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Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance 1995 Pre-Budget Consultation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1994
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1994-11-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1994-11-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
I. PURPOSE While Canada is undergoing significant social, political and economic change, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) remains committed to the delivery of high quality health care and to safeguarding the national integrity of the health system. However, given the need for the federal government to gain control over our deficit and national debt, it seems clear that putting Canada's fiscal house in order remains a high priority. In this regard, CMA appreciates the invitation to submit its views on the 1995 pre-budget consultations that are underway. One overriding objective of the brief is to provide the Committee with a better understanding of the current pressures on physicians across Canada that have arisen as a direct result of past government decisions in this area. It is our firmly-held position that the health care system in general, and the medical profession in particular, have paid more than their fair share in terms of contributing to debt management. This brief focusses on five somewhat distinct areas of concern to Canadian physicians: (1) federal health transfers to the provinces; (2) taxable health benefits; (3) the goods and services tax (GST); (4) Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions, and (5) the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) for Small Businesses. In each case, the brief contains specific recommendations as to what the government should do, and more importantly what the government should not do, to balance its short-term deficit reduction targets against longer-term Canadian values. To summarize, good health policy and prudent economic policy go hand-in-hand provided the principles of fairness and good management practices are observed. If change is to come within an overall policy framework that is strategic, coordinated and fair and which preserves (or augments) the integrity of Canada's health care system, it behooves us to avoid short-term, stop-gap initiatives. As the government's 1994 Throne Speech put it "...the agenda of the government is based on an integrated approach to economic, social, environmental and foreign policy". Accordingly, in establishing an appropriate fiscal framework for health, change must take place within the context of a longer-term integrated view. II. BACKGROUND...."Medicare Is A Shared Value" Canada's system of universal health insurance is still one of the best in the world. Experts from around the world travel many thousands of miles to study and, in some cases, emulate our system. For most Canadians, medicare is a highly cherished, integral component of our social fabric. While Medicare's popularity has not diminished over the past 30 years, it is sometimes taken for granted in these difficult economic times. Recent public opinion surveys indicate that 84% of Canadians (with the highest response in Quebec) see medicare as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Furthermore, 84% of Canadians are of the opinion that the system provides high quality care. 1 At the same time, however, 65% of Canadians are concerned about continued accessibility to a full range of publicly-financed benefits. According to the same poll, 83% of Canadians see current financing of the system as being "unsustainable" over the longer-term 2 and they are right. As much loved as the Canadian medicare system is, there is a large and growing consensus that we need to make changes. This brief is not about maintaining the status quo. Rather, it is about managing the changes required in the long-term best interests of all Canadians and of the physicians who are ultimately responsible for serving those interests, subject to the fiscal realities confronting government. III. CONSIDERATIONS CMA acknowledges that there is a pressing need, now more than ever, for the federal government to balance a number of competing social and economic policy challenges. In a time when deficit reduction measures are required, all segments of society are being asked to do more with the same or less. Health care is no exception, having done so for quite some time. At the same time, we must re-evaluate the variety of services provided or paid for by government. Deficit Management, but at what Costs? As of 1993/94, Canada's net public debt stood at $508.2 billion, or $17,484 for every Canadian. Combined with the debts of the provinces and territories, our national debt is in excess of $700 billion. Not to understate the case, currently one-third of each revenue dollar the government collects is allocated to debt service payments on the federal debt. 3 CMA believes enough is enough: we must not pass this burden on to future generations of Canadians. The federal government has managed to run operating surpluses for five of the past seven years. 4 While this is necessary it is no longer sufficient to meet our fiscal challenges. Maintaining the status quo would mean that debt service payments would further crowd out government expenditures at an accelerated rate. While the government's first priority should be to get us "out of hock", there is an equally- compelling need to respect the longstanding and fundamental principle of fairness/equity that help define Canadian society. One step toward meeting these twin objectives is to consider all possible methods of repatriating that portion of the national debt held by the international lending community. Some experts have argued that Canada, as a country, can no longer afford to have "massive leakages" in interest payments to individuals/countries abroad. 5 In so doing, we would also repatriate our ability as a sovereign nation to set and maintain social policy objectives. This involves guarding against the persistent "tyranny of the deficit" and the influence that international bond rating agencies can exert on the economy. Facts and Fallacies about Health Spending In reviewing expenditures in the public sector, some would suggest that health and health care spending are "out of control". This is a myth. While it is true that Canada spends 10.0% (1993) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care (second highest among OECD countries), the reality is that the public sector share of total health care expenditures has fallen from 76.4% in 1975 to approximately 71.9% in 1993 6 (falling to the lowest third of OECD countries). This process of reducing real public sector expenditures, in the absence of a well-coordinated and planned framework, has not always been in the best interests of health and health care. Specifically, federal offloading in terms of unilateral reductions in health cash transfers to the provinces have been followed by: * the elimination of entire programs, such as dental insurance programs for children and universal drug insurance programs; * hospital closures (e.g., 52 hospitals in Saskatchewan); * massive regionalization of health programs and the attendant disempowerment of community hospital boards; * the reduction of total bed capacity by as much as 20% in some provinces; * the reduction in medical school enrolment by 10% and a planned 10% reduction in post-MD residency slots; * global medical care expenditure caps in virtually every province in Canada; * individual physician income thresholds in at least five provinces; * a moratorium on interprovincial mobility of physicians; * legislative overrides of duly-negotiated contracts for health care providers; * widespread restrictions on the operation of high technology equipment; and * the de facto "expropriation" of physician business practices without compensation (e.g., Saskatchewan pathologists). These repercussions also serve to underline the fact that change is the only constant in the health care system. Many physicians across the country have expressed concerns that such changes or "threats" to our health care system are already beginning to have serious consequences for individual patients in terms of access to needed medical facilities. If the national integrity of medicare is to survive, federal fiscal policy changes must be assessed within a larger and longer-term framework; one that respects the need for innovation and professionalism in the health care system. Physicians as Responsible Professionals Some mistakenly argue that physician expenditures are responsible for the increasing costs to the health care system. The reality is that physician expenditures as a proportion of total health care expenditures in Canada have declined from 15.7% in 1975 to 15.1 in 1991. 7 Furthermore, physician expenditures constitute a declining share of GDP. Given the recent round of unilateral reductions in medical care spending in many jurisdictions, this percentage share will continue to drop significantly as more recent data become available. As health care resources have become increasingly constrained, physicians have taken on added responsibilities at the macro, meso and micro levels to better manage our health resources. * At the "macro" level, within the provinces and territories, the medical profession has been engaged in formalized consultation structures known as "Joint Management Committees" or "Administrative Councils" with government and other stakeholders to ensure value for money within a diminishing "real" globe of publicly-available resources for health care. * At the "meso" or institutional level, physicians are working hand-in-hand with health care administrators and other community stakeholders to "rationalize" services so as to provide the best value for money in all areas. In addition, to give a greater voice for choice and improve overall accountabilities in the system, physicians are providing formal input to governments that are looking to regionalize health system operations. * At the "micro" or clinical level, physicians have been taking the lead in developing and disseminating clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) to ensure that the care provided is both appropriate and cost-effective. More can and is being done, in collaboration with government, to ensure responsible use of the taxpayer's dollar while meeting the needs of individual patients. At all levels, physicians will continue to involve themselves as capable and responsible professionals. As the health policy agenda continues its rapid pace, physicians and the organizations that represent them should be viewed as "agents" for, rather than "objects" of, change. Good Health Policy Means Good Economic Policy Agencies such as the World Economic Forum, 8 tell us that our system of financing health care is one of Canada's greatest assets in competing in the new world economic order. We should heed this advice, as the Prime Minister recently observed. Compared to the United States, this economic advantage takes the form of 30 percent lower health spending (measured as a percent of GDP or in per capita expenditures) while providing for universal medical benefits and high quality care. In terms of our European trading partners, the fact that health insurance programs are financed primarily through consolidated revenues (rather than employment-based taxes), also confers a unit cost advantage to Canadian exporters. In this sense, good health policy and good economic policy should be mutually reinforcing. Aside from the complementary nature of the relationship between health and the economy, this fundamental concept also suggests that we need to take a longer-term, more integrated and more strategic approach to managing our collective debt and debt-servicing challenges. The federal government can no longer simply shift its financial obligations onto the backs of lower levels of government or individual Canadians without consultation or advance notice. We need to re-evaluate the full range of government- provided or -funded services. Again, however, if federal fiscal reductions are to take place, the principles of fairness and equity must begin to guide the development of sustainable economic and health policies. While there are no doubt trade-offs that can and must be made, if the price of getting our fiscal house in order is losing a national treasure - i.e., our health care system, it is a price too high to be paid. To summarize, we have set out a series of principles that should serve to guide the Committee in its decision-making, they are: * take the longer-term view; * adopt a system-wide, integrated approach for fiscal management; * strive for a strategic approach that mutually reinforces health and economic policies; and * strengthen the fundamental foundation of fairness and equity. These four principles form the building blocks of the remainder of CMA's submission. IV. ISSUES Canada is at a social, political and economic crossroad. The challenge to this Committee and to this Government is to balance short-term fiscal pressures against the longer-term need to re-position Canada to take advantage of economic opportunity while preserving that which is of fundamental importance to Canadian society as a whole. As the Committee looks to striking the right balance, there are five specific areas of concern that the CMA wishes to bring to your attention on behalf of the Canadian medical profession. The Temptation to Reduce Federal Health Transfers CMA commends this Government for exempting EPF health transfers from the extended freeze that was applied to other provincial transfer programs in its spring 1994 budget. We would have been surprised had this Government done anything else, given that medicare is the "Liberal legacy" of the 1960s and given the Liberal Party's consistent opposition to the previous government's "policy by stealth" (i.e., Bill C-69; Bill C-96). The fact is that medicare's contribution to getting our "fiscal house in order" is already large and continues to grow. In specific terms, the Committee will know that over the 1986/87 to 1995/96 fiscal period, it is estimated that $42.108 billion will have been removed via reductions in Established Program Financing for health and post-secondary education. For health alone, over $30 billion will have been removed from the system by fiscal year 1995/96. 9 Even with a resumption of GNP minus three percent growth formula in per capita EPF entitlements for health, beginning next spring, reduced cash contributions to medicare programs will continue to contribute to the attainment of the government's fiscal targets. Given the unprecedented health reforms taking place across the country, Canadians and the health care system can ill afford another federal fiscal shock. The system is already balkanizing, with poorer regions not being able to fiscally sustain some basic health care benefits. Any further acceleration in the rate of reduction in federal cash transfers will all but assure the demise of the national integrity of medicare programs. Moreover, any further reductions in federal health-related cash transfers will: (1) significantly hamper or stall the work of the newly-created National Health Forum; (2) further reduce the capacity for enforcement of national health principles under federal law; (3) exacerbate health-related problems of dealing with child poverty and problems of reducing health inequalities by socio-economic class; and (4) increase other areas of federal direct program expenditures in the context of renewed efforts to provincial program "uploading" (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Program). A propos of health and economy going hand-in hand, it is useful to remind ourselves of the importance of maintaining the comparability of health benefits across Canada in terms of promoting regional development, shared opportunity and efficient resource allocation. Poor regions of this country are already finding it difficult to compete for scarce new business investment capital. The implications of competing from a more uneven playing field in terms of being able to offer only "bare bones" publicly-financed health benefits will further widen the gap between the "have" and "have not" provinces. It is for these reasons that the CMA joins with other national health organizations 10 in recommending the following: 1. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AVOID FURTHER CUTS TO THE EPF HEALTH TRANSFER AND LOCK IN THE CASH PORTION; 2. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATE A STABLE FIVE-YEAR FUNDING ARRANGEMENT WITH THE PROVINCES/TERRITORIES; 3. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST ENSURE THAT ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE HEALTH TRANSFER BE SEPARATE AND EXPLICIT. Taxable Health Benefits Canadians have already been dealt one blow with the increasing de-insurance of health care services (e.g., reduction of out-of-country benefits to an unfair and dangerous level, elimination or reduction in drug benefit programs). In the context of funding those services that remain public benefits, only the cruellest government would strike yet another blow to individual Canadians and to Canadian business by taxing the very benefits that taxes were raised to pay. If implemented, this proposal would be tantamount to nothing less than double taxation. Fairness and equity would suggest that the government should be doing more, not less at the legislative and regulatory levels to promote the availability of private health insurance benefits in areas increasingly vacated by government cutbacks. This is why CMA makes the following recommendation: 4. THAT THE CURRENT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY WITH RESPECT TO NON-TAXABLE HEALTH BENEFITS BE MAINTAINED; Goods and Services Tax (GST) When the GST was introduced in 1991, preoccupation with implementation issues resulted in a number of fundamental injustices at the micro level. One such injustice was dealt to the medical profession. Physicians, like other Canadians, expect to pay their fair share of taxes. We do not however, accept what essentially amounts to double taxation. Physicians in practice in Canada are in the unique, unenviable and unfair position of being forced to absorb all the GST on business inputs. Unlike all other professions, physicians are precluded from being able to pass on the tax to consumers (with provincial health insurance plans as payment in full) or from claiming input tax credits (ITCs) since insured medical services are deemed to be "tax exempt". Unlike other professions, physicians cannot claim input credits for the imputed taxes associated with providing needed medical care. In fact, all of the following health professionals are capable of recouping from patients the GST paid on inputs because their revenues are not restricted by government: dentists; optometrists; chiropractors; physiotherapists; chiropodists; osteopaths; audiologists; speech therapists; occupational therapists and psychologists. Physicians are still angrily awaiting remedial steps to correct this injustice. To be clear, CMA is not asking for preferential treatment for Canadian physicians. What we want is the same fair and equitable treatment from the federal government accorded to other self-employed professional groups. Like physicians, other professions are purchasing inputs and paying GST; but unlike physicians, they are able to recoup the GST. Given this oversight in the legislation and regulations, physicians have already been asked to pay (over and above the GST paid by other professional groups) a cumulative total of $250 million since its introduction of the tax in 1991. The magnitude of this tax paid is not in dispute (as a result of a study prepared by KPMG). While the direct effects of the GST are significant and measurable, the indirect effects are even more significant though less measurable. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians in Canada employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Given the disproportionate effects of the GST on the medical profession as employers, the employment dampening could be at least as high as 1,000 full-time jobs lost. In addition, the tax-induced distorting effects in terms of efficient resource allocation in the health care system cannot be measured, but are thought to be significant. A goal of health reform in many parts of the country is to move care services out of institutions and into the community. Current federal GST policy, by taxing supplies in a clinical practice setting but not in a hospital setting, acts to discourage this shift in emphasis. No other issue in recent years has raised the ire of individual practitioners as much as the imposition of this most unfair and inequitable tax on business inputs. Understanding that the Minister of Finance is in the process of consulting with the provinces as to the nature of a replacement tax for the GST, we are confident that this oversight will be remedied. In the interests of fundamental fairness/equity and allocative efficiency, CMA respectfully recommends the following: 5. THAT THE COMMITTEE WORK TO ENSURE THAT CANADIAN PHYSICIANS, AS SMALL BUSINESSES, PAY NO MORE THAN OTHER PROFESSIONS UNDER ANY REPLACEMENT TAX FOR THE GST; 6. THAT ALL TAXES ON BUSINESS EXPENSES BE FAIRLY AND FULLY REMOVED UNDER ANY REPLACEMENT TAX FOR THE GST; 7. THAT IF ANY REMEDIAL STEPS ARE TAKEN TO ENSURE NO TAXES ARE LEVIED ON BUSINESS INPUTS, THESE BE APPLIED UNIFORMLY ACROSS ALL EXEMPT SERVICES. Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) Canadian physicians, while receiving a large proportion of their professional earnings from the public sector (94%), do not benefit as self-employed individuals from defined benefit plans or from publicly-financed pension benefits that accrue to employed professionals. They, like other self-employed individuals, must plan and fund their own retirement. Fairness/equity once again demands that there be symmetry between money-purchase (MP) and defined-benefit (DB) retirement plans. This is all the more important for physicians because of their compressed period of lifetime earnings in relation to other groups. This Committee will have heard various calls for either reducing the annual contribution limit or taxing assets within RRSPs. Such arguments are both specious and patently unfair. Both propositions potentially involve double taxation. Experts both within and outside government argue, quite correctly, that the current policy be maintained, and that equity between employees and the self-employed before the taxman be assured. It is for these reasons, that CMA has led an unprecedented alliance for the preservation of retirement savings, and recommends the following: 8. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONSIDER THE TOTAL COST OF THE RETIREMENT SAVINGS SYSTEM BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES TO THE INCOME TAX ACT; 9. THAT THE EQUITY ESTABLISHED DURING PENSION REFORM NOT BE DISTURBED BY DISCRIMINATORY CHANGES AND THAT ANY FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES TO THE SYSTEM INVOLVE A PROCESS OF INFORMED AND THOUGHTFUL INQUIRY AND DEBATE; 10. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOSTER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BY TREATING RRSP CONTRIBUTIONS AS ASSETS RATHER THAN LIABILITIES AND BY EXPLORING THE REGULATORY CHANGES NECESSARY TO ENSURE INCREASED ACCESS TO SUCH FUNDS BY SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES. Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) for Small Businesses Most Canadian physicians are independent, self-employed practitioners. As such, they have the ability if they are incorporated to claim the LCGE when they sell their practices. Over time, several provinces have accorded physicians the right to incorporate (e.g., Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory), in other jurisdictions, physician incorporation is under active review (e.g., Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and the Northwest Territories). While physicians have benefited from incorporation on a limited basis, this issue takes on added importance when one considers the "national" move towards incorporation allowing a greater number of eligible physicians to claim the LCGE. Recent health reforms have also underscored the importance of maintaining the current policy. Previously, physicians were free to move their practices from one location to another to meet the changing health needs of Canadians. Over the past two years, provincial governments have moved to restrict inter-provincial mobility of physicians and indeed mobility within any given province or territory. These "barriers" not only restrict the number of new entrants into the system in addition to those who wish to move to other areas of the country, but also can be thought of as increasing the capitalized value of established practices. Indeed, with the advent of regional physician resource plans across Canada, the cost of establishing a new practice can be expected to continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. So while some physicians have yet to claim the LCGE, it is reasonable to think that they will some time in the future. As the health needs of Canadians change, and as people move, medical care services will have to respond accordingly. The elimination of the LCGE, by significantly increasing the purchase price of a new medical practice, unnecessarily and unfairly raises additional economic barriers to shifting practices in response to changing community health needs. CMA therefore recommends: 11. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MAINTAIN THE CURRENT POLICY FOR THE LIFETIME CAPITAL GAINS EXEMPTION FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. V. TRADE-OFFS To summarize: in broad terms the health care sector has already paid its fair (and to a larger extent unfair) share. Everyone who has appeared before this Committee will argue that cuts should not occur in their backyard. They can't all be right! The government of Canada must decide where its priorities lie over the longer-term. Deficit reduction targets can no longer be met by simply chipping away at the full range of federally-sponsored programs. The national integrity of national health insurance programs, given their importance to Canada's economic, social and political future must be on the short list of safeguarded social programs. If further reductions in federal health transfers are deemed appropriate, the Committee should be prepared to publicly acknowledge that the principles of universality or comprehensiveness (i.e., the choice between covering everyone versus everything) will have to be fundamentally re-examined. Given the degree of support for the universality principle, if the federal government is serious about further reducing its direct or indirect contributions to health, then it must reconsider the range of core benefits that will be made available to Canadians. In fact, we may now have reached the point where we need to get back to basics; reminding ourselves of the original medicare promise, which was to protect Canadians from the spectre of personal bankruptcy associated with large and unexpected health care bills. Not to pay the day-to-day ("grocery") bill of health care. The recently-announced National Health Forum, chaired by the Prime Minister, will provide an important opportunity to assess the breadth and depth of publicly-financed health care. The contribution of medicine to the health of Canadians and to the economy is just too important to be traded off. Physicians are still feeling the "aftershocks" of recent federal fiscal decisions. They have also had to absorb sharp unilateral reductions at the provincial level. The provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Alberta - to name only three - have disproportionately singled out the medical profession on a net earnings basis in decreasing health funding. Taken together, these fiscal forces could trigger an unprecedented exodus of physicians from Canada. As governments move to restrict the ability of physicians to provide needed medical care, CMA is increasingly concerned about the growing number of physicians who are being actively recruited by the United States, and those who feel they have no alternative but to leave the country. At a macro level, we as a society, must recognize that we are in a North American labour market, and as such, each physician heading south represents both a short-term pain and long-term pain. VI. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS The CMA offers the following recommendations to the Committee in its deliberations: 1. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AVOID FURTHER CUTS TO THE EPF HEALTH TRANSFER AND LOCK IN THE CASH PORTION; 2. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATE A STABLE FIVE-YEAR FUNDING ARRANGEMENT WITH THE PROVINCES/TERRITORIES; 3. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST ENSURE THAT ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE HEALTH TRANSFER BE SEPARATE AND EXPLICIT. 4. THAT THE CURRENT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY WITH RESPECT TO NON-TAXABLE HEALTH BENEFITS BE MAINTAINED; 5. THAT THE COMMITTEE WORK TO ENSURE THAT CANADIAN PHYSICIANS, AS SMALL BUSINESSES, PAY NO MORE THAN OTHER PROFESSIONS UNDER ANY REPLACEMENT TAX FOR THE GST; 6. THAT ALL TAXES ON BUSINESS EXPENSES BE FAIRLY AND FULLY REMOVED UNDER ANY REPLACEMENT TAX FOR THE GST; 7. THAT IF ANY REMEDIAL STEPS ARE TAKEN TO ENSURE NO TAXES ARE LEVIED ON BUSINESS INPUTS, THESE BE APPLIED UNIFORMLY ACROSS ALL EXEMPT SERVICES. 8. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONSIDER THE TOTAL COST OF THE RETIREMENT SAVINGS SYSTEM BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES TO THE INCOME TAX ACT; 9. THAT THE EQUITY ESTABLISHED DURING PENSION REFORM NOT BE DISTURBED BY DISCRIMINATORY CHANGES AND THAT ANY FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES TO THE SYSTEM INVOLVE A PROCESS OF INFORMED AND THOUGHTFUL INQUIRY AND DEBATE; 10. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOSTER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BY TREATING RRSP CONTRIBUTIONS AS ASSETS RATHER THAN LIABILITIES AND BY EXPLORING THE REGULATORY CHANGES NECESSARY TO ENSURE INCREASED ACCESS TO SUCH FUNDS BY SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES. 11. THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MAINTAIN THE CURRENT POLICY FOR THE LIFETIME CAPITAL GAINS EXEMPTION FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. _______________ 1 The Angus Reid Group, The Reid Report. Vol. 8, No. 7, July/August, 1993 and Vol. 8, No. 8, September, 1993. 2 Ibid. 3 Agenda: Jobs and Growth: Creating A Healthy Fiscal Climate (The Economic and Fiscal Climate), Department of Finance, October 1994. 4 Economic and Fiscal Reference Tables, Department of Finance, September 1994; Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada, Fiscal Year, 1993/94. 5 Valaskakis K.: The Debt Monster, Montreal Gazette, November 5, 1994. 6 National Health Expenditures in Canada, 1975-1993. Health Canada. 7 Ibid. 8 World Economic Forum 1991: The World Competitiveness report 1990, Institut pour l'étude des méthodes de direction de l'entreprise, Lausanne, Switzerland. 9 Thomson A 1991: Federal Support for Health Care: A Background Paper. Health Action Lobby, Ottawa, June 1991. 10 See the 1995/96 Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance by the Health Action Lobby (HEAL), November 15, 1994.
Documents
Less detail

Building bridges: the link between health policy and economic policy in Canada : A Document prepared by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1990
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1996-01-30
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1996-01-30
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
I. PURPOSE The objective of this document is twofold: (1) to provide the federal government with a better understanding of the current issues that are of concern to physicians across Canada and are material to the preparation of the 1996-97 federal budget; and (2) to propose some solutions. As part of the government's pre-budget consultation process, the CMA has formally presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on November 23, 1995. II. POLICY CONTEXT Canada faces a number of important policy challenges as it moves toward the 21st century. First and foremost is the fiscal challenge to reduce Canada's debt and deficit levels while, at the same time, fostering an environment which provides for future economic growth within a globally-integrated marketplace. As of March 31, 1995 total public debt (federal/provincial/territorial levels of government) was $787.7 billion; the interest paid on the total debt for 1994 was $64.3 billion, and the 1994 total public deficit was $40.8 billion. At a minimum, government is faced with the challenge of addressing short- and long-term economic policy objectives while meeting defined social policy imperatives. In a time of continued fiscal restraint and scarce public sector economic resources, difficult choices will continue to be made. CMA acknowledges that there is an urgent need, now more than ever, for the federal government to balance a number of competing policy challenges. At a time when profound deficit reduction measures are required, all segments of society are being asked to do more with the same or less. Having already dealt with this reality for quite some time, the health care sector is no stranger to this burden. In making policy choices, careful and deliberate thought needs to be given to the repercussions such decisions will have on the Canada of tomorrow and the health and well-being of Canadians. Attacking Canada's federal debt/deficit for short-term economic gain must be balanced against any decision(s) that would serve to increase our longer-term "social" deficit. At a time when Canada is undergoing significant social, political and economic changes, CMA remains dedicated to the delivery of high quality health care and to safeguarding the national integrity of the system. However, given the need for the federal government to gain control over the deficit and national debt, it seems clear that putting Canada's fiscal house in order remains a high priority. That being said, the government must also be clear with Canadians on its intentions and priorities with respect to a long-term commitment to health and social programs, including a cash commitment. Canadians are deeply concerned that reducing the federal deficit will result in the shifting of costs to other levels of government which they cannot absorb. This may very well lead to reduced access to government programs and services, and at some point in the future, higher social costs. This is highlighted in a recent poll where 58% of Canadians reported that they expect the health care system will be worse in the next ten years. 1 It would appear that Canadians believe that the fiscal agenda will overwhelm the social agenda to the extent that the social values and ideals that sustain them will be forgotten or worse, be lost. Surveys indicate that 84% of Canadians view Medicare as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Furthermore, 84% of Canadians feel that the system provides high quality care. However, 65% of Canadians are concerned about continued accessibility to a full range of publicly-financed benefits. According to the same poll, 83% of Canadians see current financing of the system as being "unsustainable" over the longer-term. 2 While Canadians are expressing strong concerns over the future viability of what we currently have in the area of health care, physicians are also voicing similar worries. In a recent poll, 76% of physicians surveyed agreed with the statement that Canada's health care will be worse in 10 years. 3 III. MANAGING CHANGE AND MEETING POLICY OBJECTIVES Recognizing that change is one constant that will characterize Canadian society for the foreseeable future, any further policy changes affecting the health care system must also be considered in the context of Canadian values and economic policy. Good health policy and good economic policy must reinforce one another. CMA is concerned that any short-term economic decisions on the part of the government which do not reinforce good health policy may be detrimental to the best interests of Canada. If change is to come within an overall policy framework that is strategic, coordinated and fair and preserves (or augments) the integrity of Canada's health care system, we must be careful to avoid short-term, stop-gap initiatives. As the Government's 1994 Throne Speech stated "...the agenda of the government is based on an integrated approach to economic, social, environmental and foreign policy". Accordingly, in establishing an appropriate fiscal framework for health and health care, change must take place within the context of a longer-term integrated view. The principle of aligning good health policy with sound economic policy is critical to managing change while serving to lay down a strong foundation for future economic growth and prosperity in Canada. Moreover, by better synchronizing health and economic policy as a national priority, opportunities can be created to meet a number of important "higher order" policy objectives. They are: (i) Canada building; (ii) economic development; (iii) well being of Canadians and the future of health and health care in Canada, and (iv) putting Canada's financial house in order. Each is discussed in turn. i. Canada Building In many ways, Canada is at a social, political and economic crossroads. The challenge to this government is to balance short-term fiscal pressures against the longer-term need to re-position Canada to take advantage of greater economic opportunities while preserving that which is of fundamental importance to Canadian society as a whole. In this context, of the range of social programs that the federal government supports, Medicare is strongly viewed as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Medicare is a high priority for Canadians. Some have argued that the declining federal cash commitment to funding Medicare serves to further fragment our health care system and speeds the process of government decentralization. What better opportunity for the federal government to clarify its funding support and relationship to health care in this country? In making a clear, significant and stable financial commitment in support of health care, the government will serve notice that it is prepared to play a leadership role in ensuring that Canadians will have a sustainable, high quality "national" health care system, a value they hold deeply as Canadians. ii. Economic Development From an international perspective, Canada's Medicare system has been acknowledged as one of our greatest assets. Agencies such as the World Economic Forum tell us that Canada's method of financing health care is one of our comparative economic advantages in an evolving new world economic order. Compared to the United States, this takes the form of lower public and private expenditures on health care while maintaining the same or better health status. In terms of our European trading partners, the fact that health insurance programs are financed primarily through consolidated revenues (rather than employment-based taxes), also confers a unit cost advantage to Canadian exporters. In this sense, good health policy and good economic policy reinforce each other and the bridge between the two should be strengthened. By producing "healthier" individuals at lower cost, this relative cost advantage can translate into economic benefits that all Canadian can share in terms of expanded employment opportunities, wealth creation and economic growth. As a 1995 report form the Conference Board of Canada stated "[Canadian business is] unequivocal in terms of the high value they place on the Canadian health care system. Their support rests on their faith that the system has the capacity to deliver high-quality care while keeping public costs under control. They are also aware that Canada's health insurance system seems to provide employers with a competitive advantage over companies in the United States". 4 While the CMA is in support of a publicly-financed health system, there are serious concerns that the series of recent reforms have not been carried out in a reasonable and rational manner. Prior to implementing any further reforms, there is a pressing need to evaluate the effects of these changes. Cutting alone should not continue to be considered a catalyst for change; as an investment in the future of Canada health care is far too valuable. If health policy and economic policy are to be better synchronized, governments must not only consider the level of current public sector resources that are allocated to the health care system, but they must also re-examine the current roles of the public and private sectors. iii. Well-Being of Canadians and the Future of Health and Health Care in Canada For over twenty-five years, the Medicare system has provided all Canadians with the assurance that "it will always be there when you need it", without fear of an individual or family being forced into bankruptcy due to their health care needs. However, the security that Canadians have enjoyed in knowing that their health care system was always there when they needed it is being challenged daily. For example, Canadians are experiencing difficulties in access because of hospital closures, lengthening waiting lists and the departure of physicians from their communities. As well, physicians and patients are increasingly experiencing difficulties in accessing new medical technologies. Canadians are becoming more and more concerned that the universal Medicare system which they have known and supported through their tax dollars may not be available when they need it the most. In stepping forward and playing a leadership role, the federal government can serve to reassure Canadians that preserving the fundamentals of our health care system remains a high priority by making a significant and predictable financial cash contribution. iv. Putting Canada's Financial House in Order CMA recognizes that the federal government must attend to its own fiscal house and is meeting its fiscal targets. CMA believes that we must not pass this massive debt burden - one in which 36 cents of every federal tax dollars goes to debt servicing - onto future generations. This is not, however, to suggest that a "slash and burn" strategy should be adopted: but rather we should seek a measured approach that gains control over spending while fostering an environment of economic growth. This would bring with it increased employment opportunities and expanding societal wealth. Such an approach should be measured, deliberate and responsible. Deficit reduction should not be fought disproportionately on the back of health care, which, if viewed in its proper context, should be considered as an investment good not a consumption good. Health care is an asset to all Canadians, not a liability. IV. CONCLUSION The CMA has attempted to set out a framework that serves as a basis for defining policy objectives to which the government should give serious consideration. These "four pillars" are: (1) Canada building; (2) economic development; (3) well-being of Canadians and the future of health and health care in Canada; and (4) putting Canada's fiscal house in order. In seeking to build stronger bridges between these policy objectives is the unshakeable principle that good health and good economic policy should go hand-in-hand, reinforcing rather than neutralizing one another. The CMA's four pillars are consistent with government policy objectives as set out in the Red Book, and its 1994 throne speech. Using the four pillars as a guide, the key issues that are of immediate concern to the medical profession in a pre-budget consultation context are as follows: * the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST); * Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP); * the Goods and Services Tax (GST); * Non-Taxable Supplementary Health Benefits (NTSHB); * the National Health Research Program (NHRP); and, * Tobacco Taxation. The CMA is prepared to work with the government and others in a collaborative effort, within the above framework to meet sound social, health, economic and fiscal policy objectives. CANADIAN HEALTH AND SOCIAL TRANSFER (CHST) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that the decreasing federal cash commitment to health care will eventually result in no federal cash flowing to some provinces in the future. This will seriously undermine the federal government's ability to set and maintain goals and standards in the health care system across the country. CONTEXT * The CMA recognizes that federal finances must be brought under better control. However, 60% of Canadians feel that social programs require federal protection while expenditures are being reduced. 5 Reforms to social programs must be phased in over a defined planning horizon. * Beginning in 1996-97, the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST), a combination of the Established Programs Financing and the Canadian Assistance Plan, will result in a reduction of cash transfers to the provinces and territories of $7 billion. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access to Quality Health Care: Our First Priority Canadian physicians want to maintain and enhance the delivery of high quality health care services. Canadians are experiencing difficulties in access due to hospital closures, lengthening waiting lists and communities losing physicians. Furthermore, physicians and their patients are increasingly experiencing difficulty in accessing new health technologies. Canadians are becoming concerned that the universal Medicare system which they have supported through their tax dollars may not be available when they need it the most. * The CHST Threatens The Principles Of National Health Insurance Continued reductions in the CHST will make it increasingly difficult for the federal government to maintain national standards in health care. Earmarked funding for health care will enable the federal government to ensure the principles encompassed under the Canada Health Act are protected. * A Strong Federal Role Must Be Maintained The Medicare system provides all Canadians with the assurances that "it will be there when you need it"; and "you and your family won't be forced into financial ruin". Surveys indicate that 84% of Canadians see Medicare as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Furthermore, 84% of Canadians feel that the system provides high quality care. Canadians want governments to spend more energy on the protection of Medicare and other social programs. 6 From an international perspective, Canada's Medicare system has been acknowledged as one of our greatest assets. Compared to the U.S. this takes the form of lower public and private expenditures on health care while maintaining the same or better health status. CMA RECOMMENDS... * Stable, predictable and ear-marked cash transfers with a formula for growth is required to enable all provinces and territories to plan and deliver a defined set of comparable high quality health care services to all Canadians. * A $250 per capita cash transfer for health care for the next 5 years should be established and guaranteed within the CHST framework. After the 5 year period, the federal government must preserve the real value of the cash transfer by means of an appropriate escalator. RATIONALE * Considering all options, a per capita transfer is the fairest, most equitable method of allocating cash for the health care system. It will also operationalize the CHST in such a way so as to reassure Canadians that the federal dollars will continue to be available to sustain the health system. * The Medicare system is a unifying value and defining characteristic that is recognized as a valuable resource by business and provides Canadians with an important sense of well-being. * The above recommendations would assist in ensuring a strong federal role in setting and maintaining national health care standards as promised in the Red Book. Acting on these recommendations will demonstrate to Canadians that the federal government has listened to their concerns about the CHST and the future of the health care system. A federal cash contribution to health care in Canada is important for economic reasons. * Business is growing increasingly concerned that the competitive advantage provided by the Canadian health care system is eroding. Furthermore, the universal nature of the coverage provided by our health system means it cannot be viewed as a subsidy under current trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA). REGISTERED RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS (RRSP) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned about the ability of Canadians to accrue retirement savings that will enable them to retire in dignity. CONTEXT * The numbers of those over the age of 65 continue to expand, in 1994 11.9% of the population was over the age of 65, in 2016 this will increase to 16% and by 2041 increase to 23%. The numbers of those under 18 are shrinking, in 1994 they represented 25% of the population and by 2016 they will represent 20%. 7 These demographic trends are of concern to governments and taxpayers. Employment trends indicate that an increasing number of Canadians are self-employed. In 1994, self-employment accounted for an increasingly large share of total employment growth, 25% of the overall employment gain. In 1993, 35% of the total labour force were in employment situations that provide registered pension plans (RPPs). 8 * It appears that Canadians are becoming increasingly more self-reliant when it comes to providing for their retirement years. We understand the government's concerns with respect to the retirement income system, the CMA eagerly anticipates the release of the government's intentions in relation to seniors and pension reform. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Ensuring Dignity in Retirement Canadian physicians treat retired patients on a daily basis and are aware of the challenges many of them face. In this context, Canadian physicians are concerned that all Canadians should have the opportunity to achieve a state of financial well-being to provide for themselves in their retirement years. Recognizing Canada's demographic trends and its current fiscal challenges, governments must ensure that suitable financial incentives are in place to encourage a greater reliance on private savings vehicles. * Equal Opportunities to Accumulate Retirement Savings The vast majority of Canadian physicians are self-employed professionals and therefore are not members of an employer/employee sponsored RPP. They, like many other individuals must plan for and fund their own retirement. The principle of equity demands that the self-employed and those employed but reliant on registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) be afforded the same opportunities and incentives to plan for their retirement as those in employment situations that provide RPPs (i.e., pension equity). * Fair Treatment Of Retirement Savings For those individuals that may suffer the misfortune of declaring bankruptcy, creditors may seize the annuitant's RRSP assets. This is patently unfair. If an employed individual declares personal bankruptcy their RPP is currently protected from creditors, however, they too run the risk of loosing their RRSP to their creditors. CMA RECOMMENDS... * The federal government should strive for equity between RRSPs and RPPs. * The federal government should refrain from making changes to the retirement income system pending a review of the system. * The federal government should consider legislation that would deem RRSP assets credit proof. * The federal government should consider gradually raising the foreign investment limits applicable to RRSPs and/or RPPs. At the end of a defined period of gradual increases, the federal government should consider removing the foreign investment limit completely. RATIONALE * All Canadians should have an equal ability to accumulate retirement savings regardless of their employment status. Assuming the current demographic and employment trends persist, it is important to recognize the role that RRSPs will play in assisting Canadians to live healthy and dignified lives well past their retirement from the labour force. * In keeping with the principles of fairness and equity, retirement income plans should be treated equally under federal legislation (e.g., Tax Act , Bankruptcy Act). Sound investment decisions and strategies are required that will enable Canadians to accumulate retirement savings and achieve financial security in their retirement. * Given the complexity of the retirement income system, changes to RRSPs and or RPPs should only be considered in the context of a thorough review of the pension system and include a thoughtful, open and meaningful consultation process. * For the past ten years the government has supported the laudable objective of attaining equity between RRSPs and RPPs. * Experts have assured Canadians that: "The two fundamental goals (of retirement savings) are: (1) to guarantee a basic level of retirement income for all Canadians, and (2) to assist Canadians to avoid serious disruption of their pre-retirement living standards upon retirement". * As governments' continue to reduce publicly funded benefits and encourage greater self-reliance, there is a need to ensure that Canadians have the ability to invest and save private dollars for their retirement years. * RRSPs and RPPs are legitimate tax deferral mechanisms and should not be viewed as tax avoidance. Income set aside for retirement should be taxed when it is received as a pension. The tax system should encourage and assist Canadians to arrange for their financial security in retirement. GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST) ISSUE The CMA has strong concerns regarding the effect of treating most medical services as GST exempt. Unlike other self-employed professionals, physicians are disadvantaged by the fact that they are not able to claim refunds or collect Input Tax Credits (ITCs) for GST paid. Given that medical services are designated as tax exempt, physicians are forced to absorb the additional tax payable as a result of the GST. Moreover, if the government is to proceed with harmonization, this situation will be compounded. CONTEXT * The GST was designed as a tax on "consumers" and not businesses who provide goods and services. Approximately 95% of physicians' services are paid for by the provinces. Provinces do not pay GST based on their constitutional exemption and by agreement with the federal government. In making medical services exempt, GST is payable by the provider of the service and not recoverable as an input tax credit. Therefore physicians are in the position of paying non-recoverable GST on their inputs. Attempts to recover the GST from provincial governments through increased fees have not been possible since the provinces refuse to reimburse for increased costs due to GST since they are constitutionally exempt from GST. * Unlike other professional medical groups such as dentist, physicians do not have the ability to pass increased GST costs along in the form of higher fees. Unlike other institutional health care providers such as hospitals, physicians do not recover these extra GST costs through a rebate mechanism. Therefore, given that most medical services are exempt, physicians are forced to absorb the additional tax payable as a result of the GST. * Because most medical services are treated as exempt, an independent study estimated that self-employed physicians have been forced to absorb an additional $57.2 million of incremental sales tax (net of the Federal Sales Tax) on an annual basis. The study was submitted to the Department of Finance. By the end of 1995, it is estimated that the profession will have absorbed in excess of $286 million because of the current situation. * In the government's Red Book it states: "A Liberal government will replace the GST with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and small businesses, minimizes disruptions to small business, and promotes federal-provincial cooperation and harmonization". As self-employed professionals delivering quality health care services to Canadians, physicians face the same financial realities as do other small businesses. As such, the status of medical services as tax exempt is patently unfair to these small businesses. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access To Quality Health Care While hospitals have been afforded an 83% rebate, self-employed physicians must absorb the full GST load on equipment and other purchases. As a result of this differential tax arrangement, a number of physicians are leaving their community-based practices and moving back into institutions. Therefore, the GST is having an adverse effect on movement towards community-based care, and is impeding patient access to physicians who re-locate from the community to institutions. In this regard, good health policy is not reinforced by good economic policy. * Good Health Policy Should Reinforce Good Economic Policy Most of Canada's premiere medical researchers are employed by hospitals. As part of their research, physicians purchase goods and services that are inputs to their investigative activities. Given that physicians work within a facility, hospitals are eligible to claim the 83% on GST paid on input costs. However, some researchers have grown increasingly concerned that the GST that is recoverable by the hospitals is not returned for medical research and serves to "subsidize" other day-to-day activities. In essence, monies that have been earmarked for specific medical research are being allocated to other areas. Increasingly, physicians are organizing themselves within group practices. While this is, in part, a response to providing greater continuity of care to patients, it is also a reaction to the series of economic decisions that have been taken in the area of health care. Currently, it is estimated that the GST "costs" the average physician $1,500 - $2,000 per year. If physicians were able to claim ITCs, this could give them the added flexibility to employ other individuals in the provision of health care. While the direct effects of the GST are significant and measurable, the indirect effects are even more significant though less measurable. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Given the disproportionate effects of the GST on the medical profession as employers, the employment dampening effects could be significant. * Fairness For many years, the CMA has supported tax reform - provided such reform improves the overall equity and efficiency of Canada's tax system. In June 1987, for example, CMA wrote to the then-Minister of Finance stating "...we at the CMA strongly support the goals of tax reform and efforts to simplify the tax system while at the same time making it more equitable". We have subsequently reiterated our support for the broad objectives of tax reform on several occasions: it remains as strong today as ever. In the area of health care, self-employed physicians (as well as others) have not been accorded the same treatment under the GST as other health groups. For example, hospitals currently receive a rebate of 83% of GST paid on the assumption that the rebate level leaves them no worse off than under the previous tax regime (i.e., whole). As well, prescription drugs are zero-rated, with the same rationale: to ensure that they are whole. Recognizing that drug regimens can play an equally important role as some physician interventions, why would the government choose to distinguish between the two and zero-rate drugs and exempt medical services. CMA RECOMMENDS... * The CMA believes that there are three ways of proceeding to address physician concerns: (1) similar to the formula for Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals (MUSH), physicians would be accorded a rebate that would leave them no worse off under the GST; an independent study suggests that 69% would leave physicians whole; or (2) to zero-rate all medical services; or (3) to zero-rate those medical services that are funded by the government. RATIONALE The three options above serve to improve overall fairness and simplify the tax system. The CMA has submitted a proposal to the Department of Finance for consideration which recommends that health care services (including medical services) funded by the provinces be zero-rated. * The proposal to zero-rate health care services funded by the provinces means: - services provided by hospitals, charities and other provincially funded organizations would be zero-rated. - the system would treat all persons in the industry in the same manner and would thus be fairer and simpler to administer. - tax cascading would be eliminated. - in the context of the regionalization of health care in Canada difficult interpretive issues (such as what constitutes a hospital or facility) would be removed. - not all government services would become zero-rated but only those for which the provincial governments fund. The remainder would continue to be exempt and thus the government would derive revenues from the tax on inputs used in providing those services. - Some complexities would remain owing to the fact that some health care services would be zero-rated and some would continue to be exempt. Therefore, any person making a mixture of zero-rated and exempt supplies would still be required to allocate inputs between commercial and non-commercial activities. * Such a proposal would put all publicly-funded health care services on the same tax footing. * The proposal does not focus on self-employed physicians only, but has been developed in the broader context of those services that are publicly-funded. * The proposal attempts to be achieve a greater degree of flexibility in the face of regionalization of health care services in Canada. * It would reinforce the principles of fairness and simplicity in the tax system. * To summarize, the CMA has reiterated its position on several occasions. Some of the major recommendations are: (1) Canadian physicians should not pay more than other professions or occupations under the GST or its replacement; (2) all taxes on business expenses be fairly and fully removed under any replacement tax for the GST; (3) that the government assign a high priority to integrating provincial and federal sales taxes in a fair and equitable way; (4) that the federal government take a leadership role in ensuring that any integrated system not perpetuate existing tax inequities facing Canadian physicians; and (5) any provisions of a replacement tax should reinforce good health and economic policy. NON-TAXABLE SUPPLEMENTARY HEALTH BENEFITS (NTSHB) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that Canadians' access to health care services will be threatened if the tax status of supplementary health benefits is changed from their current tax treatment. CONTEXT * Approximately, 70% or 20 million Canadians rely on full or partial private supplementary health care benefits (e.g., dental, drugs, vision care, private health care, etc.). As governments reduce the level of public funding, the private component of health expenditures is expanding. Canadians are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of private insurance. In the context of funding those health services that remain public benefits, the government cannot strike yet another blow to individual Canadians and to Canadian business by taxing the very benefits for which taxes were raised. * Changes in health care technology and health care management have resulted in decreased length of stays in hospitals and an increased reliance upon expensive health technologies. Many of these services are covered by private supplementary health plans, especially when individuals are discharged from hospital (e.g., drugs, private home/health care). PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access To Quality Health Care Services: First Priority Changing the status of supplementary health benefits from non-taxable to taxable may contribute decreased access to care, and/or possibly, increased costs to these plans coupled with a reduction in service of government funded programs. * Good Tax Policy Should Support Good Health Policy Non-taxable supplementary health benefits is a good tax policy that serves to reinforce good health policy. This incentive fosters risk pooling which reduces the overall cost of premiums for supplementary health benefit plans. * Fundamental Fairness In The Tax System Incentives that enable access to a broad range of quality health care services (beyond those publicly funded) to include all Canadians should be encouraged and expanded. CMA RECOMMENDS... * That the current federal government policy with respect to employment-related supplementary non-taxable health benefits be maintained. RATIONALE * If the supplementary health benefits become taxable, it seems likely that young healthy people would opt for cash compensation instead of paying taxes on benefits they do not receive. It follows that employer-paid premiums would increase as a result of this exodus in order to offset the additional cost of maintaining benefit levels due to diminishing ability to achieve risk pooling. * The federal government is to be congratulated with respect to last years' decision to maintain the non-taxable status of supplementary health benefits. This decision is an example of the federal governments' commitment to maintain a good tax policy that supports good health policy. The federal government should explore opportunities and incentives that would expand access to supplementary health care benefits to all Canadians. * In terms of fairness, it would seem unfair to penalize 70% of Canadians by taxing supplementary health benefits to put them on an equal basis with the remaining 30%. It would be preferable to develop incentives to allow the remaining 30% of Canadians to achieve similar benefits attributable to the tax status of supplementary health benefits. NATIONAL HEALTH RESEARCH PROGRAM (NHRP) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that the health care system must respect and foster medical education and medical research. The CMA also believes that more emphasis should be placed on health services research focussing on health system reforms and their effect on the health of Canadians. Given the magnitude of change, now is the time for an evaluation of the impact before proceeding with any further reforms. CONTEXT * Canada has experienced rapid and significant changes with respect to health care reform which remains a priority at all levels of government. This environment provides a unique opportunity for the federal government to fund a concerted national evaluation strategy of health reform to date. * On the whole, the CMA would continue to encourage the government to protect earmarked monies dedicated for research activities. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Improving The Quality Of The Health Care: Our First Priority For a variety of reasons , in a more forceful way over the last year, the CMA and physicians expressed their concerns with respect to the future of health and the viability of the health care system. The pace of reform has been rapid and change profound. What has been accomplished needs to be evaluated. In this context, the physicians of Canada have reiterated the need to foster health and medical research. * Health Research Policy Reinforcing Economic Policy Establishing a medical and health services research program will assist in attracting and retaining world-class researchers in Canada. There are positive effects that may occur in the economy as a result of this type of research with respect to the health technology sector -- creating a demand for highly skilled jobs in addition to increasing exports in high-tech, value-added goods and services. CMA RECOMMENDS... * That the federal government continue its commitment to medical education, biomedical and health services research. * That the federal government provide funding for a national initiative in evaluating health reforms. RATIONALE * Changes within the Canadian health care system, a system that is viewed as a model around the world, should not be implemented without a sound evaluation strategy. However, with the limited funding available to health researchers and health policy analysts this aspect of health care reform is often neglected or, at best, given cursory acknowledgement. We should not undertake systemic reforms without analyzing the effects that these will have upon the quality of the health care delivered to Canadians. * It is in the government's best interest to ensure that change within the health care system does not continue without evaluating the effect this will have on Canadians' access to quality health services. Once a certain course is set it may be impossible to turn the ship around. TOBACCO TAXATION ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that the 1994 reduction in the federal cigarette tax will have a significant effect in slowing the decline in cigarette smoking in the Canadian population, particularly in the youngest age group (15-19). CONTEXT * In an effort to combat the smuggling of cigarettes into in Canada, the federal government announced, in early 1994, a reduction in the federal tax on cigarettes in the amount of $5 per carton. In addition, the federal government offered an additional matching reduction of up to $5 per carton for those provinces making reductions in provincial taxes. * At about the same time, in an attempt to counter the effects of the reduction in tobacco taxation, the government announced increased efforts to reduce the accessibility of tobacco products, particularly to minors, and also launched the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy in February, 1994. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality in Canada. The most recent estimates suggest that more than 40,000 deaths annually in Canada are directly attributable to tobacco use. * Physicians are concerned that the reduction in tobacco taxation may reverse more than two decades of progress in reducing smoking rates. Based on an examination of four population-based surveys and data on tobacco consumption, a workshop convened by Health Canada in 1994 concluded that, in all likelihood, the prevalence of smoking in the Canadian population continued to decline from 1991 to 1993, reversed itself in 1993 and increased from 1993 to 1994. 9 * The effects of smoking on nonsmokers are of major concern to the CMA. More than 20% of Canadians have a health condition such as heart disease or acute respiratory disease, that is aggravated by secondary exposure to tobacco smoke. CMA RECOMMENDS * It is a matter of longstanding policy that the CMA supports the taxation of tobacco products at a level that will discourage their purchase, the revenue to be earmarked for health care budgets. 10 * The CMA has also recommended to the federal government (1994) that it institute a federal health protection assessment (a specially designated tax) on all Canadian cigarettes at the point of manufacture, regardless of their ultimate site of sale. * The CMA is also a co-signatory, along with eight other national medical and health organizations, of the brief Tobacco Taxation in Canada: New Directions, which was presented to the Honourable Paul Martin in February, 1995, and which sets out eight recommendations for the restoration of tobacco taxes, support for the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy and the taxation of the tobacco industry. RATIONALE * the government has made in health promotion campaigns against smoking, and which it has continued through the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. _____________ 1 Posner M., Condition Critical. Maclean's. Vol. 108 No. 46, November 13, 1995, p. 46-59. 2 The Angus Reid Group, The Reid Report. Vol. 8, No. 7, July/August, 1993 and Vol. 8. No. 8. September, 1993. 3 The Medical Post 1995 National Survey of Doctors, Fall 1995, page 24. 4 Alvi S.: Health Costs and Private Sector Competitiveness, The Conference Board of Canada, Report 139-95, Ottawa, June, 1995, page 11. 5 Southam News/CTV/Angus Reid, Public Opinion On Government Cutbacks And The Policy Challenges Facing Canada, December 27, 1995. 6 The Angus Reid Group, The Reid Report. Vol. 8, No. 7, July/August, 1993 and Vol. 8. No. 8. September, 1993. 7 Mitchell, A. Population to hit 30 million in 1996: Globe and Mail, January 10, 1996. pp. B1-2. 8 Frenken, H. Capitalizing on RRSPs: Canadian Economic Observer, December 1995. p. 3.1-3.9. Statistics Canada - Cat. No. 11-010. 9 Stephens T. Workshop report: trends in the prevalence of smoking, 1991-1994. Chronic Diseases in Canada 1995; 16(1): 27-32 10 Canadian Medical Association. Smoking and Health: 1991 Update. Can. Med. Assoc. Journal 1991; 142 (2): 232A-232B.
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Registered retirement savings plans : Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1996
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1994-11-17
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1994-11-17
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
Millions of Canadians are planning for their retirement relying on Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and private pension plans, either as their only future retirement income or to supplement the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP). Approximately 5 million contribute to RRSPs. Another 3.7 million participate in registered pension plans (RPPs). Some are independent business people, others work in family businesses. Some are self-employed or work for organizations that have opted for RRSPs instead of RPPs. Our Alliance is representative of this Canadian diversity. The objective of the Alliance is to maintain the current provisions of the Income Tax Act (the Act) and Income Tax Regulations (the Regulations) governing retirement savings. The current system is fundamentally good for the economy of Canada, and any changes made for short term deficit reduction will ultimately harm the economy in general and small and medium-sized business, in particular. Research shows that RRSPs are an important tool for small business retirement planning. Only in recent years have limits been adjusted to bring similar protection to those afforded under RPPs. We have only just started to achieve a measure of equitable treatment for the retirement savings of the self-employed and employees not protected by employer pension plans. The current system provides for the harmonization of all tax-assisted retirement savings arrangements, which will only be achieved when the limits on money-purchase arrangements (including RRSPs) attain the equivalent limits already set for defined-benefit arrangements, such as employer pension plans. Changes to RRSPs alone will discriminate against the self-employed and against employees without employer pension plans. These Canadians form the majority of the workforce now and in the future. Arguments in favour of changes to the current system are based on two assumptions: firstly, that Canadians are saving sufficient income for their retirement and will continue to do so regardless of tax increases; and secondly, that the cost to the Government in lost tax revenues is enormous. Neither of these assumptions is valid. Background The fiscal theory underlying retirement savings is decades old. Contributions to registered plans are deductible and all earnings are exempt from tax until benefits are paid out from those plans. In essence the retirement savings system consists of a deferral of tax on contributions and earnings. The pension tax reform of 1989-1990 does not change the underlying fiscal theory. It aims to achieve equity between the employed and the self-employed and between defined benefit arrangements and money-purchase arrangements (including RRSPs). That equity was achieved by phasing in a higher contribution limit for money-purchase arrangements so that they could, in the future, provide a retirement income comparable to that furnished by a defined benefit arrangement. This objective of achieving equivalence permeates the Act and the Regulations and has resulted in a substantial and continuing realignment of retirement savings arrangements in Canada. That realignment, with its attendant compliance costs, borne by employers and employees, was based on the acceptance of the premises behind pension tax reform, which acceptance Canadians have demonstrated. This realignment had a gestation period of over 5 years. 1 From the 1984 federal budget, which sought complete equity but with massive compliance costs, to the 1985 federal budget, which sought lesser compliance costs but with diminished equity, there issued pension tax reform, which yields substantial equity with substantial compliance costs. The Auditor General, in his 1988 report, estimated that pension tax reform would necessitate $330 million in start-up costs and $15 million in annual reporting costs. The Department of Finance disagreed and estimated that start-up costs would be from $60 to $70 million and that the annual reporting costs would be between $10 and $15 million. The independent consultant's report, upon which the Auditor General's report was based, had said that the start-up costs would be $395 million. Accordingly, Canadians have already borne many of the costs of retooling the retirement savings system and will continue to do so. Having paid those costs, surely Canadians are entitled to the measure of equity that the system promises. Governing Principles There are disquieting rumours about possible changes to the current retirement savings system. As yet, the government has said little on this issue, other than to say that the retirement system is not inviolable. The Alliance seeks to maintain the status quo. We should, therefore, deal with the principles that underlie the current system, and which continue to hold true: internal fairness and the accumulation of sufficient retirement income. Internal Fairness The current system was reformed to deliver internal fairness - if not quite yet, by 1996. It allows individuals to accumulate a pre-determined amount of private retirement savings. Taxpayers may, on a tax-assisted basis, earn a lifetime pension at the rate of $1,722 per year. In other words, an employee with 35 years of service may be entitled, on retirement, to an annual lifetime pension of $60,270. That level of tax assistance has been available to members of defined benefit plans since 1977. It has been frozen at that level since that time and will remain frozen until 1996. The money purchase limits, including RRSP limits, have been phased in to eventually provide equivalent benefits. Accordingly, the annual RRSP limits, when fully instituted in 1996, will allow the self-employed to accumulate retirement savings equivalent to those of members of defined benefit plans. Thus, one of the rationales underlying the current retirement savings structure is to eliminate the earlier discrimination against the self-employed. The self-employed will now be allowed to achieve retirement savings equivalent to those available to employees. RRSPs are not an isolated program under the Act, but rather an integral component of an indissoluble whole. Accumulation of Sufficient Retirement Income The limits set by pension tax reform are intended to provide a level of retirement income that will allow retired individuals to maintain their standard of living. It is generally felt that a retirement income equal to about 60-70 percent of pre-retirement income should not result in a marked change in one's standard of living. Increasingly, it appears that individual taxpayers will need to rely more on private retirement savings and less on public programmes. It is important, therefore, that the tax system permit the accumulation of retirement savings sufficient to allow taxpayers to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. Indeed, it does not appear possible for money-purchase arrangements to reach, in most cases, the replacement ratio of 60 to 70 percent. Consider the following example. 2 Let us consider two taxpayers earning $50,000 and $100,000 respectively, in 1993 who maximize their contributions to RRSPs. What replacement income ratio can these taxpayers attain? Assume that the taxpayers are married and that the annuity to be purchased from the RRSP, at retirement, has the following characteristics: post-retirement indexation at 3% per annum with a spousal survivor benefit of two-thirds. 3 The results of this hypothetical are: [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] RRSP as a percentage of final year's salary at a 1993 salary of $50,000 ($100,000) Retirement Age Savings Start Age 25 35 45 55 41.0% (31.6%) 24.7% (19.0%) 11.2% (8.6%) 60 54.4% (41.9%) 35.1% (26.7%) 19.0% (14.6%) 65 72.2% (55.7%) 48.8% (37.6%) 29.4% (22.6%) [TABLE END] The above table indicates, for example, that a 35-year old earning $50,000 in 1993 can, at most, earn a pension from an RRSP equal to 48.8% of his final year's income, if his retirement commences at age 65. In other words, after 30 years of working and saving, that individual will have a retirement income of less than half of his pre-retirement income. This is below the income replacement threshold assumed by pension tax reform itself. For the taxpayer earning $100,000 in 1993, his RRSP pension will be 37.6% of this pre-retirement income. The only individual who attains an adequate replacement ratio, on these assumptions, is the 25-year old who saves for 40 years. It follows that, although the pension tax system espouses equivalence with the defined benefit pension plan, it does not attain it in practice. Inequities in the Current System In the current North American context, the limits of Canadian tax assistance for retirement savings are not generous. The equivalent money purchase and defined benefit limits for the United States, for example, are more than twice as generous as the Canadian limits. In addition, the Canadian system does not provide for deferrals of salary, as does the United States system. Furthermore, inequities exist in the provision of supplementary retirement benefits. Supplementary benefits are those in excess of the $60,270 benchmark pension discussed above. They also include benefits that the Regulations, and the Department of National Revenue, do not allow to be paid from a registered pension plan. Servants of the people, such as Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Legislatures, benefit from the privileged status of the payor of the pension, in that security of the pension promise is not an issue. Self-employed individuals and ordinary employees, on the other hand, must be concerned with the funding of their pension promise. Requirement for Informed and Thoughtful Debate In the early 1990s, annual contributions to RRSPs and RPPs exceeded $33 billion. Trusteed pensions, not including consolidated revenue fund plans, held $235 billion in assets at the end of 1992. The book value of the assets of such plans stood at $268 billion at the end of the first quarter of 1994. RRSP assets, not including self-directed plans, totalled $147 billion at the end of 1992. In his discussion paper entitled Creating a Healthy Fiscal Climate: The Economic and Fiscal Update, released October 18, 1994, the Minister of Finance has indicated that the tax expenditure associated with all retirement savings for 1991 was $14.9 billion. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Department of Finance should cast a covetous eye at the retirement savings system. We are concerned that a search for easy sources of revenue might prompt the government to change the existing rules in the Act governing retirement savings. It is submitted, however, that changes to the system, although fiscally attractive in the short term, would be detrimental to Canadian taxpayers in the long run. Deficit reduction should not be the sole motivating factor for change to the retirement savings system. The existing complex web of rules governing retirement savings should only be touched if there are compelling reasons, unrelated to immediate deficit reduction, to effect change. This is particularly so given the recent and unfinished reform of retirement savings arrangements in this country. It is clear that this debate has not yet begun and cannot be completed before the next federal budget. The prudent approach, therefore, is to defer any change to the retirement savings system until that debate has taken its course. A Framework for the Debate The following parameters should govern any consideration of the changes to the retirement savings system. 1. The Principle of Even-Handedness It is clear that all components of the retirement savings structure are interrelated. As a result, it would be unfair to single out RRSPs for detrimental treatment. RRSP savings are no different from other forms of retirement savings. 2. A Tax Increase According to a recent study of the Canada Tax Foundation, 3.7 million Canadians contributed to RPPs, and 4.8 million Canadians contributed to RRSPs, in the 1992 taxation year. 4 In that year, 69.7 percent of contributors to RPPs and 60.5 percent of contributors to RRSPs were in the middle income range ($25,000 to $60,000). Obviously, the participation rate by Canadians in retirement savings arrangements is quite high. A change to the retirement savings regime, by limiting deductibility of contributions for example, would be viewed as a tax increase by users of these arrangements. Indeed, for those individuals, any negative change to the retirement savings arrangement will have the same effect as a tax increase. 3. Job Creation The quest for deficit reduction should not obscure the important role that government can play in creating an environment conducive to increasing employment opportunities. As the government has previously stated, the bulk of job creation must come from small and medium-sized businesses. As a result, the current retirement savings regime, and in particular RRSP investments, should be viewed as an asset, and not a liability. The ability to deduct savings for retirement has the effect of increasing aggregate private savings as a source of funds for capital investment. 5 Reducing the tax incentive for retirement savings could have the effect of reducing the amount of "pooled" capital funds that could be made available for entrepreneurial activities. It would also add to the cost of doing business in Canada and stifle future employment opportunities. The rules in the Income Tax Act that permit RRSP contributors to put investments in small businesses are insufficient at present and must be strenghtened if the government wants to encourage job creation. Canada's Economic Challenges 6 shows that small business is playing an increasing role in the economy. Any reduction in the existing schedule of limits will hurt the ability of small business to create jobs. Indeed, the government should consider measures to increase the access by small and medium businesses to the retirement savings capital pool. The latest report of the House of Commons Industry Committee makes the point well: Ottawa should use tax incentives to help improve the competitiveness of the Canadian small business sector...One way the government can increase small business access to capital would be to permit owners, operators and other major shareholders to use funds from their registered retirement savings plans to buy equity in their business...that would increase the availability of such "love capital". 7 4. The Tax Expenditure Calculation As indicated earlier, it is said that the tax expenditure for all retirement savings for 1991 was $14.9 billion. That number suggests that the Government of Canada bears a high cost for its retirement savings system. However, it is our view that the calculation of that cost is not correct, with the result that the number is inflated. The Department of Finance's calculation of the tax expenditure cost is arrived at by adding the value of deductions associated with contributions and the value of the tax shelter on earnings. From that result is subtracted the revenue generated from withdrawals. For example, for the 1991 taxation year, the $14.9 billion number noted above is calculated as follows: Tax expenditure (RRSP) = value of deductions + value of tax shelter - taxes on withdrawals = $3.310 billion + $2.960 billion - .735 million = $5.535 billion Tax expenditure (RPP) = value of deductions + value of tax shelter - taxes on withdrawals = $4.460 billion + $8.950 billion - 4.030 billion = $9.38 billion Tax expenditure (RRSP + RPP) = $5.535 billion + $9.38 billion = $14.915 billion. The Government of Canada has itself admitted that its calculation of tax expenditures is subjective. In the case of tax deferrals, it has further stated that: Estimating the cost of tax deferrals presents a number of methodological difficulties since, even though the tax is not currently received, it may be collected at some point in the future. 8 The government has also specifically commented on tax expenditures associated with retirement savings: It should be noted that the RRSP/RPP tax expenditure estimates do not reflect a mature system because contributions currently exceed withdrawals. Assuming a constant tax rate, if contributions equalled withdrawals, only the non-taxation of investment would contribute to the net tax expenditure. As time goes by and more retired individuals have had the opportunity to contribute to RRSPs throughout their lifetime, the gap between contributions and withdrawals will shrink and possibly even become negative. An upward bias in the current estimates can therefore be expected to decline. 9 The method used to calculate the tax expenditure costs associated with retirement savings is based on the "current cash-flow" model. In effect, the calculation takes a snapshot of a given year and does not take into account future income flows. As indicated above, the calculation adds the value in a year of tax deductions to the lost tax on earnings, and subtracts the tax generated from withdrawals. We argue that that model is flawed. Current demographics show that the system is not yet mature since contributions will exceed withdrawals for some time. Once the baby boom generation begins to retire, withdrawals will exceed contributions. Substantial revenues will be generated for the fisc, revenues necessary to support government programs of the day. The value of the tax on those withdrawals is totally ignored in the static model adopted by the Department of Finance. Statistics Canada projects that the proportion of the Canadian population aged 70 and over will increase from 7.84% in 1991 to 10.6% in 2010. The numbers of such individuals will increase from 2.102 million in 1991, to 3.355 million in 2010, a 59.6 percent increase. Those individuals will be drawing pensions, both from RRSPs and RPPs. Those pensions will be taxed and will benefit the fisc. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the calculation adopted by the Government greatly over-values the cost to the fisc. A US commentator has suggested that government also gains "additional corporate tax revenue on the extra capital stock that results from higher savings. The government's official revenue estimates ignore this increase in corporate tax receipts." 10 To restate the position, the tax expenditure calculation adopts a static approach, both by considering only the current year's cash flows and by ignoring any secondary effects of the retirement savings pool. Until the true cost of the retirement savings system can be ascertained, the current estimates cannot be relied upon to justify change to the tax rules governing retirement savings. Trade-Offs While the Alliance recognizes the need for the Government to get its fiscal house in order, with a particular emphasis on the expenditure side of the equation, a proper balance must be struck between short-term solutions and longer-term consequences. One important consideration is the long-term pain that would result from Canadians having less financial flexibility to properly plan for their retirement. This long-term consequence must be measured against the short-term gain in revenues that would result from a freeze or reduction in the contributions to RRSPs and RPPs. At a time when the Government is encouraging greater self-reliance in matters of finance, further limiting Canadians' ability to adequately plan for their retirement would serve to aggravate the public future dependence on government programs. Looking at current demographic trends, it is important to ensure that all Canadians have an opportunity to set aside necessary financial resources that will be drawn upon (and taxed) at the time of retirement. If the government is looking to become more efficient in its delivery of public sector programs, it should also ensure that the private sector is allowed sufficient flexibility to meet its needs. In this context, the current retirement savings plans should be considered an investment in the future and should not be tampered with or diminished. Recommendations I THE ALLIANCE RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONSIDER THE TOTAL COST OF THE RETIREMENT SAVINGS SYSTEM BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES TO THE INCOME TAX ACT. II THE ALLIANCE RECOMMENDS THAT THE EQUITY ESTABLISHED DURING PENSION REFORM NOT BE DISTURBED BY DISCRIMINATORY CHANGES AND THAT ANY FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES TO THE SYSTEM SHOULD INVOLVE A PROCESS OF INFORMED AND THOUGHTFUL INQUIRY AND DEBATE. III THE ALLIANCE RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOSTER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BY TREATING RRSP CONTRIBUTIONS AS ASSETS RATHER THAN LIABILITIES AND BY EXPLORING THE REGULATORY CHANGES NECESSARY TO ENSURE INCREASED ACCESS TO SUCH FUNDS BY SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES. _______________________ 1 Appendix A to this submission details the historical development of pension tax reform. 2 Taken from Sylvain Parent, FSA, FCIA, RRSP income replacement levels: a case study, 1993 Pension & Tax Reports; 4:93-94. 3 Further assumptions are as follows: rate of return is 7.5% per annum; yearly salary increases are 5.5% per annum; mortality is 80% of the average of the 1983 Group Annuity Mortality rates for males and females. 4 Perry, David B, Everyone's Tax Shelter At Risk, Canadian Tax Highlights, Volume 2, number 10, October 19, 1994; p. 75. 5 Andrews and Bradford, Savings Incentives in a Hybrid Income Tax, Studies of Government and Finance, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC; February, 1988. 6 Department of Finance, January, 1994, p. 30. 7 Special Report, The Public Sector, October 24, 1994. 8 Government of Canada, Personal and corporate income tax expenditures, December 1993, p.4. 9 Ibid., p.53. 10 Feldstein, Martin. The Effects of Tax-Based Incentives on Government Revenue and National Saving, NBER Working Paper #4021, March 1992. This position has been dismissed, out of hand and with no reasons, by two Canadian commentators: Ingerman, Sid and Rowley, Robin, Tax Losses and Retirement Savings, Canadian Business Economics, Vol. 2, No. 4, Summer 1994, pp. 46-54.
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Statement to the Canadian panel on violence against women Ottawa -September, 1992

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11956
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1992-09-15
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1992-09-15
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
The CMA is pleased to have this opportunity to address the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. As a professional organization with a leadership role in societal issues affecting health, it is both appropriate and important for the CMA to be actively involved in addressing the problems associated with violence. The extremely high incidence of abuse, the associated severe physical, mental and psychological health problems and the significant role played by physicians in recognizing and caring for victims make this a priority for organized medicine. The CMA has significant experience and expertise in this field. In 1984, the CMA General Council passed a resolution stating: "That Health and Welfare Canada and the Provincial Ministries of Health and Education alert the Canadian public to the existence of family violence, including wife assault, child abuse, and elder abuse, and to the services available which respond to these problems, and that organized medicine (through such vehicles as professional journals, newsletters, conferences and formal medical education) alert the physicians of Canada to the problem and that all physicians learn to recognize the signs of family violence in their daily contact with patients and undertake the care and management of victims using available community resources." (Resolution #84-47) The CMA calls the Panel's attention to four major areas of concern: Recognition and Treatment, Education and Training, Protocol Development and Research. 1. Recognition and Treatment: Recognition includes acknowledging the existence and prevalence of abuse and identifying victims of violence. Violence against women is clearly a health issue and one that should be given a very high priority. Statistics indicate that nearly one in eight Canadian women will be subject to spousal violence in her lifetime and that one in five will be a victim of sexual assault. Violence against women is a major determinant of both short -and long-term health problems including traumatic injury, physical and psychological illnesses, alcohol/drug addiction and death. Furthermore, although it is critically important to recognize that abuse crosses all racial and socio-economic boundaries, there are strong indications that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to abusive acts (e.g., pregnant, disabled and elderly women). Recognition includes acknowledging and understanding the social context within which violence occurs. Violence is not an isolated phenomenon, but is part of the much broader issue of societal abuse of women. Physicians are often the first point of contact for patients who have been abused physically, sexually, mentally and/or psychologically. They have a vital role to play in identifying victims and providing treatment and supportive intervention including appropriate referral. Abuse is not always readily apparent, however, and may go undetected for extended periods of time. Numerous studies have shown that both physicians and patients often fail to identify abuse as an underlying cause of symptoms. Such delays can result in devastating and sometimes fatal consequences for patients. Even in those cases where abuse is apparent, both physicians and patients often feel uncomfortable talking openly about the abuse and the circumstances surrounding it. It is the physician's role and responsibility to create a safe and supportive environment for the disclosure and discussion of abuse. Furthermore, the lack of resources for support services or the lack of awareness of what services are available to provide immediate and follow-up care to patients in need may discourage physicians from acknowledging the existence of abuse and identifying victims. It is clear that improvement in the ability and the degree to which victims of abuse are recognized and given appropriate assistance by physicians and other caring professionals in a non-threatening environment is urgently required. Individuals who are abused usually approach the health care system through primary contact with emergency departments or other primary care centres. The care available in such settings is acute, fragmented and episodic. Such settings are not appropriate for the victims of violence. The challenge that we, as physicians, recognize is to be able to provide access in a coordinated way to medical, social, legal and other support services that are essential for the victim of violence. This integration of services is essential at the point of initial recognition and contact. The CMA has been involved with eight other organizations in the Interdisciplinary Project on Domestic Violence (IPVD), the primary goal of which is to promote interdisciplinary co-operation in the recognition and management of domestic violence. 2. Education and Training: The spectrum of abuse is complex; the victims are diverse; expertise in the field is developing. The current system of medical education neither provides health care personnel with the knowledge or skills nor does it foster the attitude to deal adequately with this issue. Some of CMA's divisions have played an active role in this area. For instance, the Ontario Medical Association has developed curriculum guidelines and medical management of wife abuse for undergraduate medical students. It is ,important that there be more involvement by relevant medical groups in developing educational and training programs and more commitment from medical educators to integrate these programs and resources into the curriculum. Programs must be developed and instituted at all levels of medical education in order that physicians can gain the requisite knowledge and skills and be sensitive to the diversity of victims of violence. The CMA believes that the educational programs must result in: 1) understanding of the health consequences of violence; 2) development of effective communication skills; and, 3) understanding of the social context in which violence occurs. Understanding of the social context in which violence occurs will require an examination of the values and attitudes that persist in our society, including a close consideration of the concepts of gender role socialization, sexuality and power. This is required in order to dispel the pervasive societal misconceptions held by physicians and others which act as barriers to an effective and supportive medical response to patients suffering the effects of violence. 3. Development of Protocols: The CMA recognizes the need for more effective management and treatment of the spectrum of problems associated with violence against women. Health care facilities, professional organizations and other relevant groups are challenged to formulate educational and policy protocols for integrated and collaborative approaches to dealing with prevention of abuse and the management of victims of violence. The CMA and a number of its divisions have been active in this area:
In 1985, the CMA prepared and published Family Violence: Guidelines for Recognition and Management (Ghent, W.R., Da Sylva, N.P., Farren, M.E.), which dealt with the signs and symptoms, assessment and management, referral assistance and medical records with respect to wife battering, child abuse and abuse of the elderly;
The Ontario Medical Association published Repons on Wife Assault in January 1991. This document, endorsed by the CMA, examines the problem of wife assault from a medical perspective and outlines approaches to treatment of the male batterer and his family;
The Medical Society of Nova Scotia has developed a handbook entitled Wife Abuse: A Handbook for Physicians, advising on the identification and management of cases involving the battering of women;
The New Brunswick Medical Society has produced a series of discussion papers on violence and in conjunction with that province's Advisory Council on the Status of Women, has produced a graphic poster depicting physical assault on pregnant women as a way of urging physicians to be alert for signs of violence against women; The Medical Society of Prince Edward Island has worked cooperatively with the provincial Department of Health and Social Services and the Interministerial Committee on Family Violence to produce a document entitled Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Physicians. The CMA encourages continued involvement by the medical profession in the development of initiatives such as these and welcomes the opportunity to work in collaboration with other professionals involved in this area. 4. Research The CMA has identified violence against women as a priority health issue. Like rriany other areas in women's health, there is a need for research focusing on all aspects of violence and the associated problems. More specifically, the CMA maintains that there should be more research on the incidence of abuse (particularly as it relates to particular groups), on ways to facilitate the disclosure by victims of abuse and on the effectiveness of educational and prevention programs. The CMA recognizes that the medical profession must show a greater commitment to ending abuse of women and providing more appropriate care and support services to those who are victims of violence. The CMA possesses unique skills and expertise in this area and welcomes the opportunity to work with the Panel on this challenging social and health problem.
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