We strongly believe that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, should have access to high-quality health care. 5.1 Core Services One of the pathways identified in our initial submission was the need to strike a better balance among everything and everyone. No country in the world has been able to provide first-dollar5 coverage for timely access to all services. In light of the rapidly transforming delivery system with its shift from institutional to community-based care, a re-examination of the Medicare “basket” is overdue. 5.1.1 Uniform coverage for all Canadians All Canadians should have coverage for basic health care services under uniform terms and conditions, regardless of where they live. A clearly defined basket of core services is an essential requirement for a national program in a decentralized system of health care such as Canada’s. This basket would ensure that a minimum level of coverage is applied uniformly across all provinces and territories. However, it is important to acknowledge that variation will occur in health care priorities across provinces and territories; as a result, provinces and territories may choose to add to this basket. Recommendation 7 That all Canadians be provided coverage for a basket of core services under uniform terms and conditions. 5.1.2 Redefining core services Since the inception of Medicare in Canada, core services have generally been understood to be those subject to the five program criteria set out in the Canada Health Act. These include medically necessary hospital services, physician services and surgical dental services provided to insured persons. However, as health care delivery has evolved, more and more services have migrated out of the hospital setting, effectively reducing the relative size of the basket of core services. For example, while hospital and physician expenditures accounted for 56% of total health spending in 1984, by 2000 this had declined to 45%. Many services previously provided in hospitals are now delivered through a combination of community-based services and drug therapy. Services that continue to be provided in hospitals are increasingly being provided on a “day surgery” basis (requiring no admission) or during a much shorter stay. If Medicare is to continue to meet the needs of Canadians, then the notion of core services must be changed to cover an array of services consistent with the realities of health care in the 21st century. Specifically, the definition of core services should be reviewed to determine the extent to which it should go beyond hospital and physician services. Recommendation 8 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and be updated regularly to reflect and accommodate the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. (b) That the scope of core services should not be limited by its current application to hospital and physician services, provided that access to medically necessary hospital and physician services is not compromised. 5.1.3 A process for clarifying what is in and what is out There is no simple way to decide what the basket of core services should include or exclude. It involves making difficult value judgements and trade-offs and achieving consensus among a broad cross-section of perspectives and interests. For several years, the CMA has advocated a balanced approach to the determination of core services that addresses the issues of ethics, quality (evidence) and economics (Appendix D). The risks of not making these difficult decisions have become all too clear: a health system that is locked into antiquated notions of health care and is increasingly out of touch with the needs of Canadians. The process used to determine core services should be inclusive and transparent. Decisions should be evidence-based and not biased in favour of any single provider or setting in which care is provided. The special nature of care related to illness should be recognized ? emergent vs. non-emergent conditions, the potential financial burden on individuals and families, and the inability to predict when such care will be required. Most important, whoever is assigned the task of defining and updating the basket of core services must have legitimacy in the eyes of the public. The CMA believes that the values listed below should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services covered under Medicare. Values for Determining Core Services Transparency: The process and principles or rules on which decisions are based should be open to scrutiny and made public. Accountability: Decision makers should have proper authority to make these decisions and provisions should be in place for them to be held accountable for the decisions they make. Evidence-based: The decision-making process should incorporate relevant empirical evidence as available and appropriate. Inclusivity: Parties having an important stake in the decisions, should be identified, consulted and included in decision-making. Recommendation 9 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and regularly updated by a federal-provincial-territorial process that has legitimacy in the eyes of Canadians – patients, taxpayers and health care professionals. (b) That the values of transparency, accountability, evidence-based, inclusivity and procedural fairness should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services to include under Medicare. 5.1.4 Funding core services - finding a new Canadian compromise Under the Canada Health Act, provinces and territories must ensure that medically necessary physician and hospital services are provided on a first-dollar basis. Beyond these core services, provinces and territories provide varying degrees of coverage for other services, which are funded through a mix of government funding and patient cost-sharing. Some services are completely funded from private sources. Beyond hospital and physician services, there is no uniformity across provinces and territories in the terms and conditions under which services may be partly covered under the public funding umbrella. If the basket of core services is to be expanded beyond its focus on physician and hospital care, then certain realities must be addressed. First, although first-dollar coverage may be required to maintain access to services for the most vulnerable in society, its universal application creates the illusion that health care services are free when they clearly are not. Second, given limited fiscal resources and political priorities, governments will likely not be able to afford first-dollar coverage for an expanded set of core services. Without additional funding, resources will have to be reallocated from hospital and physician services to finance other services added to the basket. This argues for a different approach to the funding of core services — one that is more pragmatic and less ideologically driven. Under this approach, health services would be divided into three categories: those that are exclusively publicly funded, those that are partly publicly funded, and those that are exclusively privately funded. The services in the first two categories would be defined as core services. As discussed earlier, the basket of core services would be determined and regularly updated by a legitimate, multistakeholder group using an evidence-based process; it should no longer be defined on the basis of whether the services are 100% publicly financed. If core services are redefined to include services that are currently financed through a mix of private and public funding, then Canadians must be prepared to review the use of first-dollar coverage to ensure that it is applied where it is most needed to maintain access to core services. Uniform terms and conditions for core services with mixed private–public funding must also be developed, i.e., by defining the minimum level of public funding from all provinces and territories. The development of uniform terms and conditions around those services that receive a mix of public and private funds has never been addressed in Canada. Even though the criteria of the Canada Health Act ? universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration ? should be relatively easy to apply in a world of first-dollar coverage, Canada’s health system has not been able to satisfy all of them consistently. It is essential that these criteria be more diligently applied to core services that are funded on the basis of first-dollar coverage. In addition, they must be adapted to provide an effective framework of terms and conditions to govern access to services with mixed private–public funding. There is a need for a more rational discussion of the role of patient cost-sharing in the Canadian health care system. Many types of mechanisms for cost-sharing are in place today, including premiums, deductibles, co-payments, charges at point of service and taxation of health benefits. Here again, governments should adopt approaches that promote transparency and accountability, while ensuring that no one is denied care because they cannot afford to pay. Service charges are an acceptable part of the provision of many important health-related products and services such as pharmaceuticals and dental care. Furthermore, the Canada Health Act makes an explicit provision for chronic care co-payments. However, other services such as physician and hospital services are currently considered off-limits. Certain services that possess an “amenity” component, such as some pharmaceuticals, prostheses and certain elements of home care could continue to include a service charge to cover a portion of the service. However service charges are applied, it should be done in a fair and equitable manner that takes into consideration those at a financial disadvantage so that it does not impede access to necessary care, but encourages appropriate use of the health care system. In addition, patient cost-sharing arrangements for core services must be consistent across provinces and territories. Minimum thresholds for the public share of financing could be established for different categories of core services; however, any jurisdiction would be free to increase its share to a level above the minimum. Recommendation 10 (a) That governments develop a new framework to govern the funding of a basket of core services with a view to ensuring that * Canadians have reasonable access to core services on uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories * governments, providers and patients are accountable for the use of health care resources * no Canadian is denied essential care because of her or his personal financial situation. (b) That legislation be amended to permit at least some core services to be cost-shared under uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories. (c) That once the basket of core services is defined, minimum levels of public funding for these services be uniformly applied across provinces and territories, with flexibility for individual governments to increase the share of public funding beyond these levels. 5.2 Care Guarantee and “Safety Valve” A common frustration in recent years among many physicians and patients has been the lack of any recourse or alternative care in Canada when the publicly funded health system fails to provide timely access to health care. For Canadians, the only alternative since the inception of Medicare has been to turn to the United States or other countries for medical care. This may have been acceptable in the early days of Medicare when public funding was plentiful and the need to seek care outside of Canada was more theoretical than real; however, in 1998, the National Population Health survey estimated that some 17,000 Canadians traveled to the United States to seek medical care. Clearly, this is not an option for most Canadians. Recent court cases have held provincial governments accountable for providing timely care. An increasing number of Canadians are seeking private care in Canada, such as at private magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clinics, even though this service is potentially in conflict with the principles of the Canada Health Act. The public has, in effect, built its own safety valve. This is a concrete example of what happens when the publicly funded system fails to respond to a legitimate demand. This gap in Canadian health policy must be addressed in a way that compels the system to provide timely care while preserving the right of Canadians to seek alternate care if the public system fails to deliver. The first step in addressing these issues is to define core services. The second step is to establish guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. To date, the best example of such benchmarking in Canada has been by the Cardiac Care Network in Ontario. The CMA has reviewed progress toward the development of benchmarks in A Canadian Health Charter: A Background Discussion Paper, which examines Canadian and international experience with health charters. We have also written a policy on operational principles for the measurement and management of waiting lists (Appendix E). If the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options to allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Step three involves setting up a “safety valve” to address situations where the established time guarantees cannot be met. This safety valve provision would allow patients and their physicians to seek required care wherever it is available. Attempts would be made to find care geographically close to the patient — first within the province or territory, then in another province or territory or even out of country. The public funds that would have been used to pay for the patient’s care if the time guarantee had been met would be used to pay for the service wherever it is provided. In some cases, the cost of this service will be more than what would have been charged had the service been available in a timely manner from the public system in the patient’s home province or territory. Patients would be able to purchase supplementary private insurance on a prospective basis to cover this difference in cost. Ideally, Canadians would never have to use this “safety valve.” However, its inclusion in Canadian health policy will provide assurances and help restore public confidence in the health system. It will also remind governments about the repercussions of not living up to mutually agreed-upon commitments to provide timely access to care. Recommendation 11 (a) That Canada’s health system develop and apply agreed upon standards for timely access to care, as well as provide for alternative care choices – a “safety valve” – in Canada or elsewhere, if the publicly funded system fails to meet these standards. (b) That the following approach be implemented to ensure that governments are held accountable for providing timely access to quality care. * First, governments must establish clear guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. An independent third-party mechanism must be put in place to measure and report on waiting times and other dimensions of health care quality. * Second, governments must develop a clear policy which states that if the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options available to them that will allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Public funding at the home province rate would follow the patient in this circumstance, and patients would have the opportunity to purchase insurance on a prospective basis to cover any difference in cost. 5.3 Public Health Canada has been a leader in recognizing that there is more to health than health care. The Hon. Marc Lalonde’s 1974 New Perspective on the Health of Canadians, which has since become world renowned, introduced the health field concept that emphasized the role of environmental and lifestyle determinants of health. Public health is often associated with measures to prevent illness, such as safe drinking water, sanitation, waste disposal, immunization programs, well-baby clinics or programs promoting healthy lifestyles. It is the organized response of society to protect and promote health and to prevent illness, injury and disability. Public health carries out its mission through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the physical, mental and environmental health concerns of the population at risk of disease and injury. These efforts require coordination and cooperation among individuals, governments (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal), community organizations and the private sector. Putting patients first means, among other things, making sure that the health system is capable of stretching to capacity to meet unforeseen circumstances. The need for this “surge capacity” is discussed in more detail in section 6.3. Canadian physicians have long recognized the value of health promotion and disease prevention and have incorporated these elements into their practices. The CMA and its divisions and affiliates have also been active in the field of public health. For its part, the CMA * Worked with the CBC on the first series of public health broadcasts * Was the first organization to call for a ban of smoking on airplanes * Developed a tool to help physicians determine medical fitness to drive * Launched a campaign to reduce traffic injuries (seatbelts, breathalyzers, etc) * Carried out a national Bicycle Helmet Safety Program * Supported warning labels on tobacco products. Public health is complex, and the current status of the public health system in Canada requires a full and open review. In 1999, the auditor general found Health Canada unprepared to fulfill its responsibilities in the area of public health: communication among multiple agencies was poor and weaknesses in the key surveillance system impeded the effective monitoring of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and injuries. It is imperative that various departments and sectors coordinate and communicate effectively to synergize efforts and to avoid duplication. The capacity of the public health care sector to deliver disease prevention and health promotion programs is inadequate, and its ability to respond varies across the country. This situation is due to a lack of trained professionals and a lack of operational funds. Greater commitment is needed from governments at all levels to ensure that adequate human resources and infrastructure are available to respond to public health issues when they arise. This includes the expansion of the public health training programs. Once a public health issue has been identified, it is the responsibility of professionals within the system to use effective means of control. The public health system must be supported by a strong and viable infrastructure to allow them to meet such challenges. Major public health issues facing Canadians include, but are not limited to, high rates of obesity, tobacco and other substance use, mental health challenges, ensuring a clean and safe environment and prevention of injury and violence. The ability of the public health system to respond to these issues directly affects the well-being of Canadians, in a manner as important as the ability of the acute care system to respond to medical emergencies. However, investment in public health initiatives must not be made at the expense of acute and long-term care. Since the 1970s, the World Health Organization and national governments around the world have paid increasing attention and put greater effort into establishing goals for improving public health and into monitoring achievement. Numerous examples can be cited in the United States, England and Australia. In Canada, although the federal government has not attempted to establish goals, several provinces have undertaken such an exercise. Public health priorities or goals are considered to be an asset to a health care system in that they * Provide a baseline assessment of a population’s health and a tracking system for monitoring change * Encourage an increase in the breadth and intensity of health improvement activities and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing activities * Facilitate evaluation of the impact of health improvement activities * Foster unity of purpose, organization, participation and spirit of cooperation through consensus * Build awareness of and support for health programs among policymakers and the public * Guide decision-making and funding allocations. At their meeting in September 2000, the first ministers made several commitments to improve public health * Promote the public services, programs and policies that extend beyond care and treatment and that make a critical contribution to the health and wellness of Canadians * Develop strategies and policies that recognize the determinants of health, enhance disease prevention and improve public health * Further address key priorities for health care renewal and support innovations to meet the current and emerging needs of Canadians * Report regularly to Canadians on health status, health outcomes and the performance of publicly funded health services, and the actions taken to improve these services. Unfortunately, there has been little progress to date. Canada must develop a strategic approach to sustain and strengthen the capacity of the public health system to prevent, detect and respond to public health issues. Recommendation 12 (a) That governments demonstrate healthy public policy by making health impact the first consideration in the development of all legislation, policy and directives. (b) That the federal government provide core funding to assist provincial and territorial authorities in improving the coordination of prevention and detection efforts and the response to public health issues among public health officials, educators, community service providers, occupational health providers, and emergency services. (c) That governments invest in the human, infrastructure and training resources needed to develop an adequate and effective public health system capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health issues. (d) That governments undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in preventing, detecting and responding to emerging public health problems and furthermore, facilitate an ongoing, inclusive process to establish national public health priorities. 5.4 Aboriginal health Despite improvements in many areas, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people continue to have a poorer health status than the general Canadian population. The current health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is a result of a broad range of factors. It is generally acknowledged that improving it will take a lot more than simply increasing the quantity of health services. The underlying roots of the problem must be addressed; for example, poverty, low levels of education, unemployment and underemployment, exposure to environmental contaminants, inferior housing, substandard infrastructure and maintenance, low self-esteem and loss of cultural identity. A problem of this magnitude and complexity must be addressed in a comprehensive way, with all components of health, government and other sectors working in full partnership with the Aboriginal community. In recognition of this need, in February 2002 the CMA signed a letter of intent with the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) (Appendix F) to collaborate on activities in four areas of mutual interest: 1. Workforce initiatives: To increase recruitment and retention of physicians and other health professionals, particularly of Aboriginal descent, who serve Aboriginal communities. 2. Research and practice enhancement initiatives: To promote research into Aboriginal health issues and the translation of research into effective clinical practice through means such as dissemination of best-practice information and the development of user-friendly practice tools. 3. Public and community health programs: To address and develop initiatives to promote healthy living for Aboriginal communities. 4. Leadership programs: To develop and implement leadership development initiatives including mentoring programs for Aboriginal physicians. The exploration of these and other areas is essential to improve Aboriginal health status so that it is on par with the rest of the Canadian population. Recommendation 13 That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples which involves a partnership among governments, nongovernmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities. 6. Investing in the Health Care System 6.1 Health Human Resources Governments must demonstrate their commitment to the principle of self-sufficiency in the production of physicians to meet the medical needs of the Canadian population. Coverage means nothing without access, and access means nothing without availability of health care professionals. Unfortunately, there are shortages of human resources in various health care disciplines, and these shortages will be exacerbated by the demographics of the Canadian population and of each provider group and by changing public expectations. The population in general is becoming older. Older age groups experience an increased incidence of illness and disability, and thus place higher demands on the health care system. At the same time, significant numbers of health care providers are approaching retirement; in many cases, there are not enough young people entering the professions to replace those who will soon be leaving. Over the past two decades, one of the most striking changes in the medical workforce in Canada has been the increased proportion of female medical graduates: in 1980, women represented 32% of medical graduates; by 1996, this proportion reached 50%. Women now represent 30% of the practising profession in Canada and this will approach 40% by the end of the decade. Although more research is needed, it is clear that male and female physicians have different practice patterns. The changing gender distribution must be taken into consideration when examining the problem of physician supply. A more highly educated population and the widespread use of information sources such as the Internet are contributing to a heightened sense of patient empowerment, higher expectations and consumerism. These factors will increase pressure for high-quality health services. Although we encourage patients to be informed, we must be prepared for the added demands on the health system that this enhanced knowledge will create, especially in terms of the supply of health human resources. The human resources crisis is one of the most important issues facing health care today. Solutions must be found to address the many specific problems that are plaguing all health provider groups. The nursing field is suffering from many of the same challenges as physicians, including attrition and the “brain drain.” The accessibility crisis is compounded by shortages of laboratory technologists and others in the health care field, who directly support the work of physicians. Although these problems must all be addressed to make our health care system sustainable for the future, this document focuses on the professionals about whom the CMA has the greatest knowledge and expertise: physicians. 6.1.1 Supply, training and continuing education All areas of the health care continuum are experiencing a shortage of physicians. The key factors underlying this shortage include physician demographics (e.g., age and gender distribution), changing lifestyle choices and productivity levels (expectations of younger physicians and women differ from those of older generations) and the insufficient numbers entering certain medical fields. According to 2001 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranked 21st out of 26 countries in terms of the ratio of practising physicians to the population. In addition to the factors affecting physician supply mentioned above, other drivers of change, such as technological innovation and information technology, are adding further pressure to an already overworked medical profession. The OECD report further states that empirical evidence shows that lower doctor numbers are closely linked with higher mortality, after taking other health determinants into consideration. Yet, in terms of female and male life expectancy at birth, Canada ranks 7th and 6th, respectively.6 This is a powerful testament to the efforts of Canadian health professionals in putting patients first. Increasing numbers of Canadians feel the impact of the widespread physician shortages when they are unable to find a family physician or they experience delays in seeing specialists. Physicians themselves are finding that they must reduce the time they can spend doing research, teaching and pursuing continuing medical education in order to focus on direct patient care. In November 1999, the Canadian Medical Forum7 (CMF) and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada met with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to present a detailed report on physician supply containing five specific recommendations. The CMA and the other CMF organizations were encouraged to see that many jurisdictions across Canada agreed with the need to increase enrolment in undergraduate medical education programs, although we are still far from the 2,000 medical students by year 2000 that was recommended. The necessary increases in undergraduate enrolment in medicine require funding not only for the positions themselves, but also for the infrastructure (human and physical resources) needed to ensure high-quality training that meets North American accreditation standards. The concomitant increases in postgraduate positions that will be required three to four years later must also be resourced appropriately. This is in addition to the extra positions recommended in the November 1999 CMF report, which are needed to increase flexibility in the postgraduate training system; the capacity to provide training to international medical graduates; and opportunities for re-entry for physicians who have been in practice. The CMA remains very concerned about high and rapidly escalating increases in medical school tuition fees across Canada. According to data from the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (ACMC), in just five years (1996 to 2001), average first-year medical school tuition fees increased by 100%. In Ontario, they went up by 223% over the same period. Student financial support through loans and scholarships has not kept pace with this rapid escalation in tuition fees. The CMA is particularly concerned about the impact this will have on the physician workforce and the Canadian health care system. High tuition fees will have a number of consequences. They create barriers to application to medical school and threaten the socioeconomic diversity of future physicians serving the public. They also exacerbate the “brain drain” of physicians to the United States where newly graduated physicians can pay down their large student debts much more quickly. Medical education does not end with earning the title MD; in fact, this is just the beginning of a physician’s learning. The continuously evolving nature of medicine requires that physicians remain up-to-date on emerging medical technologies, new treatment modalities and numerous other developments. In the early 1990s, the conventional wisdom was that medical knowledge was doubling every five years. Now, a time of less than two years is more commonly cited. Clearly, there is an increasing role for continuing medical education (CME), underscored by explicit requirements for self-directed activities to promote maintenance of certification for both family practitioners and specialists. Historically, this is an area where physicians have largely had to fend for themselves. For its part, the CMA has sponsored the Physician Manager Institute, which provides training for physicians moving into leadership positions. Although many provincial and territorial medical associations have negotiated CME benefits with their governments, it is essential that academic health science centres be supported to expand capacity in the area of CME. In the early days of Medicare, the federal government played a leadership role in building the infrastructure for health education through the Health Resources Fund, which distributed $500 million during 1966–1980. The purpose of this fund was to help provinces bear the capital costs of constructing, renovating and acquiring health training facilities and research institutions. More recently, the federal government supported a rebuilding of the university research infrastructure generally through the $800-million Canada Foundation for Innovation fund, which was announced in the 1997 budget, and the $900-million Canada Research Chairs program, which was announced in the 2000 budget to support the establishment of 2,000 research chairs by 2000. The health field will be a significant beneficiary of these funds. However, considering the shortage of health professionals that we face today and that will soon worsen, as well as the prospect of diminished access to professional education as a result of higher tuition, there is an urgent need for targeted federal funds to address this situation immediately. Recommendation 14 (a) That the federal government establish a $1 billion, five-year Health Resources Education and Training Fund to (1) further increase enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education (including re-entry positions), (2) expand the infrastructure (both human and physical resources) of Canada’s 16 medical schools in order to accommodate the increased enrolment and (3) enhance continuing medical education programs. (b) That the federal government increase funding targeted to institutions of postsecondary education to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases. (c) That the federal government enhance financial support systems for medical students that are (1) non-coercive, (2) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase, (3) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase and (4) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. (d) That incentives be incorporated into medical education programs to ensure adequate numbers of students choose medical fields for which there is greatest need. 6.1.2 Physician retention and recruitment As important as investments in medical education may be, they will only begin to pay off in terms of increased supply of physicians in the medium- to long-term. In the short-term, shortages of family physicians and specialists will persist and possibly worsen. There is no quick fix for this problem; we must manage the best we can. This means making sure that we retain the physicians who are now practising in communities across the country. Physician turnover is a chronic problem in both rural and urban areas. The loss of a physician in a community has a very real impact in terms of continuity of care. There are unmeasured costs to patients, such distress and turmoil, as well as to the remaining physician(s) and communities that must cope with the repeated loss of valued physicians. Canada is both an exporter and an importer of physicians. The two-way flow, mainly between Canada and the United States, is tracked by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Since tracking began in the 1960s, Canada has been a net exporter of physicians to the United States. During the mid-1990s, the net loss exceeded 400 ? roughly equal to 4 graduating medical classes. Since then, it has abated to 164 in 2000, but this is still the equivalent of 1.5 medical classes. Conversely, Canada is a net importer of physicians from the rest of the world. Although the figure is more difficult to quantify, it is estimated that Canada is a net importer of 200–400 international medical graduates, who are most typically recruited to work in rural and remote communities. Short-term responses to the physician shortage include repatriating Canadian physicians working abroad and integrating qualified international medical graduates and other providers. Canada must recognize that there is a global shortage of physicians ? and a global marketplace for our services; a widespread, organized recruitment of physicians from other countries, especially from those that are also experiencing physician shortages, is not the way to solve Canada’s health human resources problems.8 Recommendation 15 (a) That governments and communities make every effort to retain Canadian physicians in Canada through non-coercive measures and optimize the use of existing health human resources to meet the health needs of Canadian communities. (b) That the federal government work with other countries to equitably regulate and coordinate international mobility of health human resources. (c) That governments adopt a policy statement that acknowledges the value of the health care workforce in the provision of quality care, as well as the need to provide good working conditions, competitive compensation and opportunities for professional development. 6.1.3 The need for integrated health human resources planning Health human resource planning is complex. The CMA seeks to build consensus within the medical profession on major program and policy initiatives concerning the supply, mix and distribution of physicians and to work with major stakeholders in identifying and assessing issues of mutual importance. Planning for the provision of services by a broad array of providers to meet changing health care needs should focus on having the right providers in the right places doing the right things. This first requires the determination of the needed supply, mix and distribution of physicians, which will assist in the development of a similar assessment for all other providers. Resource planning must be based on the health care needs of Canadians rather than driven by cost. The CMA has developed principles and criteria for the determination of scopes of practice. The primary purpose is to meet health care needs and to serve the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently and competently. These principles and criteria (listed below) have been endorsed by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association. See Appendix G for more details. Principles and Criteria for the Determination of Scopes of Practice Principles: * Focus * Flexibility * Collaboration and cooperation * Coordination * Patient choice Criteria: * Accountability * Education * Competencies and practice standards * Quality assurance and improvement * Risk assessment * Evidence-based practices * Setting and culture * Legal liability and insurance * Regulation The CMA remains sensitive to Canada’s provincial and territorial realities with respect to the fact that health human resource planning requires assessment and implementation at the local or regional level. However, there is a need for a national body to develop and coordinate health human resources planning initiatives. Recommendation 16 (a) That a national multistakeholder body be established with representatives from the health professions and all levels of government to develop integrated health human resource strategies, provide planning tools for use at the local level and monitor supply, mix and distribution on an ongoing basis. (b) That scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public, safely, efficiently, and competently. 6.2 Capital Infrastructure The crisis in health human resources is exacerbated by an underdeveloped capital infrastructure ? bricks, mortar and tools. This is seriously jeopardizing timely access to quality care within the health care system. In our 2001 discussion paper, Specialty Care in Canada, the CMA indicated there has been inadequate investment in buildings, machinery and equipment and in scientific, professional and medical devices. Provincial and territorial government spending on construction, machinery and equipment for hospitals, clinics, first-aid stations and residential care facilities has remained, on average, 16.5% below its peak in 1989. Specifically, real capital expenditures on new building construction decreased 5.3% annually between 1982 and 1998. Investment in new hospital machinery and equipment declined by 1.8% annually between 1989 and 1998. In 1998, hospital expenditures on scientific, professional and medical devices were nearly 17% below 1994 levels. While these cutbacks were occurring, significant innovations in medical technology were being introduced worldwide. Although hospitals are still providing most acute care services, whether patients are treated as inpatients or outpatients, the equipment required is not keeping pace with the growth of new technologies, the health needs of the patients and the increase and aging of the population. Equipment and machinery in the hospital sector are overaged due to a lack of replacement capital. In the absence of timely access to current and emerging health technologies, Canadians face the prospect of unrestrained progression of disease, increased stress and anxiety over their health status and, possibly, premature death. Meanwhile, society bears the direct and indirect costs associated with delayed access. On September 11, 2000, the federal government announced a new $1 billion transfer to provinces and territories for the purpose of purchasing new medical equipment. A recent analysis by the CMA found that just over half of this fund can be accounted for as being spent as intended (Appendix H). The question remains as to what has happened to the remainder of the fund. Governments have been placing a lower priority on capital investment when allocating financial resources for health care. It will not be enough simply to bring Canada’s health infrastructure up to par; a commitment to ongoing funding to maintain the equipment must also be made. This, in turn, requires continuous inventory maintenance for regular replacement. Therefore, it may be necessary for hospitals to develop innovative approaches to financing capital infrastructure. The CMA agrees with other organizations such as the Canadian Healthcare Association on the need to explore the concept of entering into public–private partnerships (P3s) to address capital infrastructure needs as an alternative to relying on government funding. Joint ventures and hospital bonds are but two examples of P3 financing. Recommendation 17 (a) That hospitals and other health care facilities conduct a coordinated inventory of capital infrastructure to provide governments with an accurate assessment of machinery and equipment. (b) That the federal government establish a one-time catch-up fund to restore capital infrastructure to an acceptable level. (see Recommendation 4(b).) (c) That governments commit to providing adequate, ongoing funding for capital infrastructure. (d) That public-private partnerships (P3s) be explored as a viable alternative source of funding for capital infrastructure investment. 6.3 Surge Capacity Putting patients first means, among other things, making sure that the health care system is capable of stretching its capacity to meet unforeseen circumstances, that the system is monitored for quality, that compensation is available when unintended harm occurs and that patient privacy and confidentiality are respected. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, followed closely by the distribution of anthrax through the United States postal service, provided a grim reminder of the necessity of having a strong public health infrastructure in place at all times. As was demonstrated quite vividly, we do not have the luxury of time to prepare for these events. Although it is not possible to plan for every contingency, certain scenarios can be sketched out and anticipated. 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. In addition to 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. Like our hydro system, “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 they require to meet the need. The CMA’s 2001 pre-budget submission lays out comprehensive recommendations to address this issue (Appendix I). Recommendation 18 That the federal government cooperate with provincial and territorial governments and with governments of other countries to ensure that a strong, adequately funded emergency response system is put in place to improve surge capacity. 6.4 Information Technology Much of the recent debate about the future of the health care system has focused on the need to improve its adaptability and overall integration. One critical ingredient in revitalizing the system is establishing the information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) that physicians and other health care professionals must have at their disposal. Effective and efficient networks will facilitate integrated and coordinated care, as well as better management of clinical information. Although health care is information-intensive, health care systems in Canada and abroad have generally been slow to adopt IT. Other sectors of the economy have invested heavily in IT/IS over the past two decades and have reaped enormous benefits in efficiency and service to clients. IT should be viewed as a “social investment” in the acquisition of knowledge. Patients will benefit through potential reductions in rates of mortality and morbidity due to misdiagnosis and improper treatment, as well as reductions in medication errors that come with access to online drug reference databases and the virtual elimination of handwritten prescriptions. IT will permit better access to diagnostic services and online databases, such as clinical practice guidelines, that are widely available but underused. Health promotion and disease prevention will be enhanced through superior monitoring and patient education (e.g., e-libraries), and decision-making by providers and patients will be improved. These represent only a subset of the potential benefits to Canadians. A great deal of effort is currently being devoted to the development of a secure electronic health record (EHR) that provides details of all health services provided to a patient. An EHR will not generate new information on patients; it will simply make existing information more readily accessible to the physician or appropriate health care provider. We are still at the infant stage of EHRs. Implementation will require a process of continual expansion, beginning with the most basic of patient information and evolving into a comprehensive record of all of the patient’s encounters with the health care system ? as well legislation protecting personal privacy and unwarranted access. It is widely accepted in industry that 4 – 5% of financial budgets is a reasonable target for information technology spending. It is equally widely accepted that in Canada the health care sector falls well short of this target. As part of the September 2000 Health Accord, the federal government invested $500 million to create the Canada Health Infoway with a mandate to accelerate the development and adoption of modern systems of IT, such as electronic patient records. The CMA applauds this investment, but notes that the $500-million down-payment is only a fraction of the $4.1 billion that the CMA estimates it would cost to fully connect the Canadian health care system. A number of provincial and territorial governments are also moving ahead with the development of IT in health care, but further financial support is required. The CMA is prepared to play a pivotal partnership role in achieving the buy-in and cooperation of physicians and other health care providers through a multistakeholder process. Toward this end, the CMA has developed principles for the advancement of EHRs (Appendix J). The CMA’s involvement would be a critical success factor in helping the federal government make an electronic health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Recommendation 19 That federal government make an additional, substantial, ongoing national investments in information technology and information systems, with the objective of improving the health of Canadians as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. Recommendation 20 That governments adopt national standards that facilitate the collection, use and exchange of electronic health information in a manner which ensures that the protection of patient privacy and confidentiality are paramount. 6.5 Research and Innovation Research and innovation in the health sector are producing an expanding array of treatments and therapies that improve quality of life and longevity, e.g., pharmaceuticals, surgery, human genome, etc. Health research provides substantial economic, social and health care benefits to society. It * Creates high-quality, knowledge-based jobs that drive economic growth * Supports academic institutions across the country and helps train new health professionals in the latest health care technologies and techniques * Supports health care delivery and is key to maintaining centres of excellence for highly specialized care * Leads directly to better ways to treat patients and promote a healthier population. In Canada, health research is carried out by a mix of public, voluntary and private-sector organizations with the federal government being the main player in publicly funded health research. Several provinces have their own health research funding agencies. Canada’s health charities play an important role in funding research on a range of diseases and conditions. The pharmaceutical industry, especially the name-brand companies, invests heavily to develop new drugs. Recent federal investments have begun to revitalize Canada’s health research capacity. With the creation of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Canada now has a modern funding agency that integrates biomedical, clinical, health services and population health research. New programs have been introduced to attract world-class scientists, modernize research infrastructure and equipment and support research in genomics. As significant as these investments have been, Canada still ranks second-to-last among G7 countries in terms of support for health research. The United States’ National Institutes of Health has a budget that is 50 times that of the CIHR for a population only 10 times bigger than Canada’s. Other countries are increasing their investment in health research to keep pace. If Canada is to improve it position vis-à-vis our key competitors, the federal government must map out a plan to increase its investment in health research to internationally competitive levels. The federal government’s investment in health research currently stands at about 0.5% of total health expenditures. There is a broad consensus in the health community that this should be increased to at least 1% of total health expenditures. Recommendation 21 That the federal government’s investment in health research be increased to at least 1% of national health expenditures. 7. Health System Financing Governments’ contributions to funding Canada’s health system should support the long-term sustainability of the system and the provision of high-quality health care for all Canadians. Governments’ contribution to Medicare should promote greater public accountability, transparency and a linkage of sources with their uses. Changes in health system financing have played a central role in the crisis facing Medicare. Significant and unpredictable funding cuts at both federal and provincial–territorial levels have wreaked havoc in the planning and delivery of a very complex array of services. Health care costs that were previously covered by provincial and territorial health insurance plans have been gradually shifted to individuals (“passive privatization”) leaving those without private insurance coverage increasingly vulnerable. Mounting evidence of unacceptably long waits for treatment and poor access to services has underlined the risks attached to having a single-payer system, with insufficient accountability for timeliness and accessibility of care. Growing problems of access and declining provider morale, combined with constant bickering about funding between federal and provincial–territorial governments have led to deterioration of public confidence in the system. The message from the front lines is clear: restoring the health care system to a sustainable footing cannot be accomplished by simply managing our way out of this crisis. As Medicare is renewed, it is essential that its underlying financing framework is modernized, taking into account the multiple policy objectives served by health financing mechanisms. 10 Policy Objectives for Health Financing Mechanisms 1. Stable and sustainable funding 2. Risk-pooling 3. Equity (between population subgroups, across regions) 4. Responsible use 5. Administrative simplicity 6. Transparency and accountability 7. Choice 8. Efficiency 9. Meet current needs 10. Fairness between generations (intergenerational equity) Our recommended changes to the legislation governing federal transfers to provinces and territories are set out in section 3.3.2. To restore the federal–provincial–territorial partnership in health, we recommend that the federal contribution to the public health care system be locked in for a 5-year period, with a built-in escalator tied to increases in GDP, rising to a target of 50% of spending for core services. We also recommend that the federal government establish special purpose, one-time funds to address a number of pressing issues. Given their constitutional responsibility in the area of health care, provinces and territories will continue to play the lead role in regulating the flow of public funding for health care. Once the basket of core services is determined according to the process outlined in section 5.1, provinces and territories will have to commit sufficient funding to ensure that these services are available and accessible in a timely way. The funding commitment of provinces and territories will, therefore, drive the federal government’s 50% contribution. In addition to providing half of public funding for core services, provinces and territories will also have the option of funding additional health services beyond the national minimum core basket, much as they do now. Although adequate and stable funding for health care is imperative at the federal level, it is equally important at the provincial and territorial level. Provincial and territorial commitment to funding core services must also be locked-in for a five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial demographics and inflation. To ensure stability, a buffer will also be needed to protect provincial and territorial health care budgets from the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. Currently, the federal Fiscal Stabilization Program compensates provinces if their revenues fall substantially from one year to the next due to changes in economic circumstances. However, this program is not health-specific and only takes effect when provincial revenues drop by over 5%. It is also funded from general revenues, which makes it more vulnerable to economic and political factors. A more robust approach to guaranteeing stability of public funding for health care would be to create a stand-alone contingency fund to which all governments would contribute. Excess revenues would be collected into this fund during periods of high economic growth, and could be used during less prosperous periods when governments experience fiscal capacity shortfalls. Recommendation 22 (a) That the provincial and territorial governments’ commitment to funding core services be locked-in for an initial five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial population demographics and inflation. (b) That governments establish a health-specific contingency fund to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the business cycle and to promote greater stability in health care financing. 8. Organization and Delivery of Services 8.1 The Medical Care Continuum There is a tendency to separate medical care into two areas; primary care and specialty care. However, we must recognize that medical and health care encompass a broad spectrum of services ranging from primary prevention to highly specialized care. Primary and specialty care are so closely interrelated that the renewal of either should not be attempted without considering the impact on the rest of the care continuum. Recommendation 23 That any effort to change the organization or delivery of medical care take into account the impact on the whole continuum of care. 8.1.1 Primary care services In recent years, several government task force and Commission reports have called for primary care reform. Common themes include improving continuity of care (including 24/7 coverage); establishing alternatives to fee-for-service payment of physicians; placing greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention; and adopting team models that involve nurse practitioners and other health care providers working collaboratively with physicians. Governments have responded by launching pilot projects to evaluate different models of primary care delivery. It is critical to evaluate these projects before moving ahead with them on a broader scale and to consider the implications of their system-wide implementation. Although some jurisdictions have moved forward with ambitious proposals to change the structure of primary care and the remuneration of physicians, the CMA urges the Commission not to view primary care renewal as a panacea for all that ails Medicare. Primary care renewal should not be used as a pretext for changing how doctors are paid nor should it focus on substituting the lowest cost provider. The focus should be on patient need. Any changes to the delivery of primary care should respect the following principles: * All Canadians should have access to a family physician. * No single model will meet the primary care needs of all communities in all regions of the country. Successful renewal of primary health care delivery cannot be accomplished without also addressing the shortage of family practitioners. Not only is the supply of these physicians affected by an aging physician population and by changes in lifestyle and productivity, but the popularity of primary care as a career choice among medical graduates is also declining. According to the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), in 1997, only 10% of positions that were still vacant after the first round of the residency match were in family medicine. By 2000, family medicine’s share of vacant positions after the first iteration peaked at 57%; since then it has remained close to 50%. Furthermore, before 1994, more graduates were choosing family medicine than there were positions available. Since then, the situation has reversed with fewer graduates consistently choosing family medicine than there are positions available.9 A major factor in this trend may be the 1993 change in the residency program, which removed graduates’ ability to do a first-year rotation in family medicine, then have the choice of continuing in the family medicine program or switching into a specialty. Now, any graduate who chooses family medicine is committed to that program. The dramatic shift in the number of graduates choosing family medicine in 1994 is likely due to the assumption that it is easier to switch out of a specialty into family medicine than vice versa. The uncertainty of the future of primary care caused by these constant reform efforts has also contributed to the decline in popularity of family medicine among medical graduates. Efforts must be made to remove these perceived barriers so that the public’s need for primary care services can be met. Multidisciplinary teams, both formal and informal, are common in primary care today. The reliance on the team approach will likely grow because of the increased complexity of care, the exponential growth of knowledge, the greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, and the choice of patients and providers. Although desirable, primary care teams ? physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and others ? will cost the system more, not less, than the traditional fee-for-service physician approach. Funding these initiatives must not come at the expense of the provision of illness care. The add-on costs of primary care teams, including informational technology (IT) and information systems (IS), must be looked upon as an investment in the health of Canadians. (IT and IS opportunities must also be available to all physicians, regardless of how they are paid or their patterns of practice.) Although multidisciplinary teams may provide a broader array of services, for most Canadians having a family doctor as the central provider of all primary medical care services is a core value. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) indicated in its submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, over 90% of Canadians seek advice from a family physician as their first resource in the health care system. The CPFC also reports that a recent Ontario College of Family Physicians public opinion survey, conducted by Decima, found that 94% of people agree that it is important to have a family physician who provides the majority of primary care and coordinates the care delivered by others.10 A family physician as the central coordinator of medical services promotes the efficient and effective use of resources. This facilitates continuity of care because the family physician generally has the benefit of developing an ongoing relationship with his or her patients and their families and, as a result, can advise and direct the patient through the system so that the patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider. Canada has one of the best primary care systems in the world, but it can be improved through better integration and coordination of care. This requires investment to increase quality and productivity through improved IT and connectivity to support physicians in their expanded roles as information providers, coordinators and integrators of care, and to support the integrated care of primary care teams. Recommendation 24 (a) That governments work with the provincial and territorial medical associations and other stakeholders to draw on the successes of evaluated primary care projects to develop a variety of templates of primary care models that would * suit the full range of geographical contexts and * incorporate criteria for moving from pilot projects to wider implementation, such as cost-effectiveness, quality of care and patient and provider satisfaction. (b) That family physicians remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly funded medical services, to ensure comprehensive and integrated care, and that there are sufficient resources available to permit this. 8.1.2 Specialty care services Much of the focus in recent years has been on primary care renewal. Countless reports indicating a major crisis in the area of primary care delivery have overshadowed the problems that are plaguing other areas of the health care continuum. For example, a severe physician shortage is occurring in specialty care at the generalist level. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada reports that a third of general surgeons are aged 55 or older and nearly 40% more general surgeons are retiring than are graduating from medical schools.11 Canada cannot afford to continue to ignore this key segment of the care continuum. A concerted effort must be made to increase the visibility of secondary care specialists and to encourage medical students to enter general specialties. As highly specialized care and technology have advanced, there has been increasing pressure at the tertiary level of the health care system to provide the highest level of care possible. Delivering tertiary care in the ways to which Canadians are accustomed cannot be sustained into the future; and such tertiary care cannot be available in all areas of the country. Alternative approaches to delivering and receiving high-level specialty care are both required and inevitable. The aging population, the challenges posed by Canada’s geography, rapidly expanding high-cost technologies and the lack of a critical mass of highly specialized health care providers necessitate a change in thinking. The health system has reached the point where certain types of care are neither universally nor readily available. The shortage of specialists and the high cost of technology and pharmaceuticals will exacerbate this situation. The future challenge is to design delivery systems that are built around a series of regional centres of excellence, without abandoning the concept of “reasonable” access. As these highly specialized services are realigned interprovincially, resources must also be realigned to accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers and to ensure that patients have equitable access to treatment. At their January 2002 meeting in Vancouver, the premiers recognized that some types of surgery and other medical procedures are performed infrequently and that the necessary expertise cannot be developed and maintained in each province and territory. Building on the experience in Canada’s three territories and Atlantic Canada, they agreed to share human resources and equipment by developing sites of excellence in such fields as pediatric cardiac surgery and gamma knife neurosurgery. This should lead to better care for patients and more efficient use of health care dollars. At the provincial–territorial level, this strategy has led to regional centres and hospitals with responsibilities for province- and territory-wide programs and services. The concept of centres of excellence can be further supported by the adoption of telemedicine and telehealth technologies which will permit rapid access to or exchange of electronic diagnostic information (e.g., imaging) and enable remote consultation and treatment. Determining where care is available will become an increasingly relevant policy matter ? especially as costs such as travel and lost income could be downloaded onto patients and their families. Efforts will be required to optimize the use of scarce specialist services, improve care and availability, assure continuity and enhance provider morale. In the interests of quality care, patient safety and the economical use of scarce resources interjursidictionally, there is a need for a Canadian Accessibility Fund. This fund would be modeled after the Portability Fund established to support the Federal–Provincial–Territorial Eligibility and Portability Agreements under the Medical Care Act. The cost of the new fund, like the old, would be 50–50 cost-shared by the federal and provincial–territorial governments. It would require an initial investment of $100 million. Access to the fund would be determined by a mutually agreed upon set of criteria, and any monies withdrawn would be used to facilitate access to highly specialized health care services that are not available in the patient’s home province. Recommendation 25 (a) That governments develop a national plan to coordinate the most efficient access to highly specialized treatment and diagnostic services. * This plan should include the creation of defined regional centres of excellence to optimize the availability of scarce specialist services. * Any realignment of services must accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers. * That the federal government create an accessibility fund that would support interprovincial centres of excellence for highly specialized services. 8.2 Physician Remuneration It is a common misconception that successful renewal of the health care system involves simply changing how physicians are paid ? specifically, abolishing fee-for-service. In their analysis of primary care in Canada, Hutchison and colleagues note that governments’ preoccupation with the “big bang” approach — that typically involves the adoption of inappropriate funding and remuneration methods — is a major contributor to the failure of many primary care projects.12 Every system of remuneration has its strengths and weaknesses. Canadians should not be led to think that movement away from fee-for-service remuneration of physicians will provide them with better care. How physicians (and other health care providers) are paid should be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Nevertheless, physicians are willing to consider other appropriate methods of remuneration in appropriate circumstances. Physicians must be given a choice about their method of payment. Experience has taught us that a “one size fits all” approach to compensation does not work. Furthermore, any remuneration arrangement must preserve and protect physician autonomy and the ability of the physician to act as an advocate for his or her patients. In 2001, the CMA developed a policy on physician compensation (Appendix K) that is based on the following principles. CMA Policy on Physician Compensation: Basic Principles * Medical practitioners must receive fair, reasonable and equitable remuneration for the full spectrum of their professional activities. * Physicians need to receive reasonable consideration and compensation when facilities and programs are discontinued, reduced or transferred. * Individual medical practitioners have the liberty to choose among payment methods. * Payment systems must not compromise the ability of physicians to provide high-quality cost-effective medical services. * Payment mechanisms must allow for a reasonable quality of life. * Provincial and territorial government resources and funding for physician services must be allocated directly to physicians for services provided. * All physicians, including those indirectly affected, have the right to representation in negotiations on issues of payment, funding, and the terms and conditions of their work. * Paying agencies must fulfill the terms of agreement negotiated with legitimate agents of the medical profession and be obliged to honour a mutually agreed-upon and established process of negotiation with those agents. * In the event of failure of negotiations relating to physician compensation, such disagreement must be resolved by a mutually agreed-upon, timely process of dispute resolution. * The federal minister of health must enforce the provisions of the Canada Health Act relevant to physician compensation (section12.2). Recommendation 26 That governments respect the principles contained in the CMA’s policy on physician compensation and the terms of duly negotiated agreements. 8.3 Rural Health Care Canadian physicians and other health care professionals are greatly frustrated by the impact that health care budget cuts and reorganization have had, and continue to have, on the timely provision of quality care to patients and on general working conditions. For physicians who practise in rural and remote communities, this impact is exacerbated by the breadth of their practice, long working hours, lifestyle restrictions created by on-call responsibilities, geographic isolation and lack of professional backup and access to specialist services. In 2000, the CMA developed a policy statement on rural and remote practice (Appendix L) to help governments, policymakers, communities and others involved in the retention of physicians understand the various professional and personal factors that must be addressed to retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas. The 28 recommendations address training, compensation and work and lifestyle support issues. Training for rural practice must span the full medical career lifecycle, from recruitment of candidates likely to enter rural practice to special skills training, retraining and continuing professional development. Compensation must reflect the degree of isolation, level of responsibility, frequency of on-call duty, breadth of practice and additional skills. Consideration must also be given to the broader social issues of the physician and his or her family, as well as the need to facilitate the availability of locum tenens, particularly across jurisdictional boundaries. There is a need to ensure that there is sufficient availability of physicians so that on-call requirements are manageable and that adequate professional backup is provided, e.g., locum services currently offered through provincial and territorial medical associations. We concur with the observation made by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada in their August 2001 submission to the Commission that Canada needs a national rural health strategy. The aim of the strategy would be to look at the systemic barriers to meeting the needs of rural Canadians and to provide strategic program funding to catalyze change. Recommendation 27 That governments work with universities, colleges, professional associations and communities to develop a national rural and remote health strategy for Canada. 8.4 Emerging and Supportive Roles in Health Care Delivery 8.4.1 Private sector Canada has a mixed system of public–private delivery and public–private financing, as illustrated in the following diagram with all four possible combinations. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Delivery Public Private Financing Public Public delivery/ public financing (e.g., public hospital services) Private delivery/ public financing (e.g., doctor’s office care) Private Public delivery/ private financing (e.g., private room in a public hospital) Private delivery/ private financing (e.g., cosmetic surgery) [TABLE END] No issue in Canadian health policy has generated more controversy than the role of the private sector. As we move forward with the renewal of Medicare, it will be important for Canadians to understand the distinction between private delivery and private funding. The appropriate mix of public and private should not be based on ideology, but rather on the optimal use of resources. Health care is delivered mainly by private providers including physicians, pharmacists, private not-for-profit hospitals, private long-term care facilities, private diagnostic and testing facilities, rehabilitation centres. (In addition, supplies from food and laundry to drugs and technology are provided almost exclusively by the private sector.) This significant level of private-sector delivery has served Canada well. Accordingly, the CMA supports a continuing and major role for the private sector in the delivery of health care. However, we are not proposing a parallel private system. There may be a growing role for private delivery. We would encourage this as long as the services can be provided cost-effectively. As with the public sector, any private-sector involvement in health care must be patient-centred as well as open, transparent and accountable. Furthermore, it must be strictly regulated to ensure that high standards of quality care are being met and monitored. Recommendation 28 That Canada’s health care system make optimal use of the private sector in the delivery of publicly financed health care provided that it meets the same standards of quality as the public system. 8.4.2 Voluntary sector The voluntary sector, including many charities and consumer advocacy groups, has played a critical role in the development of the public health system ? providing and funding services, programs, equipment and facilities. Much of the capital infrastructure development, especially in hospitals, has been made possible through the fundraising efforts of charity foundations and service organizations. In addition, many patient support services such as “Meals on Wheels” exist only because of the efforts of volunteer groups. Although the voluntary sector is a major asset for Canada’s health care system, it is critical for governments to fulfill their obligation to support publicly financed health care. Governments must avoid passing off their responsibilities to the voluntary sector, which is already stretched to the limit. Governments should not abuse the voluntary sector, but should properly fund the public health system’s ongoing operating costs and capital expenditures. The voluntary sector should be formally recognized for the contribution it makes to the health care system. Many of these organizations operate on a shoestring budget with limited capacity to respond to the increasing demands being placed on them. Recommendation 29 That governments examine ways to recognize and support the role of the voluntary sector in the funding and delivery of health care, including enhanced tax credits. 8.4.3 Informal caregivers Informal caregivers ? particularly those who provide care for ailing relatives and friends ? play an essential role in the health care system. The massive off-loading onto these caregivers has gone unrecognized. The costs of providing this kind of care go beyond identifiable dollar amounts such as loss of income. Many indirect costs, including emotional strain on the caregivers and their families, must also be acknowledged with support provided by governments and employers. Patients often prefer to receive their care at home, but it cannot be assumed that care provided at home is better for the patient than that provided within a health care institution. Resources must be made available to ensure that the care patients receive at home is acceptable. Increased financial support should be provided to informal caregivers through the tax system. Refundable tax credits and a program for family leave are two examples of this support. Recommendation 30 That governments support the contributions of informal caregivers through the tax system. Conclusions Canada’s health care system is at a crossroads. We need to act now to ensure that our health care system will be able to meet the current and future health care needs of Canadians. Canadians are looking for real solutions that will have meaningful results. This means not only addressing the most critical issues such as health human resources, infrastructure and delivery mechanisms, but also implementing system-wide structural and procedural changes. It also means involving all key stakeholders in the decision-making process at all levels. In this second submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the CMA has offered solutions that are patient-centred and reflect Canadian values of a publicly funded system that is sustainable and accountable and provides timely access to high-quality care. These recommendations form a complete, integrated package that should be implemented as a whole to be successful. The CMA would like to thank the Commission for providing this opportunity to submit our Prescription for Sustainability and we wish the Commission every success in developing a concrete plan for revitalizing our cherished Canadian health care system. 1 A recent article by Patrick Monahan and Stanley Hartt published by the C.D. Howe Institute argues that Canadians have a constitutional right to access privately funded health care if the publicly funded system does not provide access to care in a timely way. 2 Although the word “charter” has a legal connotation, it has been used in other contexts. An example is the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, an international call for action on health promotion that has received worldwide acclaim. 3 This could be linked to the equalization provision in Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act (1982). 4 Proclamations are issued by the Queen’s representative in the particular jurisdiction. An example of a proclamation that has been issued this way is the “Proclamation Recognizing the Outstanding Service to Canadians by Employees in the Public Service of Canada in Times of Natural Disaster” (13 May, 1998). 5 100% government-funded without patient cost-sharing. 6 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Health at a glance. Paris, France: OECD; 2001. 7 CMF membership includes: CMA, Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, Canadian Association of Internes and Residents, Federation of Medical Licensing Authorities of Canada, Medical Council of Canada, and Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations. 8 See for example the Melbourne Manifesto: A Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Care Professionals, which was adopted at the 5th Wonca World Conference on Rural Health in May 2002. It puts the onus on every country to train enough health professionals to meet their own needs (www.wonca.org). 9 Canadian Resident Matching Service. PGY-1 Match Report 2002. History of family medicine as a career choice of Canadian graduates. [http:// http://www.carms.ca/stats/stats_index.htm]. Ottawa: CaRMS; 2002. 10 College of Family Physicians of Canada. Shaping the Future of Health Care. Submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Ottawa: CFPC; 25 Oct. 2001. 11 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Health care renewal through knowledge, collaboration, and commitment. Ottawa: RCPSC; 31 Oct. 2002. 12 Hutchison B, Abelson J, Lavis J. Primary care in Canada: so much innovation, so little change. Health Aff 2001 May/Jun; 20(3):116-31.

Documents

Less detail

Disability Tax Credit Program : CMA Submission to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (House of Commons)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1972

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy. The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act. However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from 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. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored. In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission). The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component. The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC. Physician Involvement in the DTC Program The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive. Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today. Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program: * The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. * The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible. * The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf. * Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals. * A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced. * A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken. The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations. Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups. We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers. Program Integrity A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process. Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient. There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised. Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. Fairness and Equity The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society. However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below. 1) Defining “disability” One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform. In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 2) Remuneration The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not. Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators. Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider. Tax Advisor Referrals With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit. The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support. This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment. Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment. As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. Conclusion The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions: 1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration. 6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. 7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population. i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001 ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.

Documents

Less detail

Notes for an address by Dr. Peter Barrett, Past-President, Canadian Medical Association : Public hearings on primary care reform : Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2011

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-05-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-05-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
On behalf of the 53,000 physician members of the CMA, we appreciate the opportunity to offer our thoughts on the issue of primary care reform and the recommendations made recently in your April 2002 report. I am very pleased to be presenting today with my CMA colleague, Dr. Susan Hutchison, Chair of our GP Forum along with Dr. Elliot Halparin and Dr. Kenneth Sky from the Ontario Medical Association. Before I begin presenting the CMA’s recommendations, I believe it’s important to make a few points clear in regard to primary care: * First, is that Canada has one of the best primary care systems in the world. (Just ask Canadians, we have. Our 2001 Report Card showed that 60% of Canadians believe that we have one of the best health care systems in the world and gave high marks for both quality of service and system access). * Second, is that primary care reform is not the panacea for all that ails Medicare. * And finally, primary care and specialty care are inextricably linked. I like to expand a bit on the last point because I think it’s an important consideration. There is a tendency to separate medical care into two areas; primary care and specialty care. However, we need to recognize that medical and health care encompasses a broad spectrum of services ranging from primary prevention to highly specialized quaternary care. Primary care and specialty care are so critically interdependent that we need to adapt an integrated approach to patient care. Now, in respect to the CMA’s recommendations on implementing changes for the delivery of primary care, we believe that government must respect the following four policy premises: 1. All Canadians should have access to a family physician. 2. To ensure comprehensive and integrated care, family physicians should remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly-funded medical services. 3. There is no single model that will meet the primary care needs of all communities in all regions of the country. 4. Scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently, and competently. Access to Family Physicians A successful renewal of primary health care delivery cannot be accomplished without addressing the shortage of family physicians and general practitioners. The effects of an aging practitioners population, changes in lifestyle and productivity, along with the declining popularity of this field as the career choice of medical school graduates are all having an impact on the supply of family physician. Physician as Central Coordinator While multistakeholder teams offer the potential for providing a broader array of services to meet patients’ health care needs, it is also clear that for most Canadians, having a family doctor as the central provider for all primary medical care services is a core value. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) indicated in its submission to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, research shows that over 90% of Canadians seek advice from a family physician as their first resource in the health care system. The CFPC also noted that a recent Ontario College of Family Physicians Decima public opinion survey found that 94% agree that it is important to have a family physician who provides the majority of care and co-ordinates the care delivered by others. i A family physician as the central coordinator of medical services ensures efficient and effective use of system resources as it allows for only one entry point into the health care system. This facilitates a continuity of care, as the family physician generally has developed an ongoing relationship with his or her patients and as a result is able to direct the patient through the system such that the patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider. No Single Model for Reform In recent years, several government task force and commission reports, including the report of this Committee, have called for primary care reform. Common themes that have emerged include; 24/7 coverage; alternatives to fee-for-service payment of physicians; nurse practitioners and health promotion and disease prevention. Governments across the country have launched pilot projects of various models of primary care delivery. It is critical that these projects are evaluated before they are adopted on a grander scale. Moreover, we must take into account the range of geographical settings across the country, from isolated rural communities to the highly urbanized communities with advanced medical science centres. Scopes of Practice There is a prevailing myth that physicians are a barrier to change when in fact the progressive changes in the health care system have been more often than not physician lead. Canadian physicians are willing to work in teams and the CMA has developed a “Scopes of Practice” policy that clearly supports a collaborative and cooperative approach. A policy that has been supported in principle by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association. Because of the growing complexity of care, the exponential growth of knowledge, and an increased emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, primary care delivery will increasingly rely on multi-stakeholder teams. This is a positive development. However, expanding the primary care team to include nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, and others, while desirable, will cost the system more, not less. Therefore, we need to change our way of thinking about primary care reform. We need to think of it as an investment. We need to think of it not in terms of cost savings but as a cost-effective way to meet the emerging unmet needs of Canadians. Conclusion To conclude, there is no question that primary care delivery needs to evolve to ensure it continues to meet the needs of Canadians. But we see this as making a good system better, not fundamental reform. Thank you. i College of Family Physicians of Canada. Shaping The Future of Health Care: Submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Ottawa: CFPC; Oct 25, 2001.

Documents

Less detail

10 records – page 1 of 1.