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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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CMA Pre-budget Submission

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14259
Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
RECOMMENDATION 1 That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care. RECOMMENDATION 2 That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians. RECOMMENDATION 3 That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit. RECOMMENDATION 4 That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs. RECOMMENDATIONS 3 Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now. We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system. While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens. The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients. Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing. The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system. The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians. INTRODUCTION 4 Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic. At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them. Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage. The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission. RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund 5 It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care. During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual. The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access. A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet. The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service. Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy. We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments. Pan-Canadian broadband expansion It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement. RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system 6 Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long. The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors. A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors. The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade. Seniors care benefit Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients. RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors 7 The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short. The CMA recommends the following measures: 1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program. 2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions. 3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member. RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers 8 Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic. Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system. CONCLUSION
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Protecting and supporting Canada’s health-care providers during COVID-19

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14260
Date
2020-03-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-03-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
Dear First Ministers: Re: Protecting and supporting Canada’s health-care providers during COVID-19 Given the rapidly escalating situation both globally and in our country, we know that the health and safety of all people and health-care providers in Canada is uppermost on your minds. We appreciate the measures that have been taken by all levels of government to minimize the spread of COVID-19. However, we must ensure those working directly with the public, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers, are properly protected and supported, so that they can continue to play their role in the response. First and foremost, we urge all levels of government to put measures in place to ensure the personal protective equipment that point-of-care providers require to deliver care safely throughout this outbreak is immediately deployed and ready to use. Coordinated measures and clear, consistent information and guidelines will ensure the appropriate protection of our health-care workforce. Given the increased pressure on point-of-care providers, we ask that all governments support them by providing emergency funding and support programs to assist them with childcare needs, wage losses due to falling ill or having to be quarantined, and support of their mental health needs both during and after the crisis has subsided. We also expect all governments to work together to provide adequate, timely, evidence-based information specifically for health-care providers. Clear, consistent and easily accessible guidance will enable them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively in times of crisis. This can and should be 1/2… done on various easily accessible platforms such as online resources, an app, or through the creation of a hotline. We know there will be challenges in deploying resources and funding, particularly around the supply of personal protective equipment. We ask that you consider any and all available options to support health-care providers through a coordinated effort both during and following this crisis. Our organizations look forward to continuing to work with you in these difficult times. If there is anything we can do to help your teams, you need only ask. Sincerely, Claire Betker, RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C) President, Canadian Nurses Association president@cna-aiic.ca Jan Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW President, Canadian Association of Social Workers kinanâskomitin (I’m grateful to you) Lea Bill, RN BScN President, Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association president@indigenousnurses.ca Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP President, Canadian Medical Association sandy.buchman@cma.ca
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Recommendations for Canada’s long-term recovery plan - open letter

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14262
Date
2020-08-27
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-08-27
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Re: Recommendations for Canada’s long-term recovery plan Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, We would like first to thank and commend you for your leadership throughout this pandemic. Your government’s efforts have helped many people in Canada during this unprecedented time and have prevented Canada from facing outcomes similar to those seen in other countries experiencing significant pandemic-related hardship and suffering. We are writing to you with recommendations as you develop a plan for Canada’s long-term recovery and the upcoming Speech from the Throne on September 23rd. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and amplified many healthcare shortfalls in Canada such as care for older adults and mental health-care. Added to that, the economic fallout is impacting employment, housing, and access to education. These social determinants of health contribute to and perpetuate inequality, which we see the pandemic has already exacerbated for vulnerable groups. Action is needed now to address these challenges and improve the health-care system to ensure Canada can chart a path toward an equitable economic recovery. To establish a foundation for a stronger middle class, Canada must invest in a healthier and fairer society by addressing health-care system gaps that were unmasked by COVID-19. We firmly believe that the measures we are recommending below are critical and should be part of your government’s long-term recovery plan: 1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness 2. Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups 3. Improve supports for Canada’s aging population 4. Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy 5. Improve access to primary care 6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program 7. Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals We know the months ahead will be challenging and that COVID-19 is far from over. As a nation, we have an opportunity now, with the lessons from COVID-19 still unfolding, to bring about essential transformations to our health-care system and create a safer and more equitable society. 1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness We commend you for your work with the provinces and territories to deliver the $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement as it will help, in the next six to eight months, to increase measures to protect frontline health-care workers and increase testing and contact tracing to protect Canadians against future outbreaks. Moving forward, as you develop a plan for Canada’s long-term recovery, we strongly recommend the focus remains in fighting the pandemic. Beyond the six to eight months rollout of the Safe Restart Agreement, it is critical that a long-term recovery plan includes provisions to ensure a consistent and reliable availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and large-scale capacity to conduct viral testing and contact tracing. 2.Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups The sudden acceleration in virtual care from home is a silver lining of the pandemic as it has enabled increased access to care, especially for many vulnerable groups. While barriers still exist, the role of virtual care should continue to be dramatically scaled up after COVID-19 and Canada must be cautious not to move backwards. Even before the pandemic, Canadians supported virtual care tools. In 2018, a study found that two out of three people would use virtual care options if available.i During the pandemic, 91% of Canadians who used virtual care reported being satisfied.ii We welcome your government’s $240 million investment in virtual health-care and we encourage that a focus be given to deploying technology and ensuring health human resources receive appropriate training in culturally competent virtual care. We also strongly recommend accelerating the current 2030 target to ensure every person in Canada has access to reliable, high-speed internet access, especially for those living in rural, remote, northern and Indigenous communities. 3.Improve supports for Canada’s aging population Develop pan-Canadian standards for the long-term care sector The pandemic has exposed our lack of preparation for managing infectious diseases anywhere, especially in the longterm care sector. The result is while just 20% of COVID-19 cases in Canada are in long-term care settings, they account for 80% of deaths — the worst outcome globally. Moreover, with no national standards for long-term care, there are many variations across Canada in the availability and quality of service.iii We recommend that you lead the development of pan-Canadian standards for equal access, consistent quality, and necessary staffing, training and protocols for the long-term care sector, so it can be delivered safely in home, community, and institutional settings, with proper accountability measures. Meet the health-care needs of our aging population Population aging will drive 20% of increases in health-care spending over the next years, which amounts to an additional $93 billion in spending.iv More funding will be needed to cover the federal share of health-care costs to meet the needs of older adults. This is supported by 88% of Canadians who believe new federal funding measures are necessary.v That is why we are calling on the federal government to address the rising costs of population aging by introducing a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer. This would enhance the ability of provinces and territories to meet the needs of Canada’s older adults and invest in long-term care, palliative care, and community and home care. 4.Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy Anti-Black racism exists in social structures across Canada. Longstanding, negative impacts of these structural determinants of health have created and continue to reinforce serious health and social inequities for racialized communities in Canada. The absence of race and ethnicity health-related data in Canada prevents identification of further gaps in care and health outcomes. But where these statistics are collected, the COVID-19 pandemic has exploited age-old disparities and led to a stark over-representation of Black people among its victims. We are calling for enhanced collection and analysis of race and ethnicity data as well as providing more funding under Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy to address identified health disparities and combat racism via community-led projects. 5. Improve access to primary care Primary care is the backbone of our health-care system. However, according to a 2019 Statistics Canada surveyvi, almost five million Canadians do not have a regular health care provider. Strengthening primary care through a teambased, interprofessional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada and the effectiveness of health service delivery. We recommend creating a one-time fund of $1.2 billion over four years to Page 3 of 4 expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory, with a special focus in remote and underserved communities, based on the Patient’s Medical Home visionvii. 6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program People across Canada, especially those who are vulnerable, require affordable access to prescription medications that are vital for preventing, treating and curing diseases, reducing hospitalization and improving quality of life. Unfortunately, more than 1 in 5 Canadians reported not taking medication because of cost concerns, which can lead to exacerbation of illness and additional health-care costs. We recommend a comprehensive, universal, public system offering affordable medication coverage that ensures access based on need, not the ability to pay. 7.Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals During the first wave of COVID-19, 47% of health-care workers reported the need for psychological support. They described feeling anxious, unsafe, overwhelmed, helpless, sleep-deprived and discouraged.viii Even before COVID- 19, nurses, for instance, were suffering from high rates of fatigue and mental health issues, including PTSD.ix Furthermore, health-care workers are at high risk for significant work-related stress that will persist long after the pandemic due to the backlog of delayed care. Immediate long-term investment in multifaceted mental health supports for health-care professionals is needed. We look forward to continuing to work with you and your caucus colleagues on transforming the health of people in Canada and the health system. Sincerely, Tim Guest, M.B.A., B.Sc.N., RN President Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) president@cna-aiic.ca Tracy Thiele, RPN, BScPN, MN, PhD(c) President Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses (CFMHN) tthiele@wrha.mb.ca Lori Schindel Martin, RN, PhD, GNC(C) President Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association (CGNA) lori.schindelmartin@ryerson.ca E. Ann Collins, BSc, MD President Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Ann.collins@cma.ca Miranda Ferrier President Canadian Support Workers Association (CANSWA) mferrier@opswa.com Dr. Cheryl L. Cusack RN, PhD President Community Health Nurses of Canada (CHNC) president@chnc.ca Lenora Brace, MN, NP President Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada (NPAC) president@npac-aiipc.org ~ r. Cheryl Cusack, RN PhD CC.: Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health Hon. Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
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Submission in Response to the Consultation on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: Keeping Medical Clinic Employees on the Payroll

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14258
Date
2020-06-05
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-06-05
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Submission in Response to the Consultation on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: Keeping Medical Clinic Employees on the Payroll June 5, 2020 Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMA has been actively engaged as part of Canada’s domestic response. In addition to our engagement on key public health issues such as the supply and distribution of personal protective equipment, the CMA has addressed physician practice needs, including releasing a Virtual Care Playbook to support the rapid conversion of medical practices to virtual care delivery. In the context of physician practices operating as small businesses, the CMA strongly supports the federal government’s emergency economic relief programs. Access to these programs is critical to the viability of many physician practices — and the ability of medical clinics across Canada to retain vital front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) and keep their doors open to continue serving the needs of their patient population. However, despite the dire need for these programs by medical professionals — who constitute a strategic resource and sector at the best of times, but particularly in a pandemic — presently, the CMA is concerned that many physicians are experiencing administrative barriers to accessing these critical federal support programs for their employees. This submission provides a briefing on physician practices and the need to access the CEWS, an overview of the technical and administrative factors impeding access, as well as proposed remedies to enable a rapid federal response. Physician Practices and Access to the CEWS While health care in Canada is predominantly publicly funded, it is primarily privately delivered. In Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Physician-owned and -run medical practices ensure that Canadians are able to access the health care they need, in communities across all jurisdictions. In doing so, Canadian physicians are directly responsible for 167,000 jobs across the country, contributing over $39 billion to Canada’s GDP. Including the expenses and overhead associated with running physician practices, nearly 289,000 jobs indirectly relate to physician practices. However, as much as physician practices resemble small businesses on the basis of key criteria like employing staff and paying rent, it is imperative to recognize that they are in fact core stewards of a substantial portion of Canada’s health care system and critical health system infrastructure. It is a national imperative to ensure the viability of such a core component of Canada’s health care system as our medical clinics and the staff they employ. To this end, both federal and provincial/territorial governments have a role in ensuring Canada’s medical clinics are there to serve the health care needs of Canadians, through the pandemic and beyond. Physician practices have experienced significant impacts related to changing volumes of patient care and delivery models of care in light of public health restrictions since the pandemic was declared on Mar. 11, 2020. The CMA commissioned an economic impact analysis to better understand the impacts across various practice settings. This analysis reveals that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario. Despite meeting the revenue reduction and employer eligibility factors, the CMA is concerned that many physicians are ineligible for the CEWS because of technical and administrative factors that are inconsistent with other existing federal legislative frameworks. The CMA conducted a survey of its membership between May 22 and June 1 to better understand physicians’ experiences accessing the federal economic relief programs; 3,730 physicians participated in this survey. Overall, about a third (32%) of physicians polled had attempted to apply to at least one of the federal programs available and 15% of all physicians who responded applied for the CEWS, making it the second most applied-to program. Of those physicians who applied to the CEWS, 60% were successful, 7% were denied and the remaining 33% were still awaiting response at the time of the survey. Of those who applied but were denied the CEWS, a third (33%) indicated it was because of their cost-sharing structure, 3% responded it was because they worked in a hospital-based setting and a further 22% simply didn’t know. Finally, as part of the survey, physicians shared comments that speak to the issues outlined in this brief. A few excerpts are below:
“We are a group of 4 surgeons and have a cost sharing agreement to pay our office expenses. Our office is outside of the hospital. We tried to apply for the CEWS but have recently received accounting advice supported by legal advice that cost sharing agreements will not be candidates for the CEWS. We are therefore presently exploring other options such as a work share situation or temporary/permanent layoffs.” CMA member, survey respondent
“I work in a group with 11 other OBGYNs. We are still unsure to this point about whether the CEWS applies to our situation. Our revenue is certainly down by ~30% or more. The issue is that our structure doesn't fall into one of the neat categories for CEWS … We are awaiting clarification from our accountant on our status but it seems that the way the rules are currently written, we will not benefit from CEWS, and unfortunately, we are reducing staff hours to cope with our reduction in revenue.” CMA member, survey respondent
“My main frustration is that I can't find a clear answer on whether a clinic made up of multiple doctors with a cost sharing agreement is eligible for CEWS for our employees. I imagine many family practice clinics are set up this way … So as it stands we have not been able to access any financial programs in order to help pay our overhead/staff despite 50% reduction in patient volume.” CMA member, survey respondent A. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed in Physician Clinics One of the main types of practices that are unable to access the CEWS because of technical administrative barriers, despite meeting the key eligibility criteria, are physicians operating independently within a cost-sharing business structure. Like many other independent professionals, physicians operate in group settings. In fact, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, 65% of family practices operated in a group setting. However, unlike other independent professionals, physicians have been encouraged to operate in a group setting, both by accreditation bodies as well as by provincial health authorities, to meet system delivery goals. Appendix A provides a case study based on Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA), an illustrative example of three doctors (Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi) who coordinated the operations of their medical practices together to open an integrated health care clinic. While they provide care to their own respective patient rosters, these three physicians share in the clinic space rent and employ 10 employees together. Because of the way SMA is structured, these physicians are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share of their employees’ salaries. Each physician has met all the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number. SMA illustrates a typical family medicine clinic representative of the many medical practices in Canada who employ numerous FLHCWs. B. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed by Specialist Physicians Practising in a Hospital-Based Environment Another type of physician structure unable to access the CEWS because of the use of cost-share arrangements are specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based environment or academic health science centre (an “AHSC”). The purpose of an AHSC is to provide specialized health care services, carry out medical research and train the next generation of Canada’s health care professionals. Provincial funding agreements are designed to align the interest of all parties in an AHSC (clinical care, teaching, research and innovation) and often contain governance and accountability requirements. In order to discharge responsibilities under provincial funding agreements and to run a practice that can meet certain metrics, physicians are required to hire their own staff. Consequently, cost-sharing arrangements are utilized by these physicians to efficiently hire staff while meeting their other responsibilities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have implemented strategies designed to protect the health care system from collapsing or being overwhelmed. For example, many hospitals have cancelled elective surgeries; coupled with the fear many patients have of going to the hospital, this has resulted in a decline in patient care volume as hospitals and physician practices adhere with public health guidelines. This has led to a significant decline in revenue, requiring physicians to access the CEWS program in order to continue to employ their staff. Like all physicians in Canada, specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based health care setting are responsible for significant levels of fixed overhead expenses related to a medical practice. This includes medical insurance, licensing fees, maintaining an office and other professional fees. As a standard practice, employees of physicians who practise in AHSCs are often paid by a third party. In many instances, physicians have established an agency relationship pursuant to which they delegate authority to the hospital to act as their agent with respect to withholding taxes, source deductions and filing T4 returns. The main reason for this agency is to ensure that the physician focuses on teaching, researching and patient care. For clarity, the administrator (hospital) has no legal authority to conclude on any employment matter such as the determination of a bonus or a wage increase or the payout of any severance. All these matters would be the responsibility of the physician in his/her capacity as employer. Anticipating a second wave of COVID-19, many physicians are concerned about maintaining their staff during a future work stoppage given their current inability to apply for the CEWS. As employers, physicians can appreciate that the hospital’s payroll number is creating additional administrative complexity for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). However, as an employer and small business, their ability to access the CEWS program is an integral part of their strategy to retain and maintain their staff. C. Technical Analysis — CEWS Legislation and the Principal-Agent Relationship i) CEWS Legislation — Qualifying Entity Pursuant to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, an entity will qualify for CEWS to the extent that it is a Qualifying Entity under ss. 125.7(1) of the Income Tax Act (ITA). One of the criteria to be a qualifying entity is that the entity had, on Mar. 15, 2020, a business number in respect of which it is registered with the Minister to make remittances required under ITA s. 153. By virtue of how cost-sharing arrangements are structured, the administrator (agent) handles the payroll filings using their own payroll number, which can be different from the employing physician (principal). On the basis of the uniqueness of cost-sharing structures and the definition in the legislation, physicians who employ individuals under these arrangements need to rely on principal-agent concepts in order to qualify for the CEWS provided all other criteria are met. Presently, the CEWS application portal does not recognize principal-agent arrangements, which are common among physician practices as they employ FLHCWs. It is recognized that each participant or physician in a cost-sharing arrangement is in fact its own business and that physicians share the costs of certain overhead expenses, which include wage-related costs for FLHCWs. In these structures, the payroll number for the employee(s) may be associated with one of the independently operating physicians or it may be associated with a separate entity. As such, these physicians are not likely to have a distinct payroll number associated with their eligible employee under the CEWS. The case law and the administrative position of the CRA demonstrate the following: 1. The principals in a cost-sharing arrangement are the employers; and 2. The agent’s payroll number should be considered the payroll number for the principal for the purposes of making a CEWS application. ii) Case Law Subsection 9(1) of the ITA provides for the basic rules as they relate to computing the income or loss from business or property. In both Avotus Corporation v The Queen and Fourney v The Queen , the Tax Court of Canada determined that where a person carries on business as agent for another, it is the principal that is carrying on the business and not the agent. The Fourney case provides for several concepts that extend to the unique nature of cost-sharing arrangements. These concepts should provide clarity about a principal’s ability to make a CEWS claim if it had a payroll agent that had a business number to make remittances before Mar. 15, 2020. The concepts are summarized as follows: 1. Corporations can act as Agent In Fourney, at paragraphs 41 and 42, it was concluded that a corporation can act as its shareholder’s agent: It is established, then, that corporations can act as agents, and this concept is not repugnant to the rule that corporations have separate legal personality a matter addressed in the oft-cited Salomon case. 2. Business Activities belong to the Principal At paragraphs 60 and 65 of Fourney, the Tax Court examined the following activities and ultimately concluded that the activities were in fact the activities of the principal and not the agent. The following conclusions can be drawn from the case:
Payments made to the corporate agent were found to be revenues of the principal.
Contracts entered into by the corporate agent were contracts entered into by the principal.
T4s issued under the corporate agent’s name were deductible expenses to the principal. Lastly, at paragraph 65, the Tax Court characterized the corporate agent as a mere conduit for the appellant. iii) Administrative Policy For GST/HST purposes, the CRA accepts the concept of an agency relationship typically utilized by physicians in cost-sharing practices. In RITS 142436 “Implementation of Cost Sharing Arrangement,” the CRA concluded that GST/HST does not apply to payments made to “Company A” because it was an agent in relation to remuneration paid to the employees of Company B and Company C. In this ruling, Companies A, B and C were all employers with Company A administrating the payroll as agent. The CRA’s conclusions appear to take the follow matters into account:
Employees are jointly employed by the principals in the cost-sharing arrangement.
Principals have legal responsibility for the employees.
The principals would delegate responsibility or authority to an agent, which could be a corporation or another physician.
That agent would be given discretion to pay the employees, withhold and remit the appropriate amount of taxes, file T4 slips, hire and terminate at the determination of the principals.
Each principal would pay the agent for their proportionate share of payroll and report such payroll on their respective financial statements and tax returns. The CRA also concluded that the “employment status of a person for GST/HST purposes is the same for income tax purposes.” The Department of Finance provides that the CEWS helps businesses keep employees on the payroll, encourages employers to rehire workers previously laid off, and better positions businesses to bounce back following the crisis. In keeping with this objective, a payroll number for an agent should extend itself to the principals for the purposes of applying for the CEWS because it is supported by case law and the administrative practices of the CRA. Application of any federally legislated program should be conceptually consistent with historical frameworks already established. Recommendations: The CMA holds that the legislation as written can remain as currently drafted as it provides for the majority of applicants looking to access the CEWS. However, to address the unintended exclusion of cost-sharing arrangements, the CMA recommends that the CRA provide administrative guidance consistent with and based on existing case law and administrative positions. The CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA enable physicians to claim their proportionate share of eligible remuneration paid through a cost-sharing arrangement provided all other program eligibility criteria are met. Administratively, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check-box” on the application denoting the applicant is a participant in a cost sharing arrangement
identification of the cost-sharing arrangement payroll number
a joint election between the agent and employer allowing the employer to utilize the agent’s payroll number and denoting the percentage allocation of salary costs to the particular employer If this recommendation is not feasible, the CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA implement an alternate approach whereby a cost-share administrator is permitted to make a CEWS claim in their capacity as agent on behalf of each eligible entity (principal). Since period 3 is almost complete, there could be less administration regarding these claims as agents have not made application. Similar to the preferred remedy above, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check box” on the application indicating that an “agent” is filing the claim on behalf of eligible employers
the applicant could also provide (either initially or upon desk audit) the business numbers to CRA for each employer
a joint election among the agent and the employers allowing the agent to act on behalf of the employers for purposes of the CEWS This would provide ease of audit for the CRA as the claim can be verified against the T4 and payroll remittances. The election and disclosure requirements would also alleviate any concerns the CRA or Department of Finance may have regarding potential abuse of the program. In Appendix B we also outline supporting documentation to be retained for a CEWS Claim by a Cost-Sharing Entity, which will ensure cost-sharing entities have the appropriate documentation to submit a claim and also assist the CRA in conducting pre-assessment audits. The CMA would be pleased to provide further detail on this issue or consider other alternatives to ensure FLHCWs receive wages during these unprecedented times. Conclusion Canada’s physicians are important employers. Not only are they responsible for almost 167,000 in direct employment, together with their staff, they are at the front lines of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care system cannot withstand loss of employment or risks to the viability of medical clinics, at this crucial time — and indeed at any time. The CMA strongly encourages the Federal Government to address the issues outlined above in preventing physicians from accessing this critical economic relief program. On behalf of the doctors of Canada, the CMA stands ready to collaborate in resolving these technical and administrative barriers. Appendix A: Welcome to Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA) Dr. Christopher Brown (60) settled in his hometown of Sudbury to practise family medicine about 30 years ago. He operated in his own space, with his own employees until SMA was formed. Dr. Jennifer Lee (45) has been practising in Sudbury for her entire career. Dr. Lee handles all family patients with a special focus on maternity and young family care. Dr. Sarah Assadi (30) recently completed her residency. Dr. Assadi spent time in Sudbury as a locum and enjoyed the strong community feel. Dr. Brown and Dr. Lee are long-time colleagues and recently approached Dr. Assadi to open an integrated health care clinic. Together they would require 10 employees (comprised of nurse practitioners, medical assistants and receptionists) to effectively operate the clinic. Optically, SMA appears to be one business when in fact it is comprised of three distinct medical practices. Each physician or their professional corporation maintains their own distinct patient list. Upon the advice of professional advisors, the physicians entered into a cost-sharing agreement to realize cost efficiencies related to the integrated health care clinic (administration and lease). This structure will ensure the needs of the community are met by the expansion of operating hours facilitated by a flexible staffing model. Understanding that cost-sharing arrangements are accepted by provincial health authorities and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi documented this arrangement, which includes the following details: Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA Legal entity Prof corp Prof corp Sole-proprietor Corp Proportionate share of costs 20% 40% 40%
0% Legal employer (10 staff) ü ü ü Legally responsible — all contracts ü ü ü Payroll, T4 and remittances ü Report for income tax purposes:
Individual billings
Proportionate share of costs administered by SMA including payroll ü ü ü The impact of COVID-19 resulted in a significant slowdown of patient visits between Mar. 15 and May 31 as the residents of Sudbury were social distancing and were only leaving their homes for urgent matters. Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi are concerned about keeping their front-line health care workers employed and at the same time maintaining a sufficient level of family health care in the community. Considering a possible second wave of COVID-19, these physicians need to ensure that their community health clinic remains open and safe so there is no unintended stress on hospitals. Like many small businesses that have experienced significant revenue declines, these physicians are hopeful to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to ensure they can retain their specialized employees and pivot to the new environment they need to operate within. Upon further review, only Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi experienced sufficient revenue declines to access the CEWS, but currently they do not qualify because of how they structured the payroll for these 10 employees. They are concerned that without the CEWS, they will not be able to retain all of their staff or see as many patients. The following table summarizes the CEWS analysis: CEWS criteria Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA Eligible entity ü Prof corp ü Prof corp ü Sole proprietor ü Corp Revenue decline test: March 2020 Not met ü ü No revenues to report Payroll number
ü Payroll expense (eligible remuneration ) ü ü ü
Qualified for the CEWS No (revenue decline test not met) No (payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Lee) No (payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Assadi) No (has no revenue and is not the legal employer) As employers, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi do not understand why their businesses are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share of their employees’ salaries. Each has met all of the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number. Appendix B: Illustration of Supporting Documentation to be Retained for a CEWS Claim by Cost-Sharing Entity To the extent that employers operating through a cost-sharing structure are permitted to make a CEWS claim, the following documentation could be requested by the CRA to verify the claim upon desk audit. For illustrative purposes, let’s assume that Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi both made a CEWS claim. Supporting Documentation Request 1. The legal documentation establishing the agency relationship pursuant to which Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi delegated authority to SMA to handle the income tax remittances, source deductions and T4 reporting. 2. The employment contracts, which clearly indicate that each of Dr. Lee, Dr. Assadi (and Dr. Brown) are the employers. Alternatively, confirmation from the employees that SMA is not the employer and that they are employed by Drs. Lee, Assadi and Brown. 3. SMA’s accounting records or financial statements, which clearly support its position as an agent. Note: Typically, most cost-share administrators will have NIL revenue and account for all cash inflows and outflows on their balance sheet in a manner similar to a lawyer’s trust account. 4. An analysis demonstrating the revenue decline for the relevant period for Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business. 5. Calculations supporting the proportionate share of “baseline remuneration” and “eligible remuneration” paid to the employees by Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business. 6. A reconciliation of the wage subsidy received along with their proportionate share of the wage subsidy so it can be properly accounted for and taxed.
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Valuing Caregivers and Recognizing Their Contribution to Quebec’s Health System

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14373
Date
2020-09-29
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-09-29
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Submission prepared by the CMA – Quebec office Valuing Caregivers and Recognizing Their Contribution to Quebec’s Health System Bill 56, An Act to recognize and support caregivers and amend to various legislative provisions September 2020 1 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 Table of contents Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 2 About the CMA .............................................................................................................. 2 National policy on caregivers and home care ................................................................ 2 Importance of caregivers in Quebec .............................................................................. 3 CMA’s observations on Bill 56 .......................................................................................... 3 Definition of informal caregivers .................................................................................... 4 Better financial support for family caregivers ................................................................. 4 More respite for caregivers ............................................................................................ 4 Supporting caregivers through virtual care .................................................................... 5 Meeting caregivers’ training needs ................................................................................ 5 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………….5 2 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 Introduction About the CMA Founded in Quebec city in 1867, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) unites the medical profession in Canada to improve the health of Canadians and strengthen the various health care systems. Speaking on behalf of the medical profession, the CMA stands for professionalism, integrity and compassion. The CMA and its Quebec office complement and collaborate with Quebec’s existing medical bodies. The CMA has in recent years defined the need to improve seniors’ care and well-being as a priority. Optimizing the performance of our health care system is largely dependent on our ability to improve the care provided to our seniors. The work done by the CMA includes seeking a coordinated national seniors’ health care strategy, seeking a United Nations convention on the human rights of older persons, and researching policies to support seniors and their caregivers. The CMA has also proposed solutions and recommendations to federal authorities: that the federal government ensure that the provinces’ and territories’ health care systems meet the care needs of their aging populations by means of a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer, and that the federal government create a Seniors Care Benefit that would be an easier, fairer and more effective way to support caregivers and care receivers alike. The CMA applauds the government of Quebec’s commitment to “making known the contribution and commitment of caregivers and supporting them in their role.” For a number of years, the CMA has been calling for greater recognition of caregivers’ contribution to the health care system as partners in health care delivery. By recognizing caregivers in its legislation, Quebec is leading the way as the second Canadian province, after Manitoba, to grant legal status to these essential persons. National policy on caregivers and home care According to the CMA, it is vital that the government of Quebec consider the situation of caregivers, but it is also important to recognize the wider context in which this bill has been proposed. Firstly, we recognize and strongly suggest that a rethink of how long-term care is dispensed in Quebec is needed. For example, we believe that a rethinking of senior care in residential and long-term care homes (CHSLDs) is needed. This is an area that needs reform, and the CMA looks forward to commenting on the draft bill that will be introduced by the government of Quebec on this matter in the fall. In order to properly support our seniors, the CMA supports a major and urgent change to home care and community care. According to a new study conducted by Campaign Research Inc. on behalf of Home Care Ontario, almost all seniors in Ontario (91%) wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.1 We believe that this figure is similar among Quebec seniors. A good example of aging in place is Denmark, which has implemented a number of progressive policies such as: increasing investment in community care to support seniors at home; at least one preventive home visit per year for all seniors age 75 and 3 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 up; and a freeze on the construction of new long-term care homes that has been in pace for close to 20 years. These types of changes require better support to improve home services and new measures to support caregivers. A recent report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicates that 96% of long-term care recipients have an unpaid caregiver and that one third of them are distressed. The report also notes that caregivers who are distressed spend an average of 38 hours a week providing care—the equivalent of a full-time job.2 Importance of caregivers in Quebec In 2016, the demographic portrait of caregivers in Quebec indicated that 35% of Quebecers, or 2.2 million people, provided care to a senior. Of these, around 15% acted as caregivers for more than 10 hours a week. With the aging of the population—including the senior and caregiver population—set to accelerate in the coming years and decades, caregivers’ unpaid working hours will increase significantly. In Canada, according to a 2011 University of Alberta study, close to 80% of all assistance to recipients of long-term care was provided by family caregivers. This represents a contribution of over five billion dollars’ worth of unpaid services for the public health network.3 We should also note that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of caregivers and of their contributions to the health system and the services provided to seniors. As many health care services were closed during the pandemic, caregivers have been asked to work twice as hard and play an even bigger role, which has placed these individuals under even more stress than usual. We believe there is no better time to acknowledge the contributions of caregivers. Now it’s time to take action. We need to learn the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and avoid the horrors of potential subsequent waves. According to Statistics Canada, seniors in Quebec are more likely to live alone than seniors in other provinces. It is important to note that many caregivers do not live with the person they are caring for. In addition, many seniors live alone and do not have a caregiver. CMA’s observations on Bill 56 Caregivers are the backbone of our health care system. They provide in-home care as well as care in hospitals, homes for seniors and CHSLDs. They deserve all the support we can give them. Unfortunately, the measures in place to support caregivers in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada are inadequate. Other countries have been doing a lot more and are way ahead of us on this issue. The CMA supports the main objectives of Bill 56. We commend the government for recognizing the important contribution caregivers make in our society. The CMA supports the creation of a committee to monitor government action and a committee of partners concerned by caregiver support, and also supports the creation of a Quebec observatory on informal caregiving. 4 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 Definition of caregivers The pandemic has revealed a number of shortcomings in our health care system. One of these shortcomings is the lack of support and services provided to seniors during lockdowns of health care facilities, CHSLDs and senior centres. We must provide better support to seniors during these lockdowns. The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) and a consulting group have determined a number of specific steps to guide the examination of policies, including reviewing policies on family presence as well as the participation of patients and family members and caregiver partners. The CFHI also indicated that it is important to distinguish between family caregivers, who are essential partners in care, and visitors.4 The role of family caregivers should be officially recognized throughout the delivery of care. The CMA is pleased to note that this was the case with the recent action plan for the second wave of the pandemic.5 Better financial support for family caregivers Seniors and their caregivers are an important and growing segment of the population. Family caregivers often provide funding for their family members’ home and long-term care. These added expenses can also coincide with the caregiver’s withdrawal from the workforce in order to provide care. Caregivers carry many responsibilities, including financial ones. It is estimated that private expenditures for seniors’ care will increase 150% faster than available household income between 2019 and 2035.6 Given their enormous contributions, caregivers need help in the form of financial support, education, peer support and respite care. The CMA recommends: 1. Implementing a caregivers’ allowance to deal with increased home care expenses (similar to the family allowance); a caregiver’s allowance exists in Nova Scotia7 and the United Kingdom8 2. An increased tax credit for caregivers More respite for caregivers The CMA supports the desire of the Minister Responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers to “ensure that more seniors are able to stay at home.” Indeed, the vast majority of seniors remain at home (93.2%),9 even though many are dealing with reduced autonomy. Caregivers are essential wellness supports for seniors. However, these caregivers are at risk of developing health problems such as stress, anxiety and exhaustion. They need a complete range of support services to prevent health problems. Even though the CMA applauds the refundable tax credit announced in Quebec’s 2020–2021 budget, we believe that the draft bill should include concrete measures to provide greater respite to caregivers. The CMA recommends: 1. Increasing the tax credit for caregiver respite 2. Increasing resources for caregiver respite, such as respite and psychological support centres, and the rollout of respite homes for caregivers across the province 3. Increasing home support services for seniors and caregivers 5 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 Supporting caregivers through virtual care New technologies such as telemedicine and telehealth offer quick access to health care while eliminating travel and related expenses. In February 2020, the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada created a framework for expanding virtual medical services in Canada, identifying the national standards, legislation and policy that must be put in place. As we have seen during the pandemic, telemedicine and telehealth can play an important role in improving seniors’ access to primary care. Several recommendations have come from the Report of the Virtual Care Task Force, such as: 1. Maintaining the fee schedule for virtual care that was put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic 2. Simplifying the licensing system to allow the provision of virtual care throughout the country 3. Integrating virtual care into physician learning 4. Creating national standards for patients’ access to health information10 The CMA also recognizes the need to improve digital health literacy. Accordingly, we have asked the federal government to recognize and support the adoption of virtual care and address inequities in access to digital health services by creating a digital health care knowledge bank and accelerating the expansion of high-speed internet services to the entire Canadian population. Meeting caregivers’ training needs Another key support element for caregivers is the provision of accessible training. Caregiver training must comprise a significant element of the government’s action plan, particularly with respect to our capacity to respond more effectively to the second wave of the pandemic. The CMA is encouraged that the government’s action plan recognizes the important role that caregivers play in supporting seniors and the fact that their safety must not be compromised: “Maintain secure access to CHSLD and RPA facilities for family and informal caregivers.”11 Conclusion The CMA looks forward to developing solutions with government authorities and offers its full cooperation with respect to recommendations on the national policy, action plans and the situation of caregivers in Quebec. One of the objectives of the CMA in Quebec is to disseminate knowledge, skills and best practices in senior care from other Canadian and international regions. The CMA is ready and willing to work with governments, caregivers and health care providers so that caregivers may prosper along with the people they care for. 6 600 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Suite 500, Montréal, Quebec H3A 3J2 1 Home Care Ontario. New Poll Shows Over 90% of Ontario Seniors Want to Live at Home as They Age, and Want Government to Invest to Help Them Do It. August 7, 2020. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/new-poll-shows-over-90-of-ontario-seniors-want-to-live-at-home-as-they-age-and-want-government-to-invest-to-help-them-do-it-857341964.html. 2 Canadian Institute for Health Information. 1 in 3 unpaid caregivers in Canada are distressed. August 6, 2020. https://www.cihi.ca/en/1-in-3-unpaid-caregivers-in-canada-are-distressed. 3 Fast, J., lero, D., Duncan, K., and coll. Employment consequences of family/friend caregiving in Canada. Edmonton: Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta, 2011. 4 Canadian Foundation for Health care Improvement. Re-Integration of Family Caregivers as Essential Partners in Care in a Time of COVID-19. July 8, 2020. https://www.cfhi-fcass.ca/about/news-and-stories/news-detail/2020/07/08/re-integration-of-family-caregivers-as-essential-partners-in-care-in-a-time-of-covid-19. 5 Government of Quebec, 2020. COVID-19: Action Plan for a Second Wave. https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/fichiers/2020/20-210-257W.pdf. 6 The Conference Board of Canada (2019). Measures to Better Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/health-advocacy/Measures-to-better-support-seniors-and-their-caregivers-e.pdf. 7 https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ccs/caregiver-benefit.asp. 8 https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/carers-allowance. 9 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. 10 Canadian Medical Association, College of Family Physicians of Canada and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Virtual Care: Recommendations For Scaling Up Virtual Medical Services. Report of the Virtual Care Task Force. February 2020. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/virtual-care/ReportoftheVirtualCareTaskForce.pdf. 11 Government of Quebec, 2020. COVID-19: Action Plan for a Second Wave. https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/fichiers/2020/20-210-254W-A.pdf.
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6 records – page 1 of 1.