The CMA is the national voice of Canadian physicians. On behalf of its more than 83,000 members and the Canadian public, the CMA’s mission is helping physicians care for patients. In fulfillment of this mission, the CMA’s role is focused on national, pan-Canadian health advocacy and policy priorities.
As detailed in this brief, the CMA is gravely concerned that by capturing group medical structures in the application of Section 44 of Bill C-29, the federal government will inadvertently negatively affect medical research, medical training and education as well as access to care.
To ensure that the unintended consequences of this federal tax policy change do not occur, the CMA is strongly recommending that the federal government exempt group medical and health care delivery from the proposed changes to s.125 of the Income Tax Act regarding multiplication of access to the small business deduction in Section 44 of Bill C-29.
Relevance of the Canadian Controlled Private Corporation Framework to Medical Practice
Canada’s physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to our country’s knowledge economy. Due to the design of Canada’s health care system, a large majority of physicians – more than 90% – are self-employed professionals and effectively small business owners.
As self-employed small business owners, physicians typically do not have access to pensions or health benefits, although they are responsible for these benefits for their employees. Access to the Canadian-Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC) framework and the Small Business Deduction (SBD) are integral to managing a medical practice in Canada. It is imperative to recognize that physicians cannot pass on any increased costs, such as changes to CCPC framework and access to the SBD, onto patients, as other businesses would do with clients.
In light of the unique business perspectives of medical practice, the CMA strongly welcomed the Finance Committee’s recommendation to maintain the existing small business framework and the subsequent federal recognition in the 2016 budget of the value that health care professionals deliver to communities across Canada as small business operators. Contrary to this recognition, the 2016 budget also introduced a proposal to alter eligibility to the small business deduction that will impact physicians incorporated in group medical structures.
What’s at risk: Contribution of group medical structures to health care delivery
The CMA estimates that approximately 10,000 to 15,000 physicians will be affected by this federal taxation proposal. If implemented, this federal taxation measure will negatively affect group medical structures in communities across Canada. By capturing group medical structures, this proposal also introduces an inequity amongst incorporated physicians, and incentivizes solo practice, which counters provincial and territorial health delivery priorities.
Group medical structures are prevalent within academic health science centres and amongst certain specialties, notably oncology, anaesthesiology, radiology, and cardiology. Specialist care has become increasingly sub-specialized. For many specialties, it is now standard practice for this care to be provided by teams composed of numerous specialists, sub-specialists and allied health care providers. Team-based care is essential for educating and training medical students and residents in teaching hospitals, and for conducting medical research.
Put simply, group medical structures have not been formed for taxation or commercial purposes. Rather, group medical structures were formed to deliver provincial and territorial health priorities, primarily in the academic health setting, such as teaching, medical research as well as optimizing the delivery of patient care. Over many years, and even decades, provincial and territorial governments have been supporting and encouraging the delivery of care through team-based models.
To be clear, group medical structures were formed to meet health sector priorities; they were not formed for business purposes. It is equally important to recognize that group medical structures differ in purpose and function from similar corporate or partnership structures seen in other professions. Unlike most other professionals, physicians do not form these structures for the purpose of enhancing their ability to earn profit.
It is critical that the federal government acknowledge that altering eligibility to the small business deduction will have more significant taxation implication than simply the 4.5% difference in the small business versus general rate at the federal level. It would be disingenuous to argue that removing full access to the small business deduction for incorporated physicians in group medical structures will be a minor taxation increase. As demonstrated below in Table 1, the effect of this federal taxation change will vary by province.
Table 1: Taxation impacts by province, if the federal taxation proposal is implemented
In Nova Scotia, for example, approximately 60% of specialist physicians practice in group medical structures. If the federal government applies this taxation proposal to group medical structures, these physicians will face an immediate 17.5% increase in taxation. In doing so, the federal government will establish a strong incentive for these physicians to move away from team-based practice to solo practice. If this comes to pass, the federal government may be responsible for triggering a reorganization of medical practice in Nova Scotia.
Finance Canada Grossly Underestimating the Net Impact
The CMA is aware that Finance Canada has developed theoretical scenarios that demonstrate a minimal impact to incorporated physicians within group medical structures. Working closely with our subsidiary, MD Financial Management, the CMA submitted real financial scenarios from real financial information provided to the CMA from incorporated physicians in group medical structures. These real examples demonstrate that there will be a significant impact to incorporated physicians in group medical structures, if this federal tax proposal will apply to them.
The theoretical scenarios developed by Finance Canada conclude the net financial impact to an incorporated physician in a group medical structure would be in the magnitude of hundreds of dollars. In stark contrast to the theoretical scenarios developed by Finance Canada, the CMA submitted financial scenarios of two incorporated physicians in group medical structures. The financial calculations undertaken by the CMA is based on the real financial information of these two physicians. The examples revealed yearly net reduction of funds of $32,510 and $18,065 for each of these physicians respectively.
Projecting forward, for the first physician, this would represent a negative impact of $402,330 based on a 20-year timeframe and 4.8% rate of return1. Extending the same assumptions to all incorporated members of that physician’s group medical structure, the long-term impact for the group would be $39.4 million.2
1 Source: MD Financial Management
2 Please note that these projections have not been adjusted for the inherent tax liability on the growth.
3 Source: MD Financial Management
4 Please note that these projections have not been adjusted for the inherent tax liability on the growth.
For the second physician, projecting forward, this would represent a negative impact of $223,565, based on a 20-year timeframe and 4.8% rate of return3. Extending the same assumptions to all incorporated members of that physician’s group medical structure, the long-term impact for the group would be $13.4 million.4
Unprecedented Level of Concern Expressed by Physicians
Following the publication of the 2016 federal budget, the CMA received a significant volume of correspondence from its membership expressing deep concern with the proposal to alter access to the small business deduction for group medical structures. The level of correspondence from our membership is quite simply unprecedented in our almost 150 year history.
As part of the CMA’s due diligence as the national professional organization representing physicians, we informed our membership of Finance Canada’s consultation process on the draft legislative measures. In response, the CMA was copied on submissions by over 1,300 physicians to Finance Canada’s pre-legislative consultation.
In follow up, the CMA surveyed these physicians to better understand the impacts of the budget proposal. Here’s what we heard:
. Most respondents (61%) indicated that their group structure would dissolve;
. Most respondents (54%) said they would stop practicing in their group structure and that other partners would leave (76%);
. A large majority (78%) indicated that the tax proposal would lead to reduced investments in medical research by their group;
. Almost 70% indicated that the tax proposal would limit their ability to provide medical training spots; and,
. Another 70% indicated that the tax proposal will mean reduced specialty care by their group.
The full summary of the survey is provided as an appendix to this brief.
To further illustrate the risks of this proposal to health care, below are excerpts from some of the communiques received by the CMA from its membership:
. “Our Partnership was formed in the 1970s…The mission of the Partnership is to achieve excellence in patient care, education and research activities….there would be a serious adverse effect on retention and recruitment if members do not have access to the full small business deduction…The changes will likely result in pressure to dissolve the partnership and revert to the era of departments services by independent contractors with competing individual financial interests.” Submitted to the CMA April 15, 2016 from a member of the Anesthesia Associates of the Ottawa Hospital General Campus
. “The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is an academic health care institution dedicated to patient care, research and medical education…To support what we call our “academic mission,” cardiologists at the institute have formed an academic partnership…If these [taxation] changes go forward they will crippled the ability of groups such as ours to continue to function and will have a dramatic negative impact on medical education, innovative health care research, and the provision of high-quality patient care to our sickest patients.” Submitted to the CMA April 19, 2016 from a member of the Associates in Cardiology
. “We are a general partnership consisting of 93 partners all of whom are academic anesthesiologists with appointments to the Faculty of the University of Toronto and with clinical appointments at the University Health Network, Sinai Health System or Women’s College Hospital…In contrast to traditional business partnerships, we glean no business advantage whatsoever from being in a partnership…the proposed legislation in Budget 2016 seems unfair in that it will add another financial hardship to our partners – in our view, this is a regressive tax on research, teaching and innovation.” Submitted to the CMA April 14, 2016 from members of the UHN-MSH Anesthesia Associates
The CMA recommends that the federal government exempt group medical and health care delivery from the proposed changes to s.125 of the Income Tax Act regarding multiplication of access to the small business deduction, as proposed in Section 44 of Bill C-29, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2.
Below is a proposed legislative amendment to ensure group medical structures are exempted from Section 44 of Bill C-29, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2:
Section 125 of the Act is amended by adding the following after proposed subsection 125(9):
125(10) Interpretation of designated member – [group medical partnership] – For purposes of this section, in determining whether a Canadian-controlled private corporation controlled directly or indirectly in any manner whatever by one or more physicians or a person that does not deal at arm's length with a physician is a designated member of a particular partnership in a taxation year, the term "particular partnership" shall not include any partnership that is a group medical partnership.
125(11) Interpretation of specified corporate income – [group medical corporation] – For purposes of this section, in determining the specified corporate income for a taxation year of a corporation controlled directly or indirectly in any manner whatever by one or more physicians or a person that does not deal at arm's length with a physician, the term "private corporation" shall not include a group medical corporation.
Subsection 125(7) of the Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
"group medical partnership" means a partnership that:
(a) is controlled, directly or indirectly in any manner whatever, by one or more physicians or a person that does not deal at arm's length with a physician; and
(b) earns all or substantially all of its income for the year from an active business of providing services or property to, or in relation to, a medical practice;
"group medical corporation" means a corporation that:
(a) is controlled, directly or indirectly in any manner whatever, by one or more physicians or a person that does not deal at arm's length with a physician; and
(b) earns all or substantially all of its income for the year from an active business of providing services or property to, or in relation to, a medical practice.
"medical practice" means any practice and authorized acts of a physician as defined in provincial or territorial legislation or regulations and any activities in relation to, or incidental to, such practice and authorized acts;
"physician" means a health care practitioner duly licensed with a provincial or territorial medical regulatory authority and actively engaged in practice;
Incorporation Survey, October 2016
*Totals may exceed 100% as respondents were allowed to select more than one response
% Distribution by Province of Practice
Academic health sciences centre
Private office / clinic
Emergency department (in community hospital or AHSC)
Community clinic/Community health centre
Non-AHSC teaching hospital
Free-standing lab/diagnostic clinic
Free-standing walk-in clinic
Nursing home/ Long term care facility / Seniors' residence
Administrative office / Corporate office
% Distribution by Work Setting
Most frequently mentioned hospitals where respondents work in group medical structures
Group medical structure will dissolve
Stop practice in your group medical structure
Partnering members leave the group medical
Reduced investments in medical research
Reduced medical training spots
Reduced provision of specialized care
Physicians perceptions about the likelihood of the following outcomes
Likely or very likely
Unlikely or very unlikely
The federal government is advancing a tax proposal that will alter access to the small business deduction. If implemented, this proposal will affect incorporated physicians practicing in partnership group medical structures. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is actively advocating for the federal government to exempt group medical structures from the application of this tax proposal.
Importance of Exempting Group Medical Structures from the Tax Proposal
Important or very important
Unimportant or very unimportant
To support the effectiveness of its advocacy efforts, the CMA conducted an online survey seeking input from members who had voiced their concerns about this issue directly with the Department of Finance and who had copied the CMA on their submissions.
Sample: physician type, province, and work setting
The survey was sent to 1089 CMA members, of which 174 responded (15.9% response rate). All sample respondents were incorporated and practiced in a group medical structure; 26% were family physicians (N=45) and 74% were specialists (N=129). Most respondents indicated practicing primarily in Ontario (65%) and Alberta (13%).
With respect to practice settings, the majority reported working in an academic health sciences centre (65%), followed by a private office/clinic (28%), university (22%), community hospital (15%), emergency department (9%), community clinic/community
health centre (8%), non-AHSC teaching hospital (8%), research unit (6%), and free-standing lab/diagnostic clinic (6%).
In total, respondents worked in 79 hospitals spread around 36 cities.
Likelihood of outcomes resulting from the federal tax proposal
When asked about the possible consequences of the proposed changes, the largest share of respondents (78%) felt a reduction in investments in medical research was likely or very likely. Almost as many (76%) also felt that partnering members would likely leave the group medical structure.
. Most respondents (61%) indicated that their group medical structure would be likely or very likely to dissolve if the federal tax proposal to change access to the small business deduction was implemented. Less than one-third (30%) felt unsure while only a few (9%) reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
. More than half of respondents (54%) indicated that they would be likely or very likely to stop practicing in their group medical structure if the tax proposal was implemented. More than one-third (36%) were unsure while only a few (10%) reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
. More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) indicated that other partnering members would be likely or very likely to leave their group medical structure if the tax proposal was implemented. About 20% remained unsure while only 5% reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
. Almost 8 in 10 respondents (78%) indicated that implementing the tax proposal would be likely or very likely to reduce investments in medical research for their group medical structure. 16% remained unsure while 6% reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
. Approximately two-thirds of respondents (67%) indicated that implementing the tax proposal would be likely or very likely to reduce the ability of the group medical structure to provide medical training spots. About a quarter (23%) remained unsure and 1 in 10 reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
. Almost 7 in 10 respondents (68%) indicated that implementing the tax proposal would be likely or very likely to reduce provision of specialized care by their group medical structure. Almost a quarter (24%) remained unsure while 8% reported it as unlikely or very unlikely.
Importance of exempting group medical structures from the tax proposal
More than 9 in 10 respondents (94%) felt that it is important or very important for the federal government to exempt group medical structures from the tax proposal to avoid negatively affecting health care delivery in their province. The remaining respondents were unsure (2%) or considered it unimportant or very unimportant (4%).
Other Impacts – Write-in Question
Before submitting the survey, respondents were given the chance to provide additional comments about other potential impacts that the proposed changes might produce. Most responses touched upon a few and inter-related themes, including:
1. Impact on education and research will be detrimental and will eventually affect patient care:
o “Without the group medical structure, we cannot adequately support teaching education and research activities. Physicians in academic health sciences centres will be forced to use their time to see patients, in order to bill fee-for-service to make a living. Very little time will be left over to
spend doing the research that is critical to advancing medical science, to supporting our university, and our nation’s prominent place in the world of medicine”
o “Support is given to the academic health sciences centres by the provincial government in order to facilitate research and education. The federal government's changes will penalize physicians who already dedicate much of their time to providing the stepping stones to advance medicine forward. These physicians generally make less income than physicians working in private practice. They are willing to take this monetary hit because they love what they do. However we all need to support our families and put food on the table. With the government's changes, this may not be possible in the current system, and these group medical structures will need to be dissolved and the physicians working will have much less time to dedicate to research and education.”
o “Less education, research activity to focus on fee-for-service procedures to compensate for higher taxes.”
o Our ability to provide teaching for medical education and research, which are currently not remunerated, would be curtailed. There would be no incentive but rather a significant disincentive to provide these activities because we would be financially penalized compared to physicians in the same specialty that are not in group medical structures.”
o “As the main teaching practice structure, we will lose full time faculty who provide the backbone to the program. They currently earn much below the average for Family Physicians in the province and our ability to support education and research will be compromised.”
2. Discourages practice in academic centres:
o “Working in an academic center as a general pediatrician means that we already make substantially less money than our community colleagues. There is very little incentive to remain in academic practice if we not only earn less, but are then not entitled to the same tax savings. I would leave academic practice and I suspect many of my colleagues would as well. I think we could see the end of the current group medical structure, as it would no longer support a financially viable model for academic practice.”
o “Creates a further divide between working in an academic centre and in the community. It will continue to be more advantageous to work in a smaller community - more money, less cost of living, less administrative and academic hassles, less research funding. Why bother working at an academic centre with such disadvantages.”
o “This policy seems to target academic physicians in groups disproportionately. These physicians currently support research and education by reallocating our own funds generated from clinical care. It is puzzling as to why the Federal Government is waging this war on the academic physician workforce.”
3. Physician retention and recruitment will be challenging:
o “I will retire sooner than otherwise.”
o “At the present time it is very difficult to recruit family doctors who are interested in teaching, research and administration of academic family medicine. This tax change will make it increasingly more difficult to recruit such individuals.”
o “I'm concerned that the proposed changes erase any benefits from a corporation structure and leave me with a loss. Work is so stressful and demanding that if I find myself in a disadvantaged situation financially as well, this would be another factor encouraging me either to retire or move outside of Canada. If I'm going to be faced with losses and more stress, why not instead focus on my quality of life instead?”
o “It would severely restrict our ability to recruit research and specialty physicians. We would not be able to compete with community centres and would see a dramatic decline in our ability to provide for teaching and research activities now funded through the group structure.”
o “I am a dual citizen and would seriously entertain moving to the USA.”
o “It will basically force me to go to a free standing walk in clinic.”
o “It would be less likely to recruit the best quality of medical staff to academic practice as there will be a significant financial disincentive, especially compared to what that same individual could earn on their own
in a community practice. This is on top of the fact that academic practitioners tend to earn less to start with.”
4. Discourages team-based collaborative care:
o “The bill sets up an unfair system where it is more attractive to be a solo MD rather than to collaborate and be part of a team.”
o “This creates an every person for themselves philosophy.”
o “The provision of our group services is required to ensure best patient care. It is wrong to penalize this model of comprehensive care.”
5. Practice will close and services will be limited in certain areas:
o “Any reduction in research, administration, academic activity, and members would affect patient care at our facility and therefore be a threat to patient safety. e.g., if multiple physicians leave, then we won't have enough physicians to cover the emergency department appropriately, wait times will increase, and serious patient safety concerns will arise.”
o “Reduces productivity of the doctors concerned and hence quality of service provided. Access will also be affected!”
o This would be unattractive for some, and they may leave (or others may not join.) If partners leave, the overhead will go up and we would likely close. Because our overhead is already borderline unacceptable. Shared between fewer docs would make it economically impossible. And this could easily happen if docs leave.
o “Reduced physician coverage if members opt out of group medical structure, which would have an impact on greater access and the quality of care.”
o “Our ability to have a large interdisciplinary team to assist in serving our patients could not continue to exist. Our ability to continue to provide 24/7 on-call and after hours clinics would decrease due to a change in the structure leading to less practitioners.”
On behalf of 83,000 physician members, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes this opportunity to provide input to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce study on internal barriers to trade. For the purposes of this brief, an internal barrier to trade is any regulation or policy that restricts mobility or otherwise creates a perverse incentive for mobility.
Basic Facts on the Canadian Physician Workforce
The physician workforce in Canada has always been a mobile one. As of January 2016, just over one in four (26%) licensed physicians who graduated from one of Canada’s 17 medical schools was practising in a different province from the one where they obtained their medical degree.1 It might be added that only 8 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories have medical schools. Another important dimension of mobility is the fact that Canada continues to rely to a significant degree on the medical services provided by International Medical Graduates (IMGs). Presently, IMGs represent 24% of practising physicians in Canada, and this figure has remained steady over the past two decades (and previously) despite significant increases in medical enrolment.1 A key reason for this dependence is that Canada trains fewer physicians relative to population than other developed countries. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2013, Canada ranked 28th out of 34 member countries in terms of medical graduates per 100,000 population; at 7.5 graduates per 100,000, Canada was one-third below the OECD average of 11.1.2 Another key consideration of the physician workforce in Canada is that beyond the tuition that medical students pay at the undergraduate level, it is virtually exclusively publicly funded. By way of illustration, in 2012, 99% of physician professional incomes came from the public purse in Canada, compared to an average of 72% for the 22 OECD countries for which data were available.3
1 Canadian Medical Association Physician Masterfile, January 2016.
2 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD Health Statistics, 2015. http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=HEALTH_REAC. Accessed 05/05/16.
3 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD. Stat. Accessed 05/05/16.
4 Internal Trade Secretariat. Agreement on Internal Trade. http://www.ait-aci.ca/agreement-on-internal-trade/. Accessed 05/05/16.
5 Federation of Medical Licensing Authorities of Canada, Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, Medical Council of Canada. Licensure, postgraduate training and the Qualifying Examination. Can Med Assoc J 1992;146(3):345.
6 Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada. Model standards for medical registration in Canada. Ottawa, 2016.
7 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources. Report of the Canadian Task Force on Licensure of International Medical Graduates. Ottawa, 2004.
8 Medical Council of Canada. Practice-ready assessment. http://mcc.ca/about/collaborations-and-special-projects/practice-ready-assessment/. Accessed 05/08/16.
9 Canadian Heritage. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/CH37-4-3-2002E.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
10 Canada. Canada Health Act R.S.C., 1985, c. C-6. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C-6.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
11 Canadian Institute for Health Informaiton. Prescribed drug spending in Canada, 2013: a focus on public drug programs. https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/Prescribed%20Drug%20Spending%20in%20Canada_2014_EN.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
National Standards for Eligibility for Licensure
The medical profession was well out in front of the 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and its objective in Chapter Seven of eliminating or reducing measures maintained by the provinces and territories that restrict or impair labour mobility in Canada.4 In 1992, the Federation of
Medical Licensing Authorities of Canada, the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges and the Medical Council of Canada adopted a standard for portable eligibility of licensure in all provinces except Quebec.5 When the AIT was revisited in the late 2000s, the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) worked on the development of an agreement on national standards that was endorsed in all jurisdictions in 2009. This has continued to evolve, and presently, the Model Standards for Medical Registration in Canada set out the:
. Canadian standard for full licensure;
. route from a provisional license to a full license (which would apply to most IMGs that do not come through the post-MD system in Canada); and
. requirements for provisional licensure.6
The result of this effort is that the number of different medical licences in Canada has been reduced from more than 140 to fewer than 5.
Since the early 2000s the federal government has played a strong leadership role in assisting the professions to come into compliance with the labour mobility provisions of the AIT. In the case of the medical profession, the key issue has been the mobility of IMGs. In 2002, the federally funded Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources established the Task Force on Licensure of International Medical Graduates, which brought together representatives from national and provincial/territorial health ministries, medical regulatory and certifying bodies and medical schools with a mandate to aid in the integration of IMGs into the Canadian medical workforce. The recommendations in the 2004 final report of the Task Force essentially set out a workplan that has resulted in considerable progress on several initiatives.7
Federal funding through programs such as Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Foreign Credential Recognition Program and Health Canada’s Internationally Educated Health Care Professional Program, in addition to significant investments by the medical bodies themselves, has contributed to several successful initiatives on the part of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) and FMRAC and its provincial/territorial members. These have included:
. $3.5 million from Health Canada to MCC to develop programs to facilitate the integration of IMGs into the physician workforce such as the National Assessment Collaboration examination, a standardized examination that assesses the readiness of an IMG for entrance into the Canadian post-MD training system;
. $8.4 million from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada/ESDC to MCC to streamline and standardize the processes of application for medical licensure and to
develop physiciansapply.ca, a single electronic web-based application process for registration with each of the 13 medical regulatory authorities; and
. $6.7 million from ESDC to MCC to develop a more flexible MCC Qualifying Examination Part I that can be administered internationally, which will enable IMGs thinking of immigrating to Canada to assess whether they have one of the requirements for full licensure.
The work to date has contributed significantly to the integration of IMGs but much remains to be done. Many IMGs enter practice in Canada without entering the post-MD system through a process of provisional licensure. One process that jurisdictions have developed over the past decade to facilitate this route to practice is called Practice Ready Assessment (PRA). PRA is an assessment process to determine if an IMG is able to provide safe medical care to the Canadian public under provisional licensure. This consists of a period of practice under supervised direct observation of a licensed physician in a clinical setting with patients. This has the advantage of expediting the process of assessment to approximately 12 weeks versus 2+ years in a residency program. To the present, PRA programs have been developing in a non-standardized way across jurisdictions. With support from Health Canada, an initiative is underway at the MCC with collaboration from FMRAC, the regulatory bodies, the certifying colleges and provincial IMG assessment programs to develop a pan-Canadian PRA program.8 The goal of this program is to address pan-Canadian specialty areas of need, including family medicine, psychiatry and internal medicine. The elements of this program will include:
. IMG candidate orientation to the Canadian health care context;
. identification of core competency for each specialty;
. clinical assessor training;
. standardized assessment tools; and
This initiative is presently in the implementation phase, and the plan includes development of additional work-based assessment tools.i
i For further information contact MCC – www.mcc.ca or FMRAC – www.fmrac.ca
Recommendation one: The Canadian Medical Association recommends that the federal government continue to support the Medical Council of Canada and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada in the implementation of a pan-Canadian Practice Ready Assessment Program for International Medical Graduates and the development of work-based assessment tools.
Mobility and Medicare
The right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to move freely and pursue a livelihood in any jurisdiction is set out in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.9 This is supported in the objectives of the AIT that refer to an “open domestic market” and “free movement of persons”. 4
This is certainly the spirit in which Canada’s Medicare program was established, beginning in the 1950s, and which has now come to be regarded as a much-cherished basic right by Canadians. The preamble of the 1984 Canada Health Act (CHA) includes the objective “to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers”, and portability of health insurance from one jurisdiction to another is one of five criteria for eligibility for federal funding (subject to a three month waiting period in which benefits are paid for by the originating jurisdiction).10 However, the letter of the CHA defines insured health services as “hospital services, physician services and surgical-dental services provided to insured services”10 and that is how it continues to be interpreted by the provinces and territories. An issue that has been identified in many recent reports is the uneven access to prescription drugs. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has estimated that in 2014, the federal and provincial governments accounted for 42% of prescription drug spending, with the majority accounted for by private insurance (36%) or out-of-pocket (22%) spending.11
There is wide variation in public per capita spending on prescription drugs across the provinces. In 2015, CIHI has estimated that expenditure ranged from $219 in British Columbia and $256 in Prince Edward Island (PEI) to $369 in Saskatchewan and $441 in Quebec.12 Even more striking variation is evident when looking at household out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs by income quintile. Statistics Canada’s 2014 Survey of Household Spending shows that the poorest one-fifth (lowest income quintile) of PEI households spent more than twice as much ($645) on prescription drugs than the poorest one-fifth in Ontario ($300).13 Aside from overall differences in public spending, there are also differences in which drugs are covered, particularly in the case of cancer drugs. For example, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada reported in 2014 that in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, cancer drugs that must be taken in a hospital setting and are on the provincial formulary are fully funded by the provincial government; if the drug is taken outside of hospital (oral or injectable), however, the patient and family may have to pay significant costs out-of-pocket.14 More generally, the Canadian Cancer Society has reported that persons moving from one province to another may find that a drug covered in their former province may not be covered in the new one. 15
12 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National Health Expenditure Database 1975 to 2015. Table A.3.1.1. https://www.cihi.ca/en/spending-and-health-workforce/spending/national-health-expenditure-trends. Accessed 05/08/14.
13 Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 2013-0026 Survey of household spending (SHS), household spending, by age of reference person. Accessed 03/27/16.
14 Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada. 2014-15 Report Card on Cancer in Canada. http://www.canceradvocacy.ca/reportcard/2014/Report%20Card%20on%20Cancer%20in%20Canada%202014-2015.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
15 Canadian Cancer society. Cancer drug access for Canadians. http://www.colorectal-cancer.ca/IMG/pdf/cancer_drug_access_report_en.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
16 Ipsos Reid. Supplementary health benefits research. Final report, 2012.
17 Conference Board of Canada. Federal policy action to support the health care needs of Canada’s aging population. https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/conference-board-rep-sept-2015-embargo-en.pdf. Accessed 05/08/16.
18 Hall E. Canada’s national-provincial health program for the 1980’s ‘A commitment for renewal’. 1980.
19 Canada. Statutes of Canada 2012 Chapter 19. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/2012_19.pdf.
20 Canadian Medical Association. Submission to the Minister of Finance: Small Business Perspectives of Medical Practice in Canada. https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-medical-practice-as-small-business-march-17-2016.pdf
Another consequence of the “patchwork quilt” of prescription drug coverage in Canada is the potential for “job lock” among those with employer sponsored benefits. Research carried out by Ipsos Reid for the CMA in 2012 among Canadian adults found that 51% of respondents had employer-sponsored supplementary benefits, with almost all of them reporting prescription drug coverage. Among those with employer benefits, just over four in 10 (42%) indicated that their employer benefits program would be a factor in whether or not they would switch jobs.16
Uneven access to and coverage of prescription drugs across Canada raises two concerns with respect to population mobility. On one hand, there could be a temptation to move to another jurisdiction with better access and coverage, and on the other, there could be a reluctance to move to another jurisdiction for fear of lesser access and coverage. Uncertainty about health care coverage should not be a factor in Canadians’ decisions about where they choose to live and work.
One concrete step that the federal government could take to mitigate these concerns would be to introduce a program of drug coverage that would cap high out-of-pocket drug costs for individual Canadians. In 2015, the Conference Board of Canada conducted research for the CMA to estimate the cost of a drug program that would cover prescription drug costs that are greater than either $1,500 per year or 3% of household income (so-called catastrophic costs). They estimated that this would cost the federal government $1.6 billion in 2016.17
Recommendation two: As a positive step toward comprehensive, universal coverage for prescription medication, the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the federal government establish a new program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication.
The Canada Health Act and Physician Mobility
In his 1979 review of the Medicare program that led to the CHA, Justice Emmett Hall clearly recognized the power imbalance of the shift to an exclusive public payer for physician services, stating “I reject totally the idea that physicians must accept what any given Province may decide unilaterally to pay. I reject too, as I did in the report of the Royal Commission, the concept of extra-billing.”
Justice Hall’s recommended solution to this imbalance was provision for that “when negotiations fail and an impasse occurs, the issues in dispute must be sent to binding arbitration, to an arbitration board consisting of three persons, with an independent chairperson to be named by the chief justice of the relevant Province and one nominee from the profession and one from the Government”.18
Provision for reasonable compensation was built into the CHA in sections 12 (1) and (2). In most jurisdictions, bargaining disputes between the government and the medical association over
the amounts that physicians should be paid are subject to a binding dispute resolution mechanism that includes some form of arbitration, as Justice Hall envisioned. However, in Ontario, the physicians have been without a contract since March 31, 2014, and Nova Scotia has given Royal Assent to, but not yet proclaimed the Public Services Sustainability (2015) Act, which suspends the right of the medical association (Doctors Nova Scotia) to arbitration.
As noted in the basic facts enumerated above, Canadian physicians are highly mobile, but they should not be motivated to move on the basis of unfair treatment by the government, as is currently the case in Ontario. There is recent precedent for amending the CHA. In 2012, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act amended the CHA to remove members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from the list of exclusions of insured persons.19
Recommendation three: The Canadian Medical Association recommends that Section 12(2) of the Canada Health Act be amended to require:
(a) Provincial and territorial governments to enter into an agreement with the provincial/territorial organization(s) that represent(s) practising medical practitioners in the province; and
(b) The settlement of disputes relating to compensation through, at the option of the provincial/territorial organization(s) referred to in paragraph (a), conciliation or binding arbitration that is equally representative of the provincial/territorial organization(s) and the province/territory and that has an independent chairperson, to satisfy the “reasonable compensation” criterion in s. 12(1)(c) of the Act for full federal funding.
Incorporation Eligibility and Access to the Small Business Deduction
A significant proportion of Canada’s physicians are self-employed, small business owners, whose medical practices are incorporated as Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs). The ability to incorporate and access to the small business taxation rate play an important role in the allocation of resources in Canada’s health care system.
As explained in the CMA’s recent submission to the Minister of Finance20, incorporation eligibility for medical professionals has been advanced by provincial governments to support the achievement of health policy objectives and, in part, to level the playing field with other self-employed individuals.
The CMA strongly welcomed the federal government’s recognition in the budget of the contribution of health care practitioners as small businesses. However, the CMA has significant concerns with the proposed amendments (clause 54 of the Notice of Ways and Means Motion
to Amend the Income Tax Act and Other Tax Legislation) to alter eligibility to the small business deduction. It is not clear whether these measures will impact group medical structures.
The results of a recent survey by the CMA of its membership confirms that the CCPC framework provides a critical tax equity measure that recognizes the unique challenges they face as small business owners and is critical to the operation of the practice model, particularly supporting community-based care. In some cases, the practice model is only economical within this framework. An important fact is that unlike other small business owners, physicians cannot pass on any increases in compliance or operating costs to patients, given the design of Canada’s public health care system. Of significance to the committee’s study on internal trade, approximately 26% of survey respondents indicated that they would be very or somewhat likely to relocate to another provincial/territorial jurisdiction (26%) or to the U.S. or another country (22%) if they were no longer able to incorporate under the CCPC framework.
Recommendation four: Given the potential for negative unintended consequences, such as rendering group medical structures economically unviable or introducing perverse incentives for mobility, particularly out of country, the Canadian Medical Association strongly encourages the federal government to provide clarification regarding the 2016 budget measures with regard to the Canadian-Controlled Private Corporation framework.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canada's doctors, representing more than 83,000 physicians across all regions in the country. With this brief, the CMA provides a portrait of medical practice as small businesses in Canada. A significant proportion of Canada's physicians are self-employed, small business owners, whose medical practices are incorporated as Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs).
Reflecting the significance of the CCPC framework to medical practice in Canada, the CMA strongly supports the federal government's commitment to reduce the small business taxation rate from 11% to 9%. However, the CMA has been concerned with some statements regarding the incorporation of professionals. In response to the federal government's statement, the CMA has received a significant volume of correspondence from its membership; unprecedented in our almost 150 year history.
Presented within this brief are the results of a survey undertaken by the CMA to explore physician incorporation. The survey was distributed to a sample of 25,000 physicians on Dec. 21, 2015 and closed on Jan. 8, 2016 with a response rate of 9%.
Among the key findings of the CMA's survey on incorporation was that more than 8 out of 10 respondents indicated that they were incorporated and reported an average of 2 full-time employees in their professional corporation, including themselves. When part-time employees where included, this increased to an average of 3 employees. Survey respondents confirmed that physician gross (pre-tax) salary is not representative of net salary; where overhead expenses were reported to be 29%, on average, of gross (pre-tax) professional income. Of note, there have been several studies at the provincial level that specifically researched overhead expenses; these studies found average overage expenses to exceed 40% of gross salary.
The results of the CMA's survey confirms that the CCPC framework provides a critical tax equity measure that recognizes the unique challenges they face as small business owners and critical to the operation of the practice model, particularly supporting community-based care. In some cases, the practice model is only economical within this framework. An important fact is that unlike other small business owners, physicians cannot pass on any increases in compliance or operating costs to patients, given the design of Canada's public health care system.
When asked to consider the likelihood of various actions they may take should the federal government alter the CCPC framework, a large majority (75%) of the respondents indicated that they would be very or somewhat likely to take one or more of these actions:
* more than half (54%) of practicing physicians said that they would be very or somewhat likely to reduce the number of hours worked;
* 42% would be very or somewhat likely to reduce office staff; and,
* about one quarter indicated that they would be very or somewhat likely to pursue other measures such as closing their practice and retiring (24%) or relocating their practice to another provincial/territorial jurisdiction (26%) or to the U.S. or another country (22%).
This brief also highlights the policy imperative for extending incorporation to medical professionals. As captured in Ontario's 2000 budget document, it is "to level the playing field with other self-employed individuals who can choose whether to operate their businesses through a corporation".1
Finally, the CMA's core recommendation to the federal government is to maintain tax equity for medical professionals by affirming its commitment to the existing framework governing Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canada's doctors. The CMA is the voluntary professional organization representing more than 83,000 physicians across all regions in Canada and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and more than 60 national medical organizations. The CMA's mission is helping physicians care for patients.
The purpose of this brief is to provide an overview of medical practice as small businesses in Canada. As is discussed herein, a significant proportion of Canada's physicians are self-employed, small business owners, whose medical practices are incorporated as Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs). As such, the CMA strongly supports the federal government's commitment to reduce the small business taxation rate from 11% to 9%, as outlined in the mandate letter for the Minister of Small Business and Tourism.2
1) Most Physicians are Small Business Owners
Canada's physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to the knowledge economy. In light of the design of Canada's health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners.
More than 8 out of 10 respondents to the CMA's survey indicated that they were incorporated; 81% indicated that they were incorporated individually while 4% indicated they were incorporated in a group. Nationally, it is estimated that approximately 60% of physicians are incorporated.3
Physician-owned and run medical practices ensure that Canadians are able to access the care they need, as close to their homes as possible. In doing so, Canadian physicians are directly and indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, and invest millions of dollars in local communities.
Respondents to the CMA's survey on incorporation reported an average of 2 full-time employees in their professional corporation, including themselves. When part-time employees where included, this increased to an average of 3 employees. In operating their medical practices, Canada's physicians rent, lease or own office space and further contribute to local economies through municipal taxes on these properties.
Like other self-employed small business owners, physicians typically do not have access to pensions or health benefits. In addition, as employers, physicians are responsible for the provision of payroll taxes and benefits for their employees.
2) Increased Cost-Burden for Canada's Doctors
Canada's physicians face unique, additional financial and personal burdens in owning and operating medical practices in comparison with other small businesses. First, amongst Canada's small business owners4, Canada's physicians are highly skilled and trained professionals. On average, physicians enter the workforce at a later age with significant debt from education. The average age that family physicians enter practice is over 30 years and over 33 years for specialists.5
The 2013 National Physician Survey explored the issue of debt levels. It found that the proportion of medical students expecting debt of $100,000 or more doubled from 15% in 2004 to 30% in 2012.6 Further, a third of medical residents expect debt to be over $100,000 and 19% expect debt to exceed $160,000 before entering practice.7
For Canada's doctors, the high level of education-related debt and the later age they are able to initiate professional earnings represents a significant challenge for personal financial planning, notably retirement planning.
Second, it is not well known that physician gross (pre-tax) salary is not representative of net salary. In addition to the expenses of running a medical practice, such as salaries and rent, physicians have a range of professional fees that are required by regulation to be submitted. According to the respondents to the CMA's survey on incorporation, these overhead expenses were reported to be 29%, on average, of gross (pre-tax) professional income. Of note, there have been several studies at the provincial level that specifically researched overhead expenses; these studies found average overage expenses to exceed 40% of gross salary.8
Finally, unlike most small business owners, as providers within a public health care systems, Canada's physicians cannot pass on any cost increases associated with operating their medical practice. The majority of physician remuneration in Canada is through "fee-for-service" systems9 whereby fees for insured physician services10 are set by the province following negotiations with the provincial medical association. Any increases in the cost of operating a medical practice, including changes in taxation, would be borne by the physician directly, as would the potential additional resource burden incurred in responding to a change to the CCPC regulatory framework. It is not surprising then that one study found that "high-income, self-employed physicians are much more sensitive to the marginal tax rate than would be suggested by previous labor-supply studies".11
The results of the CMA's survey on incorporation with respect to personal financial planning highlight the concerns associated with the unique burdens facing physicians in operating a medical practice. A strong majority (92%) of respondents rated the ability to save for retirement as very important for personal financial planning. A majority (61%) of respondents indicated the ability to pay off debt and half (50%) indicated the ability to manage practice overhead costs as very important for personal financial planning.
3) Role of Incorporation for Ensuring Tax Equity for Medical Professional
As reviewed above, in light of the design of Canada's health care system, the majority of physicians are self-employed professionals and small business owners. Like other small business owners, physicians do not have access to pension and health benefits, despite investing in local communities and providing employment. Unlike other small business owners, physicians commence professional income later in life and carry high debt levels associated with education and training. In light of these significant considerations, the CCPC framework represents a measure of tax equity for Canada's physicians.
In Canada, the 12 jurisdictions have extended the ability to incorporate to medical professionals. As stated in Ontario's 2000 budget document, the underlying policy purpose of extending incorporation to medical professionals is "to level the playing field with other self-employed individuals who can choose whether to operate their businesses through a corporation".12
For self-employed professionals, incorporation offers many well recognized benefits. As highlighted by most taxation guidance, the application to the small business deduction and the ability to retain income in the corporation are significant benefits of incorporation for small businesses.13 For self-employed medical professionals without access to an employer pension or benefits, the ability to retain income in the corporation contributes to retirement and pension planning capabilities. Finally, the CCPC framework allows for income splitting with family members in almost all jurisdictions.
The CMA's survey on incorporation explored the benefits of the CCPC framework. The top rated benefit of incorporation was the ability for professional income to be taxed at the small business taxation rate, with 85% rating it as very important. In comparison, 60% of respondents indicated that income splitting with a family member was very important.
4) Changes to the CCPC Framework and Potential Unintended Consequences
As noted above, the federal government has committed to reducing the small business taxation rate from 11% to 9%. In recognition of the significant financial pressures managed by physicians owning and operating medical practices, the CMA strongly supports this commitment.
However, along with this commitment, the federal government has made concerning statements regarding professionals and the CCPC framework. While the federal government has not indicated a specific measure or timeline, the statements on their own have yielded significant uncertainty and concern. In response to the federal government's statement, the CMA has received a significant volume of correspondence from its membership; unprecedented in our almost 150 year history.
The CMA cannot emphasize enough the need for caution in considering changes to the CCPC framework. The CCPC framework and the ability of incorporated physicians to maintain access to the small business rate is fundamental to the business model for these medical practices. Changes to the framework could have real and far-reaching impacts. Beyond the immediate impact to a physician, employees of a medical practice, and the region the medical practice serves, depending on the scope of changes to the CCPC framework, impacts could be at the health-sector level, particularly in terms of shifting the delivery of care away from institutionalized care toward community-based care.
The physicians surveyed by the CMA were asked to consider the likelihood of various actions they may take should the federal government alter the CCPC framework. A large majority (75%) of the respondents indicated that they would be very or somewhat likely to take one or more of these actions:
* more than half (54%) of practicing physicians said that they would be very or somewhat likely to reduce the number of hours worked;
* 42% would be very or somewhat likely to reduce office staff; and,
* about one quarter indicated that they would be very or somewhat likely to pursue other measures such as closing their practice and retiring (24%) or relocating their practice to another provincial/territorial jurisdiction (26%) or to the U.S. or another country (22%).
The responses to the CMA's survey on incorporation align with the limited research available on this issue. In a study that explored the interprovincial migration of physicians confirmed that "the differences in real income have a positive and significant effect on a physician's decision to migrate from one province to another".14 Another study that explored the impacts of taxation on physicians, noted that "it has been demonstrated in the literature that physicians in higher-tax states work less on average".15 These studies emphasize the potential for unintended consequences should changes to the CCPC framework impact physician medical practice.
As outlined in this brief, the majority of Canada's doctors are self-employed, highly skilled professionals providing a critical health care contribution in communities across the country. For these physicians, the CCPC framework provides a critical tax equity measure that recognizes the unique challenges they face as small business owners. For the vast majority of incorporated physicians, the benefits of the CCPC framework are critical to the operation of the practice model, particularly supporting community-based care. In some cases, the practice model is only economical within this framework.
In light of the intrinsic role of the CCPC framework to medical practice, and therefore the provision of medical care in Canada, the CMA encourages significant caution in considering any potential changes to this framework. The CMA's core recommendation to the federal government is to maintain tax equity for medical professionals by affirming its commitment to the existing framework governing Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations.
1 Ontario Budget 2000 https://www.poltext.org/sites/poltext.org/files/discours/ON/ON_2000_B_37_01.pdf
2 Mandate Letter for the Minister of Small Business and Tourism http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-small-business-and-tourism-mandate-letter
3 CMA. 2014. Environmental Scan.
4 Industry Canada. Key Small Business Statistics 2013 https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/02814.html
5 Canadian Post M.D. Registry.
6 National Physician Survey http://nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/C3PR-Bulletin-StudentResidentDebt-201303-EN.pdf
7 National Physician Survey http://nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/C3PR-Bulletin-StudentResidentDebt-201303-EN.pdf
8 Alberta Medical Association. Setting the record straight on physician compensation. https://www.albertadoctors.org/Media%20PLs%202013/Feb1_2013_PL_Backgrounder.pdf and Ontario Medical Association. Payments to physicians and practice overhead expenses: separating facts from fiction in Ontario. https://www.oma.org/resources/documents/paymentsphysicians_pp18-19.pdf. and R.K. House & Associates Ltd. Executive Summary for the British Columbia Medical Association: 2005 Overhead Cost Study.
9 CIHI. Physicians in Canada, 2014: Summary Report. https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/Summary-PhysiciansInCanadaReport2014_EN-web.pdf
10 Health Canada. Canada Health Act Annual Report 2014-15. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pubs/cha-lcs/2015-cha-lcs-ar-ra/index-eng.php
11 Mark H. Showalter and Norman K. Thurston. Taxes and labor supply of high-income physicians. Journal of Public Economics 66 (1997) 73-97.
12 Ontario Budget 2000 https://www.poltext.org/sites/poltext.org/files/discours/ON/ON_2000_B_37_01.pdf
13 Manulife. The Professional's Option - Professional Incorporation. https://repsourcepublic.manulife.com/wps/wcm/connect/02b56600433c4887b94dff319e0f5575/ins_tepg_taxtopicproopt.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=02b56600433c4887b94dff319e0f5575
14 Michael Benarroch and Hugh Grant. The interprovincial migration of Canadian physicians: does income matter? Applied Economics, 2004, 36, 2335-2345.
15 Norman K. Thurston and Anne M. Libby. Taxes and Physicians Use of Ancillary Health Labor. The Journal of Human Resources, XXXV 2.