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Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance -December 7, 2007

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9057
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
It is a pleasure to address the Standing Committee on Finance today as part of your pre-budget consultations. In keeping with the theme set by the Committee, our presentation - Tax Incentives for Better Living - focuses on changing the tax system to better support the health and well being of all Canadians. Today I will share with you three recommendations improving the health of Canadians and productivity of the Canadian economy: First, tax incentives for pre-paid long-term care insurance; Second, tax incentives to retain and recruit more doctors and nurses; Third, tax incentives to enhance health system productivity and quality improvements. 1. Long Term Care insurance Canada's population is ageing fast. Yet, long-term care has received little policy attention in Canada. Unlike other countries like the UK and Germany who have systems in place, Canada is not prepared to address these looming challenges. The first of the baby-boomers will turn 65 in 2011. By 2031, seniors will comprise one quarter of the population - double the current proportion of 13%. The second challenge is the lack of health service labour force that will be able to care for this ageing population. Long-term care cannot and should not be financed on the same pay-as-you-go basis as medical/hospital insurance. Therefore the CMA urges the Committee to consider either tax-pre-paid or tax-deferred options for funding long-term care. These options are examined in full in the package we have supplied you with today. 2. Improving access to quality care Canada's physician shortage is a critical issue. Here in Quebec, 1 in 4 people do not have access to a family physician. Overall 3.5 people in Canada do not have a family Physician. Despite this dire shortage, the Canada Student Loans program creates barriers to the training of more physicians. Medical students routinely begin their postgraduate training with debts of over $120,000. Although still in training, they must begin paying back their medical school loans as they complete their graduate training. This policy affects both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose, and ultimately where they decide to practice. We urge this Committee to recommend the extension of interest-free status on Canada Student Loans for all eligible health professional students pursuing postgraduate training. 3. Health System IT: increasing productivity and quality of care The last issue I will address is health system automation. Investment in information technology will lead to better, safer and cheaper patient care. In spite of the recent $400 million transfer to Canada Health Infoway, Canada still ranks at the bottom of the G8 countries in access to health information technologies. We spend just one-third of the OECD average on IT in our hospitals. This is a significant factor with respect to our poor record in avoidable adverse health effects. An Electronic Health Record (EHR) could provide annual, system-wide savings of $6.1 billion - every year - and reduce wait times and thereby absenteeism. But, the EHR potential can only be realized if physician's offices across Canada are fully automated. The federal government could invest directly in physician office automation by introducing dedicated tax credits or by accelerating the capital cost allowance related to health information technologies for patients. Before I conclude, the CMA again urges the Committee to address a long-standing tax issue that costs physicians and the health care system over $65 million a year. When you add hospitals - that cost more than doubles to over $145 million-or the equivalent of 60 MRI machines a year. The application of the GST on physicians is a consumption tax on a producer of vital services and affects the ability of physicians to provide care to their patients. And now with the emphasis on further sales tax harmonization, the problem will be compounded. Nearly 20 years ago when the GST was put into place, physician office expenses were relatively low for example: tongue depressors, bandages and small things. There was practically no use computers or information technology. How many of you used computers 20 years ago? Now Canadian physicians' could be and should be using 21st century equipment that is expensive but powerful. This powerful diagnostic equipment can save lives and save the system millions of dollars in the long run. It provides a clear return on investment. Yet, physicians still have to pay the GST (and the PST) on diagnostic equipment that costs a minimum of $500,000 that's an extra $30,000 that physicians must pay. The result of this misalignment of tax policy and health policy is that most Radiologists' diagnostic imaging equipment is over 30-years old. Canadians deserve better. It's time for the federal government to stop taxing health care. We urge the Committee to recommend the "zero-rating" publicly funded health services or to provide one-hundred percent tax rebates to physicians and hospitals. Conclusion In conclusion, we trust the Committee recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. By supporting: 1. Tax Incentives for Long-Term Care 2. Tax Incentives to Bolster Health Human Resources and, 3. Tax Incentives to Support Health System Automation. This committee can respond to immediate access to health care pressures that Canadians are facing. Delaying a response to these pressures will have an impact on the competiveness of our economy now, and with compounding effects in the future. I appreciate the opportunity of entering into a dialogue with members of the Committee and look forward to your questions. Thank you.
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Presentation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8564
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-21
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-21
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
While my remarks today will focus on the recognition of foreign credentials, mainly with reference to the medical profession with which I am most familiar, I want to emphasize that this is just one element of assuring a sustainable health workforce in Canada as my colleagues will be amplifying in greater detail. I want to impress upon Members of the Committee that the CMA does not test, credential, license or discipline physicians, nor is it empowered to act on complaints made by patients - this is the purview of the provincial/territorial licensing bodies. We are not directly involved in provincial or territorial benefit negotiations for physicians - this is the responsibility of our provincial/territorial Divisions. Nor do we control medical school enrolment or conduct clinical research. What we do, is carry out research and advocacy on short, medium and long term health and health care issues to ensure we can meet the current and emergent needs of Canadians. CONTRIBUTIONS OF INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL GRADUATES TO CANADA I would like to begin by dispelling the popular myth that Canada is a "closed shop" to persons with international medical credentials. In fact Canada has always relied on International Medical Graduates to make up a significant proportion of the medical workforce; this proportion has remained fairly steady at about one in four physicians for the past few decades. (Currently 23%). Our best estimate is that some 400 IMGs are newly licensed to practice in Canada each year. In fact, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, has for the past two years licensed more IMGs that Ontario medical graduates. A corollary of this myth is that IMGs are unable to access the postgraduate medical training system to complete any supplementary training they might need. In the Fall 2005, of the some 7,800 postgraduate trainees in Canada just over 900 or 12% were IMGs. Many more are participating in special assessment/supervised practice programs in the community. The fact of the matter is that Canada has historically trained fewer physicians than we need to meet our population needs. This can be clearly demonstrated by looking at relative opportunity to enter medical school. In the most recent year (2005/2006) Canada had 7.1 first year medical school places per 100,000 population. This level is just over one-half of that of the United Kingdom, with its 12.9 places per 100,000 population. While the United States has the same ratio of medical school places per 100,000 population as Canada - it has 1.5 first year postgraduate places per medical graduate and relies on bringing large numbers of IMGs in to fill these places and supplement production in this manner. Not only is Canadian undergraduate medical education capacity inadequate, but postgraduate medical training capacity is similarly insufficient to meet the demands of training Canadian medical graduates, providing training to IMGs, and permitting Canadians to retrain in specialties. In 2006 of the 932 IMGs registered in the second iteration run by the Canadian Resident Matching Service, just 111 or 12% were successful in obtaining a training position. There is clearly a backlog of IMGs who are eligible to receive the supplementary training they need to become eligible for licensure to practice in Canada should sufficient capacity be available. For those who are not eligible, opportunities should be provided to achieve credentials in other health professions such as physician assistants or paramedics. A recent pilot project in Ontario was funded to allow IMGs to qualify and work as physician assistants in supervised practice settings. Against this backdrop, it is no small wonder that Canada ranks 26th out of 29 OECD countries in the ratio of physicians per 1,000 population. For the past decade Canada's ratio has stood at 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population - one-third below the OECD average of 3.0 in 2003. NATIONAL STANDARDS Over the years, medicine has worked hard to promote national standards for medical education and the practice of medicine in Canada. Since 1912 the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) has been responsible for promoting a uniform standard qualification to practice medicine for all physicians across Canada. This qualification, known as the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) is obtained by being successful on a two-part Qualifying Examination. While licensure of physicians is a provincial/territorial responsibility, there is a national standard for portable eligibility for licensure that was adopted in 1992 by the Federation of Medical Licensing (now Regulatory) Authorities of Canada (FMRAC), the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (now Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada) (AFMC) and the MCC. The basis of this standard is that "in all provinces except Quebec the basis for licensure for most trainees will be the successful completion of the two-part Qualifying Examination of the Medical Council of Canada plus certification by either the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC)". A similar standard is applied by the Collège des médecine du Quèbec. This standard also applies to IMGs, although the provincial/territorial licensing bodies have the ability to grant exemptions in particular circumstances. SHORT, MEDIUM AND LONG TERM STRATEGY The CMA has advocated a short, medium and longer term strategy for integrating more IMGs into the Canadian medical workforce. In the short term the federal government should provide funding to clear the backlog of qualified physicians and other health professionals eligible to pursue supplementary training. In the medium term the federal government needs to work with the provincial and territorial governments and key stakeholders in the development of sufficient health professional education and training opportunities to accommodate: * Canadians who want to pursue careers as health professionals; * Currently practising health professionals who require supplementary training or who wish to retrain; * Internationally trained health professionals who are permanent residents and citizens of Canada who require supplementary training; and * International trained health professionals, non-residents of Canada who wish to pursue postgraduate training as visa trainees. In the long term Canada needs to adopt a policy commitment of increased self-sufficiency in the education and training of health professionals in Canada. In progressing these strategies I would stress the importance of the need for the federal government to engage the national health professional associations, as this is critical in moving the agenda forward. I would cite as one success story the outcomes of the multi-partite Canadian Task Force on Licensure of International Medical Graduates, which brought together federal and provincial/territorial governments and key medical organizations. Several initiatives are underway in follow-up to its 2004 report. An IMG database is being developed by the Canadian post-MD Education Registry of AFMC, sponsored by the federal government's Foreign Credential Recognition Program. The Physician Credentials Registry of Canada (PCRC) which is being developed under the leadership of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) will reduce duplication and increase the efficiency of data collection by providing a centralized uniform process to obtain primary source verification of a physician's diploma and other core medical credentials. Several provinces have greatly enhanced their ability to integrate IMGs, including supervised assessment programs in the community. We look forward to seeing results from a similar task force that is underway for nursing. CANADIAN AGENCY FOR ASSESSMENT AND RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN CREDENTIALS In conclusion, I would like to offer some ideas for the implementation of the Canadian Agency for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials that was included in the 2006 federal budget. The Constitution Act 1867 clearly assigns the majority of responsibility for the delivery of health care to the provinces. On this basis, the licensure of physicians and other health professionals should continue to be a matter of provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In the case of medicine however, Canada has been well-served by the national standard for medical licensure that has been promoted by the MCC in concert with the national certification standards that are set by the RCPSC and CFPC. Based on the foregoing, it is proposed that the broad mandate for the Canadian agency is to promote and facilitate the adoption and awareness of national standards for certification and licensure with clearly articulated procedures for the assessment of the credentials of internationally trained professionals and pathways to licensure to practice in Canada. This might include the following activities: * promote understanding among educational institutions and professional organizations about the implications of the various international agreements that Canada is party to (e.g., NAFTA, WTO); * promote a sharing of leading practices between different disciplines; * facilitate international exchanges with regulatory bodies, within and between disciplines; * develop an evaluation framework that can assess the extent to which processes for the assessment of foreign credentials are fair, accessible, coherent, transparent and rigorous; * develop template materials that will help promote international sharing of information about career prospects in Canada for various occupations; * fund development and pilot projects on the application of information technology solutions; and * serve as a focal point for federal/provincial/territorial administrative requirements. I would stress that this will only be effective if representatives from the education and regulatory authorities and the practising community are at the table. Canadian Medical Association Ottawa, September 21, 2006
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The Canadian Medical Association's brief to the Standing Committee on Finance concerning the 2007 budget

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8566
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-27
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-27
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Making Canadians healthy and wealthy In the face of an increasingly competitive global economy, Canada must create incentives for its citizens and businesses to invest so that greater investment will increase productivity and our standard of living. The first place to invest is in the health of the workforce. The CMA recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. Global competitiveness is about getting Canada beyond commodities The latest Canadian economic outlook is mixed. Our economy is forecast to grow by 3 per cent in 2007 which is the fastest growing economy among the G7 countries, according to the International Monetary Fund's semi-annual World Economic Outlook. While this may seem impressive, this growth is fuelled by commodity prices. "The Canadian economy continues to perform robustly, benefiting from...the boom in global commodity prices,'' the IMF said. In fact this is one of the key concerns included in the latest outlook from TD Economics, namely that, "Weakening U.S. demand will lead to a pullback in commodity prices, including a drop in the price of oil to $50 US a barrel in 2007"1. What can the federal government do to mitigate these bumps in the global economy? Investing in "specialized factors" is the key to global competitiveness Canada's place in a competitive world cannot be sustained by commodities or what the godfather of competitive advantage theory, world-renowned Harvard Professor Michael Porter, calls "non-key" factors. Instead, Porter suggests that sustainable competitive advantage is based on "specialized factors" such as skilled labour, capital and infrastructure. These specialized factors are created, not inherited. Moreover, Porter makes the important distinction that the crafting of "social" policies must make them reinforcing to the true sources of sustainable prosperity.2 The demand for highly skilled labour forces does not fluctuate as commodity prices do. This submission follows Porter's line of thinking in suggesting that Canada should build on these specialized factors, emphasizing the health of our skilled labour force, enhancing the skills of our health care providers and making key investment in our electronic health infrastructure. Why the CMA is addressing Canada's place in competitive world The 63,000 members of the Canadian Medical Association are best known for taking care of Canadians - 32.3 million of them - individually and collectively. Through prevention, treatment and research, physicians are also vital in supporting business by ensuring that our work force is as healthy as can be. But our members are also an important economic force in their own right as they own and operate over 30,000 small businesses employing 142,000 people across the country. 3 What's more, small businesses, like the ones physicians run, invest in research and development proportionally on a far larger scale than big corporations. 4 In addition to the clinical services they provide, physicians are vitally engaged in advancing medical knowledge through teaching and research, leading to greater innovation. Health as an investment -"the greatest benefit to mankind" According to distinguished Yale economist, William Nordhaus, "The medical revolution over the last century appears to qualify, at least from an economic point of view, for Samuel Johnson's accolade as "the greatest benefit to mankind." 5 People demand and spend more money on health because it is useful. The goal of a competitive economy is to produce more wealth. The wealthier our citizens become, the more health care they demand. In other words health care is in economic terms a "superior good". Short, medium and long-run incentives for increased productivity The pursuit of productivity to ensure Canada's competitiveness in the world is not and cannot be a short-term goal. Productivity is apolitical. Setting the foundation for productivity requires dedication to long-term goals in education, physical infrastructure and health. However, there are recommendations that can create immediate incentives for citizens and businesses to kick start more productive activity sooner than later. Executive Summary The CMA's pre-budget submission presents the facts on how investments in citizens, businesses and health infrastructure make our economy more competitive. Improvements in the quality of care, and especially timely access to care, enable the Canadian labour force to increase its performance and fully reach its potential. Our submission is also sensitive to the constraints facing the federal government and so we have considered the return on investment for these recommendations. The CMA recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. Accordingly, our proposals include tax incentives for healthy living and a recommendation to encourage savings for long-term health care. The time horizon for our 10 recommendations ranges from short-term wins such as getting Canadian doctors working in the U.S. back to Canada sooner than later to turning the tide of rising obesity in Canada. We hope that the Standing Committee on Finance considers these short-term returns on investment as well as the longer returns on investment. A Greek proverb said it best, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in". This can be a great legacy of the Committee. On behalf of the members of the Canadian Medical Association, I wish you all the best in your deliberations. Recommendations for Committee consideration Medicine for a More Competitive Canadian Economy6 -10 recommendations with investment estimates A. CITIZENS - healthy living Recommendation 1: That the government consider the use of taxes on sales of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods as part of an overall strategy of using tax incentives and disincentives to help promote healthy eating in Canada. Recommendation 2: That the government assess the feasibility of an individual, tax-sheltered, long-term health care savings plan. B. BUSINESS - healthy workforce Recommendation 3: That the government advances the remaining $1-billion from the 2004 First Ministers Accord that was originally intended to augment the Wait Times Reduction Fund (2010-2014) to support the establishment of a Patient Wait Times Guarantee and deliver on the speech from the throne commitment. Recommendation 4: That the federal government provide the Canadian Institute for Health Information with additional funding for the purpose of enhancing its information gathering efforts for measuring, monitoring and managing waiting lists and extending the development and collection of health human resource data to additional health professions. Recommendation 5: That the government launch a direct advertising campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10-million. Recommendation 6: That the government provide a rebate to physicians for the GST/HST on costs relating to health care services provided by a medical practitioner and reimbursed by a province or provincial health plan. Investment: $52.7-million per year or 0.2 % of total $31.5- billion GST revenues. C. INFRASTRUCTURE - healthy systems Recommendation 7: That the government follow through on the recommendation by the Federal Advisor on Wait Times to provide Canada Health Infoway with an additional $2.4-billion to secure an interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $2.4-billion over 5 years. Recommendation 8: That the government establish a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund ($350-million annually) to build partnerships between federal, provincial and municipal governments, build capacity at the local level, and advance pandemic planning. Recommendation 9: That the government recommit to the $100-million per year for immunization programs under the National Immunization Strategy. Recommendation 10: That the government Increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health, as well as significantly accelerate the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600-million over 3 years. Introduction It is well known that Canada's place in a competitive world cannot be sustained by commodities or what the godfather of competitive advantage theory, Michael Porter calls "non-key" factors. Instead Porter suggests that sustainable competitive advantage is based on "specialized factors" such as skilled labour, capital and infrastructure. These specialized factors are created, not inherited. Moreover, Porter makes the important distinction that the crafting of "social" policies must make them reinforcing to the true sources of sustainable prosperity.7 The demand for highly skilled labour forces does not fluctuate as commodity prices do. This submission follows that line of thinking in suggesting that Canada should build on these specialized factors, emphasizing the health of our skilled labour force, enhancing the skills of our health care providers as well as making key investment in our health infrastructure - electronic and otherwise. Outline: healthy citizens, businesses, infrastructure and affordable government The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) brief submitted to the Standing Committee on Finance will make 10 recommendations on how the federal government can make our economy more competitive by investing in three priorities: health, health care and health infrastructure. The brief will address these topics, aligning them with support for our (A) citizens, (B) businesses and (C) infrastructure. The CMA also recognizes that the federal government does not have unlimited resources and suggests actions to be taken in order to ensure that these recommendations are both affordable and sustainable. Accordingly, we will also provide a "balance sheet" of investments, return on investments, as well as revenue raising possibilities that could help create incentives for healthy living and, in turn, a more competitive economy. A. Citizens - healthy living Canadians must become fitter and healthier. Almost 60% of all Canadian adults and 26% of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese. 8 Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, the immediate past-president of the CMA and a cardiac-care specialist, recently said ""I have a very real fear we are killing our children with kindness by setting them up for a lifetime of inactivity and poor health,". Canada should follow the lead of European countries, which have recently recommended a minimum of 90 minutes a day of moderate activity for children. Kicking a soccer ball or riding a skateboard for 15 to 30 minutes two or three times a week is not good enough, she said. Obesity costs Canada $9.6 billion per year. 9 These costs continue to climb. The federal government must use every policy lever possible at its disposal in order to empower Canadians to make healthy choices, help to reduce the incidence of obesity and encourage exercise as well as a proper diet. Obesity and absenteeism affect the bottom line Obesity not only hurts our citizens it is also a drag on Canadian competitiveness. There is a direct correlation between increasing weights and increasing absenteeism. The costs associated with employee absenteeism are staggering. Employee illness and disability cost employers over $16-billion each year.10 For instance, the average rate of absence due to illness or disability for full-time Canadian workers was 9.2 days in 2004, a 26% increase over the last 8 years, according to Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey. While there is a growing awareness of the costs due to obesity are well known. The programs and incentives in place now are clearly not working as the incidence of obesity continues to grow. The benefits of turning the tide of obesity are also clear. In his remarks to the CMA in August 2006, Minister Tony Clement made the following statement: "And you know and I know that health promotion, disease and injury prevention not only contribute to better health outcomes, they help reduce wait times as well." The experts agree, "The economic drive towards eating more and exercising less represents a failure of the free market that governments must act to reverse it."11 Recommendation 1: That the government consider the use of taxes on sales of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods as part of an overall strategy of using tax incentives and disincentives to help promote healthy eating in Canada. Tax-sheltered savings for long-term care - aligning tax policy and health policy Canada is entering an unprecedented period of accelerated population aging that will see the share of seniors aged 65 and over increase from 13% in 2005 to 23% in 2031. At the same time, the cost of privately funded health services such as drugs and long-term care are projected to increase at double-digit rates as new technologies are developed and as governments continue to reduce coverage for non-Medicare services in order to curb fiscal pressures12. Since seniors tend to use the health system more intensively than non-seniors, the rising cost of privately funded health services will have a disproportionately high impact on seniors. Canadians are not well equipped to deal with this new reality. Private long-term care insurance exists in Canada, but is relatively on the Canadian scene and has not achieved a high degree of market penetration. New savings vehicles may be needed to help seniors offset the growing costs of privately funded health services. One approach would be extend the very successful model of RRSPs to enable individuals save for their long-term care needs via a tax-sheltered savings plan. Recommendation 2: That the government assess the feasibility of an individual tax-sheltered long-term health care savings plan. B. Business - healthy workforce In spite of the fact that health as an economic investment has proven returns, governments have been letting up in their support of their citizens' health. The impact is felt not only in terms of poorer health but it also affects businesses through increased absenteeism, as well as governments through lower tax revenues. According to the Center for Spatial Economics, "...the cumulative economic cost of waiting for treatment across Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC in 2006 is estimated to be just over $1.8-billion. This reduction in economic activity lowers federal government revenues by $300-million." 13 The total costs to the federal government are even higher if all 10 provinces were included. The estimate is based on four of the five priority areas identified in the 2004 First Ministers Health Accord: total joint replacement surgery, cataract surgery, coronary artery bypass graft, and MRI scans. If you wonder what all this has to do with Canadian business, ask yourself how many person/hours employers lose due to illness? How much productive time is lost due to the stress of an employee forced to help an elderly parent who cannot find a doctor? This challenging situation is going to get worse, as the population ages, and as our health professionals age and retire. Supporting the Patient Wait Time Guarantee The establishment of pan-Canadian wait time benchmarks and a Patient Wait Times Guarantee are key to reducing wait times and improving access to health services. The 2004 First Ministers' health care agreement set aside $5.5-billion for the Wait Time Reduction Fund, of which $1-billion is scheduled to flow to provinces between 2010 and 2014. To assist provinces with the implementation of the wait time guarantee while remaining within the financial parameters of the health care agreement, the federal government could advance the remaining $1-billion and flow these funds to provinces immediately. Recommendation 3: That the government advances the remaining $1-billion from the 2004 First Ministers Accord that was originally intended to augment the Wait Times Reduction Fund (2010-2014) to support the establishment of a Patient Wait Times Guarantee and deliver on the speech from the throne commitment. Making investments count and counting our investments It would be irresponsible for government to make investments if the results were not being measured. As management guru Tom Peters suggests, "What you do not measure, you cannot control." And, "What gets measured gets done." As billion dollar federal funding of health care reaches new heights, the value of measuring these investment increases. That is where the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) comes in. CIHI has been involved in developing wait time indicators and tracking Canada's progress on wait times. It is essential that we have an arm's length body responsible for collecting data on wait times as part of Canada's effort to improve timely access to care for Canadians. CIHI has also played an active role in health human resource data collection and research. Their financial support for the 2004 National Physician Survey resulted in a one-of-a-kind research file with input from over 20,000 Canadian physicians. Recommendation 4: That the federal government provide the Canadian Institute for Health Information with additional funding for the purpose of enhancing its information gathering efforts for measuring, monitoring and managing waiting lists and extending the development and collection of health human resource data to additional health professions. Direct advertising in the U.S. to bolster health human resources deficit The primary barrier affecting timely access to quality health care is the shortage of health care professionals. Canada currently ranks 26th in the OECD in terms of physicians per capita, at 2.1 MDs per 1,000 people. More than three million Canadians do not have a family physician. This situation will get worse as the population ages and as our health professionals age and retire. Fortunately, another short-term source of health professionals exists that Canada should pursue. Thousands of health care professionals are currently working in the United States including approximately 9,000 Canadian trained physicians. We know that many of the physicians who do come back to Canada are of relatively young age meaning that they have significant practice life left. While a minority of these physicians do come back on their own, many more can be repatriated in the short-term through a relatively small but focussed effort by the federal government led by a secretariat within Health Canada. Recommendation 5: That the government launch a direct advertising campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10-million. Re-investing the GST for 30,000 small businesses The continued application of the GST on physician practices is an unfair tax on health. Because physicians cannot recapture the GST paid on goods and services for their practices in the same way most other businesses can, the GST distorts resource allocation for the provision of medical care. As a result, physicians end up investing less than they otherwise could on goods and services that could improve patient care and enhance health care productivity such as information management and information technology systems. The introduction of the GST was never intended to fall onto the human and physical capital used to produce goods and services. The GST is a value-added tax on consumption that was put into place to remove the distorting impact that the federal manufacturers sales tax was having on business decisions. However, the GST was applied to physician practices in a way that does exactly the opposite. The federal government must rectify the situation once and for all. Based on estimates by KPMG, physicians have paid $1.1-billion in GST related to their medical practice since 1991. This is $1.1-billion that could have been invested in better technology to increase care and productivity. Recommendation 6: That the government provide a rebate to physicians for the GST/HST on costs relating to health care services provided by a medical practitioner and reimbursed by a province or provincial health plan. Investment: $52.7-million per year or 0.2 % of total $31.5-billion GST revenues. C. Infrastructure -healthy system Recovery of health information technology investments is almost immediate A Booz, Allen, Hamilton study on the Canadian health care system estimates that the benefits of an EHR could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion, due to a reduction in duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reduction in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The study went on to state that the benefits to health care outcomes would equal or surpass these annual savings. Evidence shows that the sooner we have a pan-Canadian EHR in place, the sooner the quality of, and access to health care will improve.14 Mobilizing physicians to operationalize a pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal governments make a connected health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi-stakeholder process encompassing the entire health care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and Canada Health Infoway (CHI). The CMA is urging the federal government to allocate an additional investment of $2.4-billion to Canada Health Infoway over the next five years15 to build the necessary information technology infostructure to address wait times16 as well as support improved care delivery. Both the Federal Wait Times Report and Booz Allen Study concur that this requires automating all community points of care - i.e., getting individual physician offices equipped with electronic medical records (EMRs). This is a necessary, key element to the success of the EHR agenda in Canada and recent assessments place the investment required at $1.9-billion of the $ 2.4-billion. CHI has proven to be an effective vehicle for IT investment in Canadian health care. For example, as a result of CHI initiatives, unit costs for Digital Imaging have been reduced significantly and are already saving the health care system up to 60-million dollars. In fact as a result of joint procurements and negotiated preferred pricing arrangements through existing procurement efforts with jurisdictional partners the estimated current cost avoidance is between $135-million to $145-million. Moreover, in the area of a Public Health Surveillance IT solution, a pan Canadian approach to CHI investments with jurisdictional partners has lead to benefits for users, the vendor and Canadians. The negotiation of a pan-Canadian licence enables any jurisdiction to execute a specific licence agreement with the vendor and spawn as many copies as they need to meet their requirements. The vendor still owns the IP and is free to market the solution internationally - clearly a win/win for both industry and the jurisdictions. Recommendation 7: That the government follow through on the recommendation by the Federal Advisor on Wait Times to provide Canada Health Infoway with an additional $2.4-billion to secure an interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $2.4-billion over 5 years. Establishing a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund The CMA remains concerned about the state of Canada's public health system. Public health, including the professionals providing public health services, constitutes our front line against a wide range of threats to the health of Canadians. While there is much talk about the arrival of possible pandemics, Canada's public health system must be ready to take on a broad range of public health issues. The CMA has been supportive of the Naylor report which provides a blue print for action and reinvestment in the public health system for the 21st century. While this will take several years to achieve, there are some immediate steps that can be taken which will lessen the burden of disease on Canadians and our health care system. These steps include establishing a Public Health Partnership Program with provincial and territorial governments to build capacity at the local level and to advance pandemic planning. In addition, we call on the government to continue its funding of immunization programs under its National Immunization Strategy. Public health must be funded consistently in order to reap the full benefit of the initial investment. Investments in public health will produce healthier Canadians and a more productivity workforce for the Canadian economy. But this takes time. By the same token, neglect of the public health system will cost lives and hit the Canadian economy hard. Recommendation 8: That the government establish a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund ($350-million annually) to build partnerships between federal, provincial and municipal governments, build capacity at the local level, and advance pandemic planning. Supporting the National Immunization Strategy Dr. Ian Gemmell, Co-Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion, has said, "Vaccines provide the most effective, longest-lasting method of preventing infectious diseases in all ages." strongly urge that immunization programs be supported. Healthy citizens are productive citizens and strong immunization programs across the country pay for themselves over time. Recommendation 9: That the Federal Government recommit to the $100-million per year for immunization programs under the National Immunization Strategy. Making medical research investments count - supporting knowledge transfer The Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was created to be Canada's premier health research funding agency. One of the most successful aspects of the CIHR is its promotion of inter-disciplinary research across the four pillars of biomedical, clinical, health systems and services as well as population health. This has made Canada a world leader in new ways of conducting health research. However, with its current level of funding, Canada is significantly lagging other industrialized countries in its commitment to health research. Knowledge transfer is one of the areas where additional resources would be most usefully invested. Knowledge Translation (KT) is a prominent and innovative feature of the CIHR mandate. Successful knowledge translation significantly increases and accelerates the benefits flowing to Canadians from their investments in health research. Through the CIHR, Canada has the opportunity to establish itself as an innovative and authoritative contributor to health-related knowledge translation. Population and public health research is another area where increased funding commitments would yield long-term dividends. Recommendation 10: That the government Increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health, as well as significantly accelerate the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600-million over 3 years. Conclusion The CMA recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. Accordingly our proposals include tax incentives for healthy living as well as a recommendation to encourage savings for long-term health care. The time horizon for our 10 recommendations ranges from short-term wins such as getting Canadian doctors working in the U.S. back to Canada sooner than later to turning the tide of rising obesity in Canada. We hope that the Standing Committee on Finance considers these short-term returns on investment as well as the longer returns on investment. A Greek proverb said it best, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in". This can be a great legacy of the Committee. On behalf of the members of the Canadian Medical Association, I wish you all the best in your deliberations. Appendix 1 - Recommendations for Committee consideration 10 point plan with estimated investments and revenues Appendix 2 - The Information Technology Agenda in the Canadian Health Care Sector * The Health Council of Canada, the Presidents and CEOs from the Academic Healthcare Organizations and the federal advisor on wait times all agree on the need to accelerate the building out of the information technology infostructure for the healthcare sector * All these groups amongst others argue that there are large gains to be made on improving healthcare delivery and achieving efficiencies in operating the health care system * Automating health care delivery in Canada will lead to a more efficient healthcare system and will build industry capacity to compete in the international market place * A $10-billion investment is estimated to result in a return on investment (ROI) exceeding investment dollars by an 8:1 margin, and a net savings of $39.8-billion over a 20-year period. It is estimated that a net positive cash flow would occur in Year Seven of implementation, and an investment breakeven by Year 11, resulting in an annual net benefit of $6.1-billion.17 * Part of this investment is to automate the over 35,000 physicians who have a clinic in a community setting * It is estimated that $1.9-billion is needed to accomplish this task which when complete will facilitate better management of wait times, improved patient safety, helping to address in part the human resource shortage for providers as well as make a contribution to improved First Nation health. * Our recommendation is that the Federal government provide a further direct investment of $1-billion into Canada Health Infoway (CHI) that is targeted to the automation of physician offices. This funding would pay for 50% of the costs to automate a physician's clinic. * The funds would be allocated to provinces and medical associations through CHI once an agreement has been developed. A jointly developed program would ensure complementarity with a provincial health IT strategy and a program that has been designed by physicians such that it does the most to improve health care delivery * Physicians would be asked to pay the other 50% and through tax policy they would be able to claim a deduction for capital information technology acquisitions * This arrangement mirrors current programs funded by CHI on a 75%-25% cost sharing model with provinces but with physicians picking up approximately 25% of the costs Appendix 3 Can taxation curb obesity? A recent article in the New Scientiest.com1 asks, Can taxation curb obesity? "The economic drive towards eating more and exercising less represents a failure of the free market that governments must act to reverse."18 "We have market failure in obesity, because we have social costs greater than the private costs," according to Lynee Pezullo director of the economic advisory group Access Economics. "The government also bears the health costs, and people don't take into account costs they bear themselves. If people had to pay for their own dialysis they might bear these things in mind a bit more." When two-thirds of the population of countries like Australia or the US are obese or overweight, you can't handle the problem with simple solutions like education," Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A Yale University professor is generating support for a "twinkie tax"1 on high-calorie foods like french fries. This tax works In California in 1988, Proposition 99 increased the state tax by 25 cents per cigarette pack and allocated a minimum of 20% of revenue to fund anti-tobacco education. From 1988 to 1993, the state saw tobacco use decline by 27%, three times better than the U.S. average.1 CMA is not alone in supporting a junk food tax In December, 2003, the World Health Organization proposed that nations consider taxing junk foods to encourage people to make healthier food choices. According to the WHO report, "Several countries use fiscal measures to promote availability of and access to certain foods; others use taxes to increase or decrease consumption of food; and some use public funds and subsidies to promote access among poor communities to recreational and sporting facilities." The American Medical Association is planning to demand the government to levy heavy tax on the America's soft drinks industry. Currently, 18 U.S. states have some form of "snack" food tax in place and five states have proposed policy and legislative recommendations. The economic costs of obesity are estimated at $238-billion annually, and rising. Along the same lines, the former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, believes that after smoking, "obesity is now the number one cause of death in [the U.S.]...we're not doing the same kind of things with obesity that we have done with smoking and alcohol as far as government programs are concerned ... It's got to be like smoking, a constant drum beat." 1 "U.S. Slowdown Underway Canada in for a Bumpy Ride" See www. td.com/economics/ (accessed Sept. 19, 2006) 2www.worldbank.org/mdf/mdf1/advantge.htm (accessed Sept. 19, 2006) 3 Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register 2005. 4 Source: Statistics Canada, Industrial Research and Development -2004 intentions, No. 88-202-XIB, January 2005. 5 Nordhaus notes that over the 1990-1995 period the value of improved health or health income grew at between 2.2 and 3.0 per cent per year in the United States, compared to only 2.1 per cent for consumption. See The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards William D. Nordhaus, Yale University www.laskerfoundation.org/reports/pdf/economic.pdf (accessed Sept. 18, 2006) 6 See Appendix 1 for 3-year investment details as well as short, medium and long-term returns on investment 7 www.worldbank.org/mdf/mdf1/advantge.htm Accessed September 20, 2006. 8 Source: ww2.heartandstroke.ca/Page.asp?PageID=1366&ArticleID=4321&Src=blank&From=SubCategory Accessed August 14, 2006. 9 P.Katzmarzyk, I. Janssen "The Economic costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity in Canada: An Update" Can J Applied Physiology 2004 Apr; 29(2):90-115. www.phe.queensu.ca/epi/ABSTRACTS/abst81.htm Accessed August 14, 2006. 10 Staying@Work 2002/2003 Building on Disability Management, Watson Wyatt Worldwide www.watsonwyatt.com/canada-english/pubs/stayingatwork/ Accessed July 31, 2006. 11 Swinburn, et al. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity (vol 1, p 133) (accessed Sept. 19, 2006) 12 Canada's Public Health Care System Through to 2020, the Conference Board of Canada, November 2003. 13 The Economic Cost of Wait Times in Canada, by the Center for Spatial Economics, June 2006. www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/CMA_This_Week/BCMA-CMA-waittimes.pdf 14 Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada's Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06 15 See Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 for more investment details and background. 16 Final Report of the Federal Advisor on Wait Times, June 2006, Dr. Brian Postl 17 Booz Allen Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005 18 Can taxation curb obesity? See www.newscientist.com/article/dn9787-can-taxation-curb-obesity.html (accessed September 20, 2006.) Medicine for a more competitive Canadian economy
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Review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) : CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics - December 13, 2006

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8668
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-12-13
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-12-13
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to be here today to participate in your review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA. The CMA has had a long-standing interest in privacy-related matters, including enhancing measures to protect and promote the privacy of health information. We welcome the opportunity to share our policies and thoughts on these vital matters. As a pediatric oncologist from Winnipeg and Chair of the CMA's Committee on Ethics, I come here today with one bottom line: Physicians have always- and continue to - take their patients' privacy very seriously. This is the cornerstone of the special bond between patients and their doctor and has been thus since the time of Hippocrates. In recognition of the importance of privacy, the CMA has produced such documents as the CMA Code of Ethics and the CMA Health Information Privacy Code to guide our more than 64,000 members across the country. These documents existed before the federal government introduced PIPEDA. It is out of our concern for protecting and ensuring the privacy of medical information that we speak to you today. There are three specific areas which we would like to raise: 1) Recognition in law of the unique nature of health care; 2) Physician information as "work product"; and 3) Emerging Privacy and Health information issues. 1. Recognition in law of the unique nature of health care I would like to highlight the importance of recognizing in law the special circumstances of protecting health information. In fact, when PIPEDA was first being debated, CMA posed questions about the scope of the Act and was told that the legislation, originally designed for commerce and the private sector, would not capture health information. We were also told that even if it did, PIPEDA wouldn't change how we practiced medicine. The passing of PIPEDA generated enough concern and uncertainty that government agreed to delay its application to health for 3 years. For example, PIPEDA failed to clarify the issue of implied consent for the sharing of patient information between health professionals providing care. For example, when the family physicians says to a patient "I'm going to send you to see an oncologist to run some tests" and the patient agrees and follows that course of action, then clearly there is "consent" to the sharing of their health information with others. As an oncologist I assume there is consent to send the test results to other specialists that I may need to consult in order to advance the patient's care in a timely fashion. This, however, needed to be addressed before PIPEDA was applied to health care. The delayed application allowed the federal government and health care community to work together and develop a set of guidelines for how PIPEDA would be applied. The resulting PIPEDA Awareness Raising Tools, known as PARTs, contain a series of questions and answers that make up guidelines for health care providers. They answered many of our concerns, provided necessary definitions and allowed for the implied consent model to continue to be used within the circle of care. The CMA applauds the government for this collaborative effort and the resulting guidelines have been used by health care providers ever since. However, we remain concerned that the PARTs guidelines have no legal status. This limitation creates a degree of uncertainty that the CMA would like this legislative review to see addressed by ensuring the PARTs series of questions and answers are referenced in PIPEDA. In addition to participating in the PARTS initiative, since PIPEDA's implementation, the CMA has designed practical tools for physicians and patients: * adopted the CMA policy Principles Concerning Physician Information to address the importance of protecting the privacy of physician information; * produced Privacy in Practice: a handbook for Canadian physicians to help physicians maintain best practices in the protection of patient health information; and * created the PRIVACYWIZARD(tm) designed to help physicians record their current privacy practices, communicate these to patients and identify possible areas for enhancement. 2. Physician Practice Information as "Work Product" I referred earlier to CMA's Policy document on physician information. The CMA strongly believes that physicians have legitimate privacy concerns about the use by third parties of information - such as prescribing and other practice data for commercial purposes. Currently deemed "work product" this information can be collected, used and disclosed without consent. We feel PIPEDA inadequately protects this information. We recognize that it is information generated out of the patient-physician relationship. We disagreed with findings of the previous Privacy Commissioner that physician prescribing information is not subject to PIPEDA's privacy protection provisions for "personal information". The CMA has consistently advocated that physician prescribing data and other practice information is personal information and appeared as an intervener in a Federal Court review of this issue that was ultimately settled by the main parties. Also, insufficient regard for the privacy of prescribing and other physician data could have a negative impact on the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. Patients confide highly sensitive information to physicians with the expectation this information will be kept in the strictest confidence. This expectation exists because they know that physicians are under ethical and regulatory dictates to safeguard their information and that physicians take this responsibilities very seriously. The perceived and indeed actual loss of control by physicians over information created in the patient encounter, such as prescribing data, could undermine the confidence and faith of our patients that we are able to safeguard their health information. This concern is not hypothetical. For physicians, so called "work product" information also encompasses practice patterns such as discharge rates, referral rates, billing patterns, hospital length of stays, complaints, peer review results, mortality and re-admittance rates. With the advent of electronic medical records and growth in pay-for-performance and outcome-based incentive programs for physicians, there is an enormous potential for the resulting physician "performance" data or "work product" to be "mined" by other parties and used to influence performance review (traditionally the purview of the medical licensing authorities) as well as decisions around treatment funding and system planning. The lack of transparency in the sale and compilation of physicians' prescribing and other performance data means that physicians might find themselves to be the unwitting subject and targets of marketing research. We believe practice decisions must be made in the best interest of patients and not the bottom-line interests of businesses and marketers. CMA therefore recommends a legislative change to include physician information as personal information under PIPEDA. Legislation in Quebec provides an example that is consistent with CMA's approach since it requires regulatory oversight and gives individuals the right to opt out of the collection, use and disclosure of "professional" information. 3. Emerging Privacy and Health information issues With budgetary and demographic pressures, our health care system is under strain and physicians are striving to deliver timely, quality care to patients, often with competing and multiple demands. Physicians are therefore seeking assurances from law makers that any amendments to PIPEDA will take into account the potential impact on them and their patients. Therefore, we seek assurances that: * health care is recognized as unique when it comes to the disclosure of personal information before the transfer of a business (one physician transferring his/her practice to another) because it is regulated at the provincial level through the appropriate licensing body. As a general rule, physicians must give notice to the public, whether via a newspaper ad or a notice in the office about the change in practice. * the federal government will consider the impact of the trans-border flow of personal information on telehealth and Electronic Health Record activities. Communications between patients and physicians via electronic means are likely to increase and to move across geographic boundaries with increasing frequency; and * the federal government will study the issue of international cross border data flows, particularly among Canadian researchers who receive funding from US drug companies. These arrangements should be governed by Canadian law (PIPEDA) not American (HIPAA or the US Patriot Act). In closing, the privacy protection of personal health information is a responsibility that my colleagues and I do not take lightly. It is a key pillar of our relationship with Canadians, they not only expect it-they deserve it. I look forward to taking questions from Committee members. Canadian Medical Association Ottawa, December 13, 2006
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CMA Letter to the Legislative Committee on Bill C-30: Clean Air Act

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8714
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to participate in the review of the Clean Air Act, Bill C- 30. The CMA, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 64,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and health care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy. The Environment: A Key Determinant of Health The physical environment is a key determinant of a population's health and the medical profession is concerned about environmental conditions that contribute to declining health in individuals and the population as a whole. Physicians have been part of an early warning system of scientists and other health professionals calling attention to the effects on human health of poor air quality because we see the impact in our practice and in our communities. There is strong evidence that air pollution is the most harmful environmental problem in Canada in terms of human health effects. We know from the smog health studies undertaken by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), Health Canada and others, about the public health crisis created by polluted air in many parts of Canada. And it is a crisis. A study by the federal government estimated that 5,900 premature deaths occur annually in eight large Canadian cities. This is a conservative estimate as the study focused on the short-term impact of smog pollutants using time-series studies. This study was never extrapolated to the whole Canadian population, but we know that only approximately one third of the Canadian population, mainly residents of large, urban areas, were included in the analysis.1 The OMA Illness Costs of Air Pollution study estimated that there were 5,800 premature deaths due to air pollution in Ontario alone in 2005, and examined both short-term and long-term health impacts. The OMA projected that the annual figure will grow to 10,000 premature deaths by 2026 unless effective steps are taken to reduce smog.2 In addition to premature deaths, the OMA estimated that there were 16,000 hospital admissions and 60,000 emergency room visits in Ontario in 2005 because of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses associated with air pollution exposure. During that same year, the OMA also estimated that there were 29 million minor illness days, defined as days where individuals either suffered from asthma symptoms or had to restrict their activities. Most of the people affected by these so-called minor illness days are children. In British Columbia, the Provincial Officer for Health published a conservative estimate in 2004 that air pollution in B.C. is causing between 140 and 400 premature deaths, 700 to 2,100 hospital stays, and between 900 and 2,750 emergency room visits each year.3 The direct and indirect costs of air pollution on the health of Canadians are estimated to be in the billions of dollars. According to the Ontario Medical Association, in 2005, air pollution costs in Ontario were estimated at: - $374 million in lost productivity and work time; - $507 million in direct health care costs; - $537 million in pain and suffering due to non-fatal illness; and - $6.4 billion in loss due to premature death.4 In Canada the environment is currently considered to be the most important issue facing society. In a recent poll by the Strategic Counsel for the Globe & Mail/CTV5 a majority of respondents ranked the impact of toxic chemicals, air and water pollution and global warming as life threatening. The environment, while a major concern today for the general public, has been of concern to physicians for some time. CMA, Health and the Environment In 1991 the CMA, released a policy paper Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development6 that clearly linked health and the environment. Building on the 1987 Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future) that tied sustainable development to the environment and the economy, the CMA inserted health into this pair of interactions and stated that "continued environmental degradation will increase hazard to human health." The paper concluded with a number of recommendations for governments, the health sector, and physicians in support of environmentally sustainable development. The CMA has continued to give attention to environmental issues urging the government, prior to Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada's international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. In 2002, the CMA also recommended that the federal Environment and Health Ministers commit their departments to improved health-based reporting by regularly updating the health effects information for pollutants of concern. Clean Air Act: A Physicians Perspective Doctors understand the concept that success from an intervention can be nuanced. In the case of disease, physicians know and accept that there are benefits of treatment even if a patient cannot be cured. Sometimes we just reduce their symptoms, or slow their rate of decline. But when treating the natural environment, so critical to human health, we suggest that you cannot accept a palliative solution. We must aim for cure. We must commit to measures of success in terms of real improvement in health. It is through this lens that the CMA urges that you view the Clean Air Act to ensure that it is health-relevant. The CMA would like to commend this government for acknowledging the impact of the physical environment on human health and we are encouraged that the Act recognizes the intimate connection between greenhouse gas reductions and improved air quality. Air pollution does not respect provincial borders therefore it is very important to establish national objectives and Canada wide standards that are strong and consistent across the country. To be health relevant national air quality objectives must result in air quality improvements. To this end, regardless of whether they are called objectives or standards, national air quality targets must protect the health of all Canadians and must be binding. Voluntary air quality guidelines guarantee no health benefit. The federal government must ensure that there is a regulatory framework in place to ensure that the standards are mandatory across the country. The annual reporting to Parliament on the attainment of the national air quality objectives and the effectiveness of measures to attain the objectives, as outlined in the Act, is very important. Transparency in reporting is essential to the integrity of any program, but is integral to the determination of health benefit. The International Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment report released on February 2, 2007, concluded that global warming is unequivocal and that human activity is the main driver, asserting with near certainty - more than 90 percent confidence - that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming since 1950. Its Third Assessment report: Climate Change 2001: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability noted that global climate change will have a wide range of impacts on human health. "Overall, negative health impacts are expected to outweigh positive health impacts. Some health impacts would result from changes in the frequencies and intensities of extremes of heat and cold and of floods and droughts. Other health impacts would result from the impacts of climate change on ecological and social systems and would include changes in infectious disease occurrence, local food production and nutritional adequacy, and concentrations of local air pollutants and aeroallergens, as well as various health consequences of population displacement and economic disruption."7 Given the indisputable impact of greenhouse gas increases on climate change and its connection to human health, it is critical to ensure that Canada is moving quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Air Act and the subsequent notice of intent sets out short, medium and long term targets and timelines for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The target setting approach proposed in the Act, based on emission intensity in the short and medium term is not health relevant. To be health relevant, targets should be presented in the context of overall emissions, i.e., emissions reductions minus emissions increases. An emission reduction from a particular source is only health-relevant if we can guarantee that there is not a corresponding emissions increase at another source nearby, because it is the absolute exposure that an individual experiences that affects the risk of an adverse health effect. Just as slowing the progression of a disease can never be considered a cure, attempting only to limit the growth of those emissions cannot result in true success by any measure. It is not until 2050 that the government has committed to achieving an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 45 - 65% of 2003 levels. Based on the emission intensity targets in the Clean Air Act, emissions and air pollution levels will, in fact, continue to rise as will the health consequences. In order to protect the health of Canadians the government needs to set policies, with targets and timelines that maximize absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, which are consistent with the scale and urgency of the challenge. To ensure that prescribed policies result in the intended environment and health outcomes, short and medium-term targets for absolute emission reductions would benchmark progress and allow for mid-course corrections, if they were needed. With respect to indoor air quality, physicians have long been proponents of initiatives to reduce exposure to contaminants such as second-hand tobacco smoke. The CMA is concerned about the impact on human health of exposure to high levels of radon and the associated increased risk of lung cancer. The intention to develop measures to address indoor air quality through a national radon strategy is a positive step. It is important that our patients are made aware of such threats in their homes, and also that they are presented with a way to reduce their exposure. Environmentally related illness is essentially the combined result of exposure and vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are human beings; each human being has different physical strengths and weaknesses. Some vulnerabilities to environmental influences are genetic, and some the results of pre-existing disease. There is not much that government can do about this part of the equation. Our exposure, on the other hand is related to the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. This is where the federal government is critical, and where the measures of success will be the most important. Proxy measures for the health outcomes that matter must be relevant from a health perspective. Health-based success can only be measured by quantifiable reductions in the exposure levels of contaminants in our air as well as in our water and soil. Clean air is absolutely fundamental to a healthy population - without it all else is irrelevant. Actions to curb air pollution must be taken in all sectors and levels of society in a concerted, non-partisan effort with the health of the population and the planet as our yardstick of success. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our comments on Bill C-30, the Clean Air Act. We look forward to working with you to improve the Clean Air Act and ensure that the measure of its success will benefit the health of Canadians. Sincerely Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP President 1 S. Judek, B. Jessiman, D. Stieb, and R. Vet. 2005. Estimated Number of Excess Deaths in Canada Due to Air Pollution". Health Canada and Environment Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/ nr-cp/2005/2005_32bk2_e.html#top 2 Ontario Medical Association. 2005. The Illness Costs of Air Pollution: 2005-2026 Health and Economic Damage Estimates. Toronto: OMA. 3 B.C. Provincial Health Officer. 2004. Every Breath You Take: Air Quality in British Columbia, A Public Health Perspective. 2003 Annual Report. Victoria: Ministry of Health Services. 4 Ontario Medical Association , 2005 5 GLOBE/CTV POLL Climate concerns now top security and health One in four label environmental issues as most important, The Globe and Mail, Fri 26 Jan 2007, Page: A1, Section: National News , Byline: Brian Laghi 6 Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development, Canadian Medical Association , 1991 7 WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001, IPPC Third Assessment Report: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, accessed Feb 7, 2007 http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg2/348.htm
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Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Regarding the Common Drug Review

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8719
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-05-14
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-05-14
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association represents more than 65,000 physicians in Canada; its mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and to be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. In pursuit of this mission we are developing a growing body of policy on pharmaceutical issues. In November 2003, we presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during its study of prescription drug issues. In July 2006 CMA, along with four other national organizations representing patients, health professionals, health system managers and trustees, formed the Coalition for a Canadian Pharmaceutical Strategy and released a framework and principles that we believed should govern the development of pharmaceutical strategy in this country. We understand that the current study of the Common Drug Review (CDR) is part of a larger, more comprehensive study of prescription drugs being contemplated by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. We look forward to assisting you with this study. In the meantime, we will note that the CDR is intimately linked to related issues such as catastrophic coverage and a national formulary, and will also briefly discuss these in our presentation. Pharmaceuticals are important to the health of Canadians. For many patients prescription drugs have prevented serious disease, reduced hospital stays, replaced surgical treatment and improved their capacity to function productively in the community. Pharmaceuticals also offer health-care system benefits by reducing other costs such as hospital expenses and disability payments. While prescription drugs offer significant benefits, expenditures on them are also growing faster than any other component of health care. It is realistic to expect that the role of prescription drugs in health care will continue to increase and that as a result government expenditures on them will rise accordingly. As patients become increasingly knowledgeable and politically aware, they will continue to expect and demand access to an expanded range of prescription drugs. CMA believes that any pharmaceutical strategy should be predicated on two pre-eminent principles, which are in keeping with longstanding Canadian values: * All Canadians should have access to safe and effective prescription drugs; and * No Canadian should be deprived of medically necessary drugs because of inability to pay. Whether the CDR serves to further these goals has been a matter of vigorous debate. Federal and provincial representatives have told the House of Commons Committee that the CDR is meeting their needs and has in some cases provided them with a higher-quality review than they could have achieved on their own. On the other hand, patient groups have charged that the CDR is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and a barrier between them and potentially life-saving new therapies. It is possible, if not probable, that reforms to the CDR may never completely eliminate the tension between these two viewpoints. We understand the frustration of patients and their advocates when the CDR recommends against public reimbursement or even more, when the CDR approves a drug but individual provinces refuse to include that drug on their formularies. In both these cases, sustainability of the health care system is an important and valid consideration. It would be unfortunate if our limited health care dollars, which might otherwise have been spent on disease treatment or prevention strategies of proven effectiveness, went instead to funding expensive drugs which ultimately proved no more beneficial to patients than others which cost much less. 2) General principles regarding drug review The process of reviewing drugs for inclusion in public formularies did not begin with the CDR. Before it was created, each federal and provincial formulary conducted its own review. Without the CDR, separate reviews would still be taking place. To dismantle the review process entirely would be unacceptable, both economically and politically. Within the context of an overarching goal to enhance access to medically required pharmaceuticals to the extent that they are needed, the primary purpose of a drug review process should be to help ensure access to prescription drugs for which evidence indicates safety and effectiveness in the treatment, management and prevention of disease, and/or significant benefits in quality of life. To help ensure that it achieves this purpose, we believe the following principles should apply to drug review in Canada: * The review process should be impartial and founded on the best available scientific evidence. * The primary criteria for inclusion in a formulary should be whether the drug improves health outcomes, and offers an improvement over products currently on the market. * The review process should also incorporate evaluation of the drug's cost-effectiveness. * Drugs should be evaluated not in isolation but as an integral part of the health care continuum. The review should consider: * A drug's impact on overall health care utilization. If a drug reduces a patient's hospital stay, helps an otherwise disabled patient return to work, or replaces other costlier or more invasive therapies, this should be considered in evaluating its overall cost-effectiveness. * Alternatives to the drug under review. The review should compare a drug's performance to other drugs in the same class, and to available non-drug therapies. * The review process should be flexible, taking into account the unique needs and therapeutic outcomes of individual patients, and the expertise of physicians in determining which drugs are best for their patients. * The review process should be open and transparent. We support the CDR's intent to publish the rationales for its decisions, including lay-language versions. * CDR findings are a valuable source of information on the safety and effectiveness of the drugs physicians prescribe. As such, they should be communicated to caregivers and patients as part of an ongoing strategy to encourage best practices in prescribing. * Meaningful participation by patients and health professionals should be part of the review process; we note with approval the expansion of the Canadian Expert Drug Advisory Committee to include members of the public. We also suggest that the CDR experiment with open fora and other means of obtaining public input. * A process for appealing the review's decisions should be established. * Ongoing evaluation of the review process should be required. We note that the CDR has already undergone an evaluation, and is planning to implement some of the key recommendations. Impartial evaluations should continue to take place, to assess whether the CDR is having a positive impact on the health of Canadians and of their health care system. 3) The Larger Picture The Common Drug Review does not exist in isolation. As the Coalition for a Canadian Pharmaceutical Strategy - of which CMA is a member - stressed in its 2006 statement, the elements of a comprehensive Canadian pharmaceutical strategy are interdependent and should be developed concurrently to ensure that the strategy is coherent and holistic. The CDR is interlinked with other issues concerning access to health care generally and to prescription drugs more specifically, and we suggest that the Committee also consider the following issues: a) Drugs for Rare Disorders. One controversy surrounding the CDR is that its approval rates are low for drugs for very rare disorders, many of which are first-in-class. One reason may be the cost of these drugs, which is often extremely high. It is also alleged that the Canadian Expert Drug Advisory Committee's (CEDAC) current review standards, which place a high value on large-sample clinical trials, are unable to adequately capture the value of these drugs. It has been recommended that more drugs for rare disorders be approved based on interim targets or surrogate endpoints. The ultimate measure of a drug's effectiveness is its clinical endpoint; this should not be forgotten in any process of drug approval. This issue merits closer consideration, as do all issues related to drugs for rare disorders. CMA recommends that Canada develop a policy on drugs for rare disorders, which: * Encourages their development; * Evaluates their effectiveness; and * Ensures that all patients who might benefit have reasonable access to them. b) Common Formulary. CMA recommends that Canada's governments consider the possibility of establishing a pan-Canadian formulary. Canadian patients need a national standard; 18 different levels of coverage is not acceptable. Should the CDR form the basis of this formulary? That would depend on whether evaluation proves that the CDR is the most effective vehicle. We do believe that cost control, though not the primary function of a pan-Canadian formulary, is a valid system concern. If two drugs in the same class are equally effective, it is reasonable to expect that the less expensive drug should be preferentially covered and/or prescribed. On the other hand, a pan-Canadian formulary should be flexible. It should include a process to allow patients access to off-formulary drugs if in the opinion of the attending physician the recommended product is not the right choice for them. This process should be designed so as to minimize the administrative burden on health professionals. c) Catastrophic Drug Coverage. It is now generally accepted that a pan-Canadian catastrophic drug program is needed. The point of discussion now is what type of program should be put in place. To ensure that Canadians can access the drugs they need, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, CMA recommends that federal, provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with private insurers, assess the drug needs of Canadians, particularly those who are uninsured or under-insured, and agree on an option for providing equitable and comprehensive prescription drug coverage. As a starting point, CMA has recommended that governments give priority to a national pharmacare program to provide necessary drugs for all Canadian children and youth. Conclusion In principle, CMA believes that a process for reviewing prescription drugs for their clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness can contribute to improving the health of Canada's patients and our health care system. The value of the CDR will be determined by how well it performs this function. Canadian Medical Association May 14, 2007
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CMA letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8789
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-06-11
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-06-11
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons concerning the study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). The CMA supports measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups. The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code (attached). While our 1999 brief focuses primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. Recently, the CMA has published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles (attached). It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence. While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs (attached), the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions. Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour. While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues. With regard to Clause 4 that amends the act as follows: 254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations (a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers; (b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and (c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1). CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection. Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and health information privacy. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 9 of Bill-32 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake. For instance, clause 9(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws. Moreover, clause 9(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could be of individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence. One should query whether the Clause 9(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material. CMA would ask whether clause 9(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research. CMA also notes with interest Clause 5, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 5) We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.1 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.2 In our 1999 response to this Committee's issue paper on impaired driving3 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 4 CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%. Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-32, must be accompanied by public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is cause by alcohol or drugs. Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure. Yours sincerely, Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP President Attachments (3) 1 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E. 2 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13 3 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999 4 Mann et al
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Tax Incentives for Better Living - The Canadian Medical Association's 2007 pre-budget consultation brief to the Standing Committee on Finance, August 15th 2007

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8830
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-08-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-08-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
Summary of our seven recommendations Table - the fiscal impact of our seven recommendations A. Addressing the committee's questions on tax policy trade-offs 1 i. Should taxes be broadly based or targeted to a specific group of residents or business sectors? ii. What consideration should be given to the various levels and types of public goods provided by countries? iii. What is the appropriate level of corporate taxes and should they be competitive? iv. What is the appropriate form and level of personal taxes, fees and other charges and should they be competitive? B. Tax incentives supporting an enhanced and sustainable health system 2 I. Tax incentives for community-based health care practices 3 1. Accelerate health information technology investments - GST and tax incentives II. Tax incentives for healthier living 3 2. Introduce a tax on high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods to curb obesity 3. Double the Child Fitness Tax Credit 4. Increase federal Gas Tax Fund transfers for municipal transit to improve air quality III. Tax incentives supporting an efficient health care system 4 5. Bolster Health Human Resources - extend interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents 6. Explore tax policy options for Long Term Care 7. Ensure that all Canadians are protected against catastrophic drug costs Summary 5 Summary of our seven recommendations for the Committee's consideration The Canadian Medical Association has a long-standing history of calling for a better fit for tax policy and health policy. The CMA recognizes that tax policy is important, but is just one type of policy instrument for health and health care. Accordingly we have seven principal recommendations for the Standing Committee on Finance. Recommendation 1 - Accelerate health information technology investments - GST and tax incentives That the federal government provides a one-time only $50,000 tax credit spread out over four years, for community-based health care practices to invest in interoperable electronic medical records (EMR) to allow for accelerated system integration. In addition, that the government provides a rebate for IT to physicians for the GST/HST on costs relating to health care services provided by a medical practitioner and reimbursed by a province or provincial health plan. Recommendation 2 - Introduce a tax on high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods to curb obesity That the government consider the use of taxes on sales of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods as part of an overall strategy of using tax incentives and disincentives to help promote healthy eating in Canada. Moreover, we suggest that a portion of the revenue from this tax should be used to make healthier foods cheaper or more accessible, especially for low-income groups. Obesity costs our economy $9.6 billion per year.i Data collected for the recent Child Health Summit indicate that childhood obesity is a major issue, with 19.3% of Canadian youth aged 10 to 16 considered overweight. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development now ranks Canada 19th out of 20 countries surveyed. Recommendation 3 - Double the Child Fitness Tax Credit The CMA recognizes that a "high-calorie, nutrient-poor food tax" should be part of an integrated strategy to promote healthy lifestyles that would also involve better nutrition as well as physical fitness. Accordingly, we recommend that the federal government should increase the children's fitness tax credit to encourage physical fitness. Similar to Canada's Child Fitness Tax Credit, the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) bill in the U.S. allows for the use of up to $1,000 pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. We recommend that the government double the $500 children's fitness tax credit and include a retail sales tax exemption on tobacco cessation aids.ii Recommendation 4 - Increase federal Gas Tax Fund transfers for municipal transit to improve air quality The CMA suggests that the government immediately accelerate the federal Gas Tax Fund transfers to $2-billion in support of municipal transit infrastructure projects to improve air quality; with consideration of an escalator to close the municipal infrastructure gapiii. These transfers should be integrated into a national transit strategy that considers the heart and lung impacts of motor vehicle pollutioniv. Studies have proven that heart and lung disease among children increases significantly the closer they are to high density traffic. Recommendation 5 - Bolster Health Human Resources - extend the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents Many Canadians might not recognize that high medical student debt load is an important health human resource issue. High debt loads unduly affect both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose and, ultimately, where they decide to practice. Medical student debt limits the accessibility of a medical education and may also affect the diversity of the medical profession. Thus, high medical student debt affects patients' access to quality care. Medical student debt is an area in which the federal government can make a direct difference. Unfortunately, current government policy - namely the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) - is a barrier and not a boost to medical students. Medical students are accumulating unprecedented levels of debt as tuition fees for medical school continue to skyrocket. Consequently, we recommend that the government introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. Recommendation 6 - Explore tax policy options for Long Term Care That the government considers either tax pre-paid or tax-deferred options for funding long-term health care. For example, in the 2007 federal budget, the government announced the introduction of a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)v where parents and guardians can contribute to a lifetime maximum of $200,000, while, similar to the RESP program, there will be a related program of disability grants and bonds, scaled to income. This approach could have more general applicability to long-term care. Recommendation 7 - Ensure that all Canadians are protected against catastrophic drug costs The federal government could consider establishing a catastrophic pharmaceutical program to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug programs as was proposed by the Kirby/Lebreton Report.vi There are currently more than one-half million Canadians without catastrophic drug coverage. A. Addressing the committee's questions on tax policy trade-offs The CMA does not pretend to be an expert on optimal tax policy. However, we have, over the last five years engaged experts that have illuminated the advantages of aligning tax policy with health policyvii. In general, the CMA recognizes that the Canadian economy and its corporate and income tax rates must compete in the global economy, particularly relative to the United States. We also see that the tax system interfaces with health at three levels: health-care financing, health-care inputs and lifestyle choices. A balance must be struck considering all three of these levels of interaction. The following section provides our views on tax-policy trade-offs as they relate to health and the economy. i. Should taxes be broadly-based or targeted to a specific group of residents or business sectors? The CMA recognizes the three main principles of tax policy: equity, efficiency and economic growth. Our most precious resource is our people: Canada's human capital. Therefore, tax policy should be used to maximize the health of our citizens, particularly the health of our children - the labour force of the future. The CMA believes in broadly based tax policy that creates incentives for integrating good nutrition and active lifestyles for all Canadians. ii. What consideration should be given to the various levels and types of public goods provided by countries? The health-care sector currently represents 10% of our economy and is likely to grow. This makes the case for immediately implementing forward-looking tax policy that encourages healthy lifestyles as well as improving system efficiencies so that billions of dollars may be saved in the future. In addition, universal health care coverage facilitates labour mobility as employees are not tied to their employers for medical coverage. This is an advantage for Canadians as well as prospective overseas talent coming to Canada. iii. What is the appropriate level of corporate taxes and should they be competitive? The CMA also believes that corporate tax policy should create incentives for companies to invest in capital, as well as labour, in order to increase productivity. Consumption taxes like the GST should not fall on publicly funded physicians with respect to goods and services required to run their practices because they cannot pass on price increases to their patients. This is inefficient and inequitable. iv. What is the appropriate form and level of personal taxes, fees and other charges and should they be competitive? The CMA believes in a progressive personal income tax system that supports social services while at the same time is not so onerous as to discourage labour in fields that are considered strategic or in short supply. Accordingly, federal personal income tax should be mindful of international personal income tax rates especially for professions (such as physicians) that are currently and will be in short supply in the future. The CMA is concerned about being able to ensure sufficient health human resources for our health-care system in the future. In this regard, income-tax policy could be used to offer an expanded range of incentives for example, to encourage physicians to continue working in Canada or return to Canada from abroad. It is important to consider that over the last ten years; well over 4,800 physicians emigrated from Canada to other countries. B. Tax incentives supporting an enhanced and sustainable health system This pre-budget submission will next set out the CMA's recommended specific tax measures that can enhance both economic and health system performance. We believe that tax policy can create incentives for Canadians to live healthier lives, improve the efficiency of our health-care system, improve community-based health care, and reinforce the value of the publicly-funded system for business. Accordingly our submission outlines three principals of health and tax policy: I. Tax incentives for community-based health-care practices II. Tax incentives for healthier living III. Tax incentives to support an efficient health-care system I. Tax incentives for community based health care practices 1. Accelerate health information technology investments - GST and tax incentives A Booz, Allen, Hamilton studyviii on the Canadian health care system estimates that the benefits of an electronic medical record (EMR) could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion, due to a reduction in duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reduction in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal government make a connected health-care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi-stakeholder process encompassing the entire health-care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and Canada Health Infoway. Recommendation: That the federal government provide a $50,000 tax credit, spread-out over four years, for community-based health care practices to invest in interoperable EMRs to allow for system integration. In addition, the CMA recommends that the government provide a rebate for IT to physicians for the GST/HST on costs relating to health-care services provided by a medical practitioner and reimbursed by a province or provincial health plan. II. Why tax incentives for healthier living? Healthier individuals positively affect the economy in four ways.ix 1. They are more productive at work and so earn higher incomes. 2. They spend more time in the labour force, as less healthy people take sickness absence or retire early. 3. They invest more in their own education, which will increase their productivity. 4. They save more in expectation of a longer life (for example, for retirement) increasing the funds available for investment in the economy. 2. Obesity and absenteeism affect the bottom line today and tomorrow Almost 60% of all Canadian adults and 26% of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese.x Obesity costs Canada $9.6 billion per year.xi The programs and incentives in place now are clearly not working as the incidence of obesity continues to grow. The experts agree: "The economic drive toward eating more and exercising less represents a failure of the free market that governments must act to reverse."xii That is why the CMA is calling for a tax on high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. We are not alone in calling for this tax; the World Health Organization anti-obesity strategy includes a call for "fat taxes"xiii. In addition there is support among voters for such a tax, as a recent consumer surveyxiv revealed that 75% of participants would support a tax designed to discourage consumers from purchasing high-fat, low-nutrition foods. Recommendation: That the government considers the use of taxes on sales of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods as part of a strategy of using tax incentives to promote healthy eating in Canada. Moreover, a portion of the revenue from this tax should be applied to make healthier foods cheaper and more accessible, especially for low income groups. 3. Double the Child Fitness Tax Credit The CMA recognizes that a "high-calorie, nutrient-poor food tax" should be part of an integrated strategy to promote healthy lifestyles that would involve better nutrition as well as physical fitness. Accordingly, we recommend that the federal government increase the children's fitness tax credit to encourage physical fitness. Similar to Canada's Child Fitness Tax Credit, the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) bill in the U.S. allows for the use of up to $1,000 pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. In addition, we urge the federal government to introduce a Retail Sales Tax (RST) exemption on tobacco cessation aids, similar to the recent initiative in Ontarioxv. Recommendation: That the government doubles the $500 Children's Fitness Tax Credit and include a retail sales tax exemption on tobacco cessation aids.xvi 4. Increase federal Gas Tax Fund transfers for municipal transit to improve air quality Studies have proven that heart and lung disease among children increases significantly the closer they are to high-density traffic. The CMA suggests that the government immediately accelerate the federal Gas Tax Fund transfers to $2 billion in support of municipal transit infrastructure projects to improve air quality; with consideration of an escalator to close the municipal infrastructure gap.xvii These transfers should be integrated into a national transit strategy that considers the heart and lung impacts of motor vehicle pollution.xviii Recommendation: That the government increases the federal Gas Tax Fund tax transfers for municipal transit. III. Tax incentives supporting an efficient quality health care system 5. Bolster Health Human Resources - extend the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents Many Canadians might not recognize that high medical student debt load is an important health human resource issue. High debt loads unduly affect both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose and, ultimately, where they decide to practice. Medical student debt limits the accessibility of a medical education and may also affect the diversity of the medical profession. Thus, high medical student debt affects patients' access to quality care. Medical student debt is an area in which the federal government can make a direct difference. Unfortunately, current government policy - namely the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) - is a barrier and not a boost to medical students. Medical students are accumulating unprecedented levels of debt as tuition fees for medical school continue to skyrocket. Recommendation: That the government introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest-free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. 6. Explore tax policy options for Long Term Care Canada is in a period of accelerated population aging that will increase the proportion of seniors aged 65-plus substantially over the next 25 years. These people will need long-term care. Recommendation: That the government considers either tax pre-paid or tax-deferred options for funding long-term health care. For example, in the 2007 federal budget, the government announced the introduction of a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). Parents and guardians will be able to contribute to a lifetime maximum of $200,000, and similar to the RESP program, there will be a related program of disability grants and bonds, scaled to income. This approach could have more general applicability to long-term care. 7. Ensure that all Canadians are protected against catastrophic drug costs This is not a tax policy proposal but it is desperately needed. There are currently over one-half-million Canadians without catastrophic drug coverage. Catastrophic Drug Coverage (CDC) aims to address the issue of undue financial hardship faced by Canadians in gaining access to required drug therapies, regardless of where they live and work. In the case of truly catastrophic health needs, these Canadians would probably face the loss of their homes and be destitute, according to the Fraser Groupxix. The founders of Medicare a half-century ago established the principle of equity of access to hospitals and doctors' services for all Canadians. First Ministers agree that no Canadian should suffer undue financial hardship in accessing needed drug therapies. Affordable access to drugs is fundamental to equitable health outcomes for all our citizens. Recommendation: That the federal government could consider establishing a catastrophic pharmaceutical program to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug programs as was proposed by the Kirby/Lebreton Reportxx. Summary The CMA recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. We believe that tax policy can create incentives for Canadians to live healthier lives, improve the efficiency of our health care system, improve community based health care, and reinforce the value of the publicly funded system for business. On behalf of the members of the Canadian Medical Association, I wish you all the best in your deliberations. References i P.Katzmarzyk, I. Janssen "The Economic costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity in Canada: An Update" Can J Applied Physiology 2004 Apr; 29(2):90-115. www.phe.queensu.ca/epi/ABSTRACTS/abst81.htm Accessed August 14, 2006. ii Children's Fitness Tax Credit see:www.cra-arc.gc.ca/fitness/ iii The Conference Board argues that Canadian cities are incapable of addressing the infrastructure gap on their own. The report, Canada's Cities: In Need of a New Fiscal Framework, proposes a financing model that involves all three levels of government on the grounds that infrastructure is a national issue and a national priority. See: www.infrastructure.gc.ca/research-recherche/result/precis/rp08_e.shtml iv Gauderman WJ, Vora H, McConnell R, et al. Effects of exposure to traffic on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age: a cohort study. Lancet 2007; 369: 571-577. v Federal Budget 2007. see page 83. Budget 2007 acts on the recommendations of the Panel by announcing the introduction of a new registered disability savings plan (RDSP). The plan will be available commencing in 2008 and will be based generally on the existing registered education savings plan (RESP) design. vi Standing Senate Committee on Science, Technology and Social Affairs' study, The Health of Canadians - The Federal Role (Kirby/Lebreton Report). See Chapter 7 -Expanding coverage to include protection against catastrophic drug costs. Section 7.5.1 How the plan would work on page 138. vii On April 4, 2002, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) presented its interim report to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow Commission). In this submission, the CMA outlined what Mr. Romanow called "bold and intriguing" changes to reaffirm and realign our health system. Specifically, the CMA report laid out an approach for the renewal of Canada's health care system comprised of three components: a health charter; a health council; and supporting legislative initiatives, including tax system reform. See: Tax and Health - Taking Another Look, May 2002, the CMA. viii Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada's Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, Booz, Allan, Hamilton, March 2005-09-06. see: www.infoway-inforoute.ca/en/ResourceCenter/ResourceCenter.aspx (accessed August 14, 2007) ix Investment in health could be good for Europe's economies, Suhrcke, McKee, Arce, Tsolova, Mortensen, BMJ 2006;333:1017-1019 (11 November), doi:10.1136/bmj.38951.614144.68 x Source: ww2.heartandstroke.ca/Page.asp?PageID=1366&ArticleID=4321&Src=blank&From=SubCategory accessed 08/06. xi Apr; 29(2):90-115. www.phe.queensu.ca/epi/ABSTRACTS/abst81.htm Accessed August 14, 2006. xii Swinburn, et al. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity (vol 1, p 133) (accessed Sept. 19, 2006) xiii In December, 2003, The World Health Organization proposed that nations consider taxing junk foods to encourage people to make healthier food choices. According to the WHO report, "Several countries use fiscal measures to promote availability of and access to certain foods; others use taxes to increase or decrease consumption of food; and some use public funds and subsidies to promote access among poor communities to recreational and sporting facilities." See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_tax xiv A recent consumer survey by conducted by eDiets.com reveals strong support for a 'fat tax' see: www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?n=66981-fat-tax-junk-food-obesity xv McGuinty Government Introduces Tax Break On Smoking Cessation see www.mhp.gov.on.ca/english/news/2007/073007.asp The national cost of the RST exemption would be about $12 million. xvi See endnote ii. xvii See endnote iii. xviii See endnote iv. xix Fraser Group's business is research, analysis and marketing information for financial service organizations. Our area of greatest expertise is the employee benefits sector including the group life and health and the group pension and retirement markets. Our clients include insurance companies, mutual fund companies, suppliers to the employee benefits sector and, pharmaceutical firms as well as government (estimates for the Kirby/Lebreton report on pharmaceutical strategy in 2002) and non-profit entities with a need to understand this sector. See www.frasergroup.com/aboutus.htm in addition xx See endnote v. CMA pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Autumn 2007
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Letter - CMA’s 2006 Pre-Budget Submission to the Minister of Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2031
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I am pleased to present you with our pre-budget submission for your government's consideration. The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into this government's first budget and to identify strategic investment opportunities for the long term health of Canadians. While Canada's health system faces many challenges, we believe that immediate action by the federal government in four key areas will offer both short term and long term benefits. They are: (1) the establishment of a Canada Health Access Strategy to support a patient wait-times guarantee; (2) a proposed Visa position buyback program and a repatriation program to immediately address shortfalls in health human resources; (3) a strengthening of Canada's public health infrastructure; and (4) a remedy for GST-induced distortions in the health care system.We believe these proposals fit well with the government's stated priorities. While information on each of these recommendations is attached for your information and consideration, I would like to provide you with an overview of each. 1. CANADA HEALTH ACCESS STRATEGY The CMA has been advocating for the implementation of maximum wait time thresholds or care guarantees for a number of years and is pleased that the government has included this as one of its top five priorities. As a first step, the CMA worked with six other specialty societies as part of the Wait Times Alliance (WTA) to develop a set of pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks or performance goals released last August. We believe this work served as a catalyst for the provincial and territorial governments to move some way toward meeting their commitment in announcing pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks last December. We must continue to work with governments and the academic community to improve access to medical care beyond the five priority health issues identified in the First Ministers' 2004 10-year health care plan. The second step in implementing patient wait-time guarantees is the issue of honouring the commitment and providing for patient recourse. As a member of the WTA, the CMA strongly supports accelerating the timetable to reduce wait times nationwide. However, the federal government needs to do its part to assist provinces in advancing the timetable by stepping up the flow of funds earmarked for the last four years of the accord. Our proposed Canada Health Access Strategy is comprised of three components directed at making this happen: supporting provinces to expand capacity and to handle surges in demand; supporting the creation of regional and/or national referral networks; and establishing a Canada Health Access Fund for a "safety valve" to help Canadians access care elsewhere when necessary. Details on how this Strategy would work are attached. The point is that this Strategy is necessary to assure Canadians that they get the care they need when they need it. Recommendation 1. The federal government advance the remaining $1 billion from the 2004 First Ministers Accord that was originally intended to augment the Wait Times Reduction Fund (2010-2014) to support a Canada Health Access Strategy by: (a) expanding provincial surge capacity : $500 million to be flowed immediately to provinces on a per capita basis in return for agreement to accelerate the timetable for bringing down wait times, as was promised in the recent federal election campaign; (b) improving national coordination of wait time management: $250 million to support creation of regional and/or national referral networks, a more coordinated approach to health human resource planning, expansion of information technology solutions to wait time management and facilitation of out-of-country referrals; and (c) establishing a Canada Health Access Fund: $250 million initial investment in an alternative patient recourse system or "safety valve" when and if clinically-indicated maximum wait time benchmarks as agreed to by provinces/territories last December are exceeded. Addressing Shortfalls in Health Human Resources As identified by Minister Clement in a recent speech at the "Taming of the Queue III" wait-time conference, addressing shortages in health human resources is a key element of any strategy for reducing lengthy wait-times. Unfortunately, we face serious physician shortages, starting with family physicians. The bad news is that it can take several years to educate and train the necessary professionals. The good news is that there are some strategies that can be undertaken to address the situation in the short term. 2. VISA POSITION BUYBACK FUND One such strategy is our Visa Position Buyback proposal that would eliminate the backlog of 1,200 qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) over the next five to seven years. Currently, these qualified IMGs, who are either Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, are unable to access the necessary residency training. One existing source for training capacity exists with the positions purchased by foreign governments for visa trainees. We estimate that there are over 900 current visa trainees at all rank levels. By implementing the Visa Position Buyback program, the government is able to take an immediate step that will produce tangible results as soon as a two to four years from now. This initiative would be part of a longer term plan to fully address the shortages in health human resources and help the government meet its commitment to implement a properly functioning patient wait-time guarantee. Recommendation 2a. The federal government allocate $381.6 million toward the training of up to 1,200 IMGs through to practice over the 2007/08 to 2015/16 period. Funding would be made available in two installments: an immediate investment of $240 million and the remaining $140 million subject to a satisfactory progress report at the end of five years. Repatriate Health Professionals Working in the United States Fortunately, another short-term source of health professionals exists that Canada should pursue. Thousands of health care professionals are currently working in the United States including approximately 9,000 Canadian trained physicians. We know that many of the physicians who do come back to Canada are of relatively young age meaning that they have significant practice life left. While a minority of these physicians do come back on their own, many more can be repatriated in the short-term through a relatively small but focussed effort by the federal government led by a secretariat within Health Canada. Recommendation 2b. The federal government should establish a secretariat within Health Canada that would provide funding to national professional associations to conduct targeted campaigns to encourage the repatriation of Canadian health professionals working in the United States, and act as a clearinghouse on issues associated with returning to Canada (e.g., citizenship, taxation, etc.). 3. PUBLIC HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE RENEWAL The CMA remains concerned about the state of Canada's public health system. Public health, including the professionals providing public health services, constitutes our front line against a wide range of threats to the health of Canadians. While there is much talk about the arrival of possible pandemics, Canada's public health system must be ready to take on a broad range of public health issues. The CMA has been supportive of the Naylor report which provides a blue print for action and reinvestment in the public health system for the 21st century. While this will take several years to achieve, there are some immediate steps that can be taken which will lessen the burden of disease on Canadians and our health care system. These steps include establishing a Public Health Partnership Program with provincial and territorial governments to build capacity at the local level and to advance pandemic planning. In addition, we call on the government to continue its funding of immunization programs under its National Immunization Strategy. Recommendation 3a. The federal government should establish a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund in the amount of $350 million annually to establish a Public Health Partnership Program with the provincial/territorial governments for the purposes of building capacity at the local level and advancing pandemic planning. In addition, the $100 million per year for immunization programs under the National Immunization Strategy should be continued. 4. A REMEDY FOR GST-RELATED DISTORTIONS IN THE HEALTH SYSTEM The CMA and many other national health organizations are concerned about the increasing, unintended and negative consequences the GST is having on health care. For example, the 83% rebate originally provided for under the so-called "MUSH" formula is no longer tax neutral and is acting as a deterrent in some cases toward increased use of ambulatory care services such as day surgeries. Over the past 15 years the physicians of Canada have faced a large and growing unfair tax burden due to the GST. Since physicians' services are tax exempt under the law, physicians are unable to either claim input tax credits or pass on the tax because of the prohibition under the Canada Health Act of billing patients directly. This puts physicians in a unique and patently unfair catch 22 that now amounts to over $65 million per year, which further acts as a deterrent to repatriating or retaining Canadian physicians. Recommendation: 4a. That the federal government, in the course of reducing the GST from 7% to 5% further to its campaign commitments, remove the large and growing deterrent effects of the GST on the efficient and effective delivery of health care in Canada. In summary, the CMA is providing you with recommendations on strategic investments to help your government honour its commitment to timely access to care and to improve the health of Canadians. Our recommendations are financially reasonable, making good use of Canadians' tax dollars. We look forward to meeting with you on April 19 to discuss our proposals with you. Sincerely, Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MBA, FRCPC, MACC President c.c. The Honourable Tony Clement, Health Minister
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Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2044
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-06-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-06-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
My name is Dr. Isra Levy, and as a public health physician and the Chief Medical Officer and Director in the Canadian Medical Association's Office for Public Health, I am pleased to be participating in your roundtable today. With me is Mr. John Wellner, Director, Health Policy at our sister organization the Ontario Medical Association. CEPA is, of course, a key piece of Environmental Legislation, but we at the CMA see it to be primarily about health. Similarly, Canada's doctors see the topic of today's hearings, "Measuring CEPA's Success" in terms of the impacts on our medical practices and, more particularly, on our patients. To us the measurement of success that matters is good health in our patients. And unfortunately I must tell you that we still see the negative impacts of environmental degradation on our vulnerable patients every day. We are pleased to participate in this review of CEPA, because for us, the measure of health benefits and health outcomes, over the short or long-term that stem from reduced exposure to environmental contaminants is an important measure of our health as a nation. The Canadian Medical Association, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 63,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy. The environment, as a determinant of health, is a major concern for the general public as well as health care providers. And health outcomes are directly linked to the physical environment in many, many ways. We know from the crises in Walkerton, Collingwood, North Battleford and many First Nations communities, the devastating effects that contaminated water can have on individuals and families. We know from the smog health studies undertaken by the OMA, Health Canada and others, about the public health crisis of polluted air in many parts of Canada. And it is a crisis. We are now in a position where science allows us to more clearly show the long-term, lifetime burden of morbidity caused by some of these pollutants; we now know that there are thousands more premature deaths caused by air pollution in Canada than has previously been appreciated. We are learning that central Canada is not the only place that has a smog problem. The OMA has shown, through its Illness Costs of Air Pollution model, that it is plausible to think in terms of substantial costs to the health and pocketbooks of Canadians because of environmental risks across the country. The CMA has developed many environmental policies that are pertinent to our CEPA discussion today. * Prior to Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the CMA urged the Prime Minister to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada's international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. We realize that pollution prevention initiatives can have many health benefits and that pollution sources seldom emit contaminants in isolation. The smoke that you see, and often emissions that you can't see, represent a cocktail of potentially harmful substances. * The CMA has committed to working with the federal Ministers of health and the Environment to develop national strategies to reduce the unacceptably high levels of persistent organic pollutants amongst the peoples of the Arctic coast. * We have asked Environment Canada and Health Canada to initiate a review of the current Canadian one hour guideline for maximal exposure level to both indoor and outdoor NO2 and recommend that the federal Environment and Health Ministers commit their departments to improved health-based reporting by regularly updating the health effects information for pollutants of concern. Let me return to the issue of measuring success though - Doctors understand the concept that success from an intervention can be nuanced. In the case of disease, physicians know and accept that the benefit of treatment is not always cure of a patient. Sometimes we just reduce their symptoms, or slow their rate of decline. But when treating the natural environment, so critical to human health, we suggest that you cannot accept a palliative solution. We must aim for cure. We urge you to commit to measures of success in terms of real improvement, rather than merely accepting slight curtailments in the "inevitable increase" of environmental contamination. The issue of greenhouse gas reduction is one that illustrates this point. Just as slowing the progression of a disease can never be considered a cure, referring to an "inevitable increase" in emissions and attempting only to limit the growth of those emissions, cannot result in true success by any measure. We have seen 'good news' press releases on environmental initiatives from various federal and provincial governments, but the news isn't always worthy of praise. Although there have been some great environmental successes that Canadians should be proud of, the measure of overall success - on all contaminants of concern - has only been incremental at best. For example, when policy makers speak about industrial emission reductions of any kind, they often refer to "emissions intensity" - the emissions per unit of production, rather than total, overall emissions. To be health-relevant, the only meaningful way to report emissions reductions is to present them as "net" values, rather than the all-to-common "gross" valuation. An emission reduction from a particular source is only health-relevant if we can guarantee that there is not a corresponding emissions increase at another source nearby, because it is the absolute exposure that an individual experiences that affects the risk of an adverse health effect. This issue becomes especially tricky with regional pollutants like smog precursors, because you may have to take the whole air shed into account. For this reason, cross- jurisdictional pollution control initiatives are very important in Canada - and that means federal oversight. In fact, to our understanding, that is what CEPA does, it gives the federal government jurisdictional authority, and, dare I say, obligation to act to protect the health of Canadians. To the CMA, and we believe to most Canadians, the real measure of success is a reduction in the illnesses associated with pollution. It is not just important how we measure this ultimate success, but how we measure our progress towards it. Environmentally related illness is essentially the combined result of exposure and vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are human beings; each human being has different physical strengths and weaknesses. Some vulnerabilities to environmental influences are genetic, and some the results of pre-existing disease. There is not much that government can do about this part of the equation. Our exposure, on the other hand is related to the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. This is where CEPA comes in. This is where your role is critical, and where the measures of success will be the most important. Proxy measures for the health outcomes that matter must be relevant from a health perspective. Health-based success can only be measured by quantifiable reductions in the exposure levels of contaminants in our air, water and foods. Canada has historically relied only on guidelines for contaminants of concern, memoranda of understanding with polluters and voluntary goals and targets. Our American neighbours prefer legally binding standards, strict emission monitoring, and pollution attainment designations. While there may be some benefit to the Canadian approach, we are clearly behind in this area. In many parts of the U.S., counties try desperately to avoid "non-attainment" designations based on the ambient air pollution target levels. If they are designated to be a non-attainment zone they risk loss of federal infrastructure transfer payments. In Canada, we have Canada-Wide smog Standards for 2010 - but of course these are non-binding, have no penalties for non-attainment, provide loopholes for any jurisdictions claiming cross-border pollution influences and allow provinces to opt-out with a mere three months notice. We must be more forceful. Indeed sufficient evidence exists on the health effects of a wide-range of CEPA-Toxic substances (smog precursors, for example) to justify more forceful action to reduce exposures. And there are many more chemicals of concern, for which all the evidence may perhaps not yet be in, but which require a precautionary approach in order to prevent potential human harm. So, although the presentation of environmental information (e.g., ambient pollution levels in a State of the Environment report, or a health-based Air Quality Index) is beneficial and may provide information that enables Canadians to reduce their exposures, ultimately this is not enough. The CMA believes that although enhanced environmental monitoring or pollutant exposure studies are important to our understanding of some contaminants, such studies in and of themselves will not improve the health of our patients. The true measure of success would go beyond reporting the danger, to actually reducing the danger. The CMA believes that is the purpose of CEPA. We look forward to working with you to improve CEPA and ensure that the measures of CEPA's success will benefit the health of our patients across Canada. Canadian Medical Association Ottawa, June 12, 2006
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