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.
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)
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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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
REGISTERED RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS (RRSP)
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned about the ability of Canadians to accrue retirement savings that will enable them to retire in dignity.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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)
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.
* 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.
* 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.
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.
* 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.
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)
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.
* 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).
* 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.
* That the current federal government policy with respect to employment-related supplementary non-taxable health benefits be maintained.
* 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)
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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
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).
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
Thank you for this opportunity to appear before this committee on behalf of the CMA and its 76,000 members. Canadians believe that transforming our health care system to meet the needs of 21st century Canada must be among the highest priorities for all levels of government, including the federal government.
I would like to begin by commenting on the health transfer framework announced by the Minister of Finance in December. This announcement provided some predictability for the years ahead.
However, with the federal government reducing its involvement in several areas affecting health or health care, added costs will end up in the laps of the provinces and territories.
So while this budget may enhance the federal government's fiscal prospects, it will do so to the detriment of the provinces and territories.
But there's more to this debate than funding. We believe that Canadians would be better served if federal health care transfers came with specific guidelines ensuring that the system provides care of comparable access and quality to Canadians across the country, regardless of their circumstances.
We are encouraged that the Minister of Health has indicated she wants to collaborate with the provinces and territories on developing accountability measures to ensure value for money and better patient care. We look forward to the
minister's plan for accountability.
This budget is notable for other missed opportunities. For many years, groups across the political spectrum have called for a pharmaceutical strategy to reduce national disparities. In fact, such a strategy was committed to by governments under the 2004 Health Accord.
Minister Kenney referred to this issue indirectly when he said the recent cancellation of supplemental health benefits for refugee claimants is justified because refugees should not have access to drug coverage that Canadians do not have.
Rather than cutting off those desperately vulnerable people, Canada's physicians urge the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to develop a plan that ensures all Canadians have a basic level of drug coverage.
Indeed, we now appear to be in a race to the bottom in the way we treat vulnerable groups - by, for example, deferring Old Age Security for two years; and changing service delivery to veterans, mental health programs for our military and the Employment Insurance program.
Significant policy changes have been announced since the budget, with little opportunity for debate and little evidence provided. We note, as well, the lack of open consultation with Canadians on matters of great import to their lives. Successful policy requires buy-in, which is best achieved when those interested are able to participate in the policy-making process.
This brings me to a wider concern shared by our members - that policy-makers are not paying adequate attention to the social determinants of health, factors such as income and housing that have a major impact on health outcomes. We remind the government that every action that has a negative effect on health will lead to more costs to society down the road.
The federal government is the key to change that benefits all Canadians. While there are costs and jurisdictions to consider, the CMA believes the best way to address this is to make the impact on health a key consideration in every policy decision that's made. The federal government has used this approach in the past, in considering rural Canadians, for example.
We therefore call for a new requirement for a health impact assessment to be carried out prior to any decision made by cabinet. This would require that, based on evidence, all cabinet decisions take into account possible impacts on health and health care, and whether they contribute to our country's overall health objectives. A similar model is in use in New Zealand and some European countries.
For instance, what health impact will cuts in funding to the tobacco strategy have?
Such an assessment would in particular have a dramatic impact with regard to poverty. Poverty hinders both human potential and our country's economic growth - and needlessly so as there are many ways to address it effectively.
The National Council on Welfare - which will disappear as a result of this budget - reported last fall that the amount it would have taken in 2007 for every Canadian to have an income over the poverty line was $12.6 billion, whereas the consequences of poverty that year added up to almost double that figure.
Close to 10 per cent of Canadians were living in poverty in 2009, many of them children, as UNICEF underlined yesterday. This is a huge challenge for our country.
In closing, as this budget cycle ends and as you begin to prepare for the next, please bear in mind that as prosperous as our country is, if we do nothing for the most vulnerable in our society - children, the elderly, the mentally ill, Aboriginal peoples - we will have failed.
Question 1: Economic recovery and growth (What federal measures are required for sustained economic recovery and growth?)
The health sector has an important role in sustaining Canada's economic recovery and enhancing economic growth beginning with supporting a healthy and productive workforce and providing over one million high value jobs, representing about 10 per cent of the labour force.
Despite the importance of the sector, there is general agreement that Canada's health care system is no longer a strong performer when compared to similar nations. While the OECD's 2011 Health Data ranks Canada 7th highest of 34 member states in per capita health care spending, the performance of Canada's health care system continues to rank below most of our comparator countries.
Health spending accounts for an increasing proportion of provincial and territorial budgets, and many warn of increasing future demands on the overall system. In his Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report of May 17, 2012, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that "the provincial-territorial long-term fiscal situation has deteriorated." Taken together, these issues highlight significant potential for the health sector, through efficiency improved gained by health care transformation, to support long-term economic recovery and growth in Canada.
While the provinces and territories have initiated positive steps to collaborate on sharing best practices, there are key responsibilities under federal leadership that would contribute to these efforts by addressing the overall performance of the health care system in Canada. The CMA recommends that:
- The federal government recognize the relationship of the social determinants of health on the demands of the health care system and that it implement a requirement for all cabinet decision-making to include a Health Impact Assessment (see Question 5 for more detail).
- Further to the comments by the Health Minister following the new fiscal arrangement announcement, the federal government should prioritize federal-provincial-territorial engagement focused on accountability and undertake a consultative process with the aim of identifying pan-Canadian metrics and measurement that will link health expenditures and comparable health outcomes.
Question 2: Job creation (What federal actions should be taken to promote job creation in a context of enhanced internal and international trade?)
A high performing health care system across the country will help support labour mobility and job creation. An effective, comprehensive public health care system provides an important international competitive advantage. The contribution of Canada's health care system to the international competitiveness of our economy has been repeatedly demonstrated in KPMG's Competitive Alternatives report.
However, there are several signs that indicate health care services and coverage are not keeping up with Canadians' needs and vary depending on where one lives in Canada. For instance, long wait times for medical care can be found in smaller provinces, while drug coverage and services for seniors are particularly poor in Atlantic Canada. Wide variation in access to pharmaceutical treatments remains the most glaring example of inequity in our health care system-all Canadians should have a basic level of drug coverage. These variations are growing and will hinder job creation in some regions, serving as barriers to labour mobility for Canadians wishing to seek work elsewhere in the country. We believe that Canadians would be better served if federal health care transfers came with specific guidelines ensuring that the system provides care of comparable access and quality to Canadians across the country, regardless of their circumstances.
Recognizing the contribution of the health care system to Canada's international competitive advantage, improvements in Canada's health care system would further support job creation. The federal government should focus its efforts towards supporting the transformation of our health care system to better meet the objectives of better care, better health and better value. The CMA recommends that:
- The federal government, in consultation with provincial, territorial and other stakeholders, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drugs.
- The federal government, together with the provinces and territories, develop and implement a pan-Canadian strategy for continuing care which would integrate home care and facility- based long-term, respite and palliative care services fully within health care systems.
Question 3: Demographic change (What federal measures should be implemented to help address the aging population and skills shortages?)
The CMA remains concerned about the status of Canada's retirement income system and the ability of Canada's seniors to adequately fund their long-term and supportive care needs. Steps need to be taken to ensure that Canada is prepared to handle the long-term care needs of its citizens, including the funding of necessary infrastructure and additional support for both health care providers and informal caregivers.
The availability of long-term care facilities has an important role in the efficiency of the overall health care system. For example, in its most recent report, the Wait Time Alliance noted that dementia is a key diagnosis related to the rise in alternate-levels-of-care (ALC) patient stays in hospitals. This is yet another issue facing all provinces and territories for which the federal government is well positioned to coordinate a pan-Canadian strategy. In addition, as part of the next long-term infrastructure program, the federal government should include a targeted health sector infrastructure fund for long-term care facilities as part of a pan-Canadian strategy to redirect care from the hospitals to homes, communities and long-term care facilities, where better care is provided at a lower cost.
The CMA recommends that:
- The federal government establish programs to encourage Canadians to save for their long- term care needs by pre-funding long-term care, including private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance, such as an RESP- type savings vehicle.
- That a targeted health infrastructure fund be established as part of the government's long- term plan for public infrastructure. The purpose of this fund would be to address infrastructure shortages in the health sector that prevent the optimization of health human resources and exacerbate wait times.
The CMA has supported the federal government's efforts to expand retirement savings options by establishing the Pooled Retirement Pension Plans. However, as highlighted by federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers, this is only one component of a larger pension reform framework to address the retirement income adequacy needs of Canadians. The CMA encourages the federal government to continue working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to implement all elements of this framework.
Question 4: Productivity (What federal initiatives are needed to increase productivity in light of labour market challenges such as the aging of Canada's population?)
An effective and comprehensive health care system supports the productivity of the Canadian workforce. Failure of our health care system to respond to workers' health needs, on the other hand, leads to loss of productivity and high costs both in terms of lost income for Canadian families as well as foregone tax revenues for governments. Numerous studies have pointed out the enormous cost of waiting (in the billions of dollars per year) affecting both individuals and the economy.
Another related issue that has the potential to increasingly affect productivity is the burden of providing care to family members. Without adequate provision of long-term care resources and support for home care, Canada's labour force may experience a productivity drag through increased leaves and absenteeism to care for elderly relatives.
The 2011 federal budget took a first step at providing tax relief for informal caregivers through the Family Caregiver Tax Credit. However, this credit of a maximum of $300 per year by no means provides sufficient support for informal caregivers.
A 2004 Canadian study estimated that the annual cost of a caregiver's time at market rates for moderately to severely disabled home care clients ranged from $5,221 to $13,374 depending on the community in which they reside. An increase to the Family Caregiver Tax Credit is positive for the development of one aspect of the necessary support informal caregivers require but the CMA believes other enhancements will also be needed in the coming years.
In order to meet the needs of our country's aging population, the CMA recommends that:
- The federal government expand the relief programs for informal caregivers to provide guaranteed access to respite services for people dealing with emergency situations, as well as increase the Family Caregiver Tax Credit to better reflect the annual cost of family caregivers' time at market rates.
- That a targeted health infrastructure fund be established as part of the government's long-term plan for public infrastructure. The purpose of this fund would be to address infrastructure shortages in the health sector that prevent the optimization of health human resources and exacerbate wait times.
Question 5: Other challenges (Who is facing most challenges, what are they and what federal action is required?)
Despite significant investments in health and improvements in medical treatment and technologies, health outcomes in Canada have not been moving in the right direction. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and the corresponding risk factors, among them obesity, continue to rise. These negative outcomes can have a significant impact on the prosperity of the country as health is necessary for individuals to lead a prosperous and autonomous life. Research suggests that 50 per cent of population health is determined by our social and economic environment. While a strong health care system is vital, changes to medicare alone will not improve health outcomes or reduce the disparities that currently exist in disease burden and health risks.
What is needed is a process to address the social determinants of health that can be barriers or enablers to health, a process to ensure healthy public policy for all Canadians. A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic process for making evidence-based judgments on the health impacts of a policy and to identify and recommend strategies to protect and promote health. HIA is used in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States. HIA is also used in Canada, most extensively for policy appraisals in Quebec.
HIA is necessary for ensuring that all government departments are able to consider the health impacts of their work. Such a tool would have been very beneficial in assessing cuts to program spending to ensure the impact on health would not be counterproductive (i.e., lead to higher overall costs to society once the health impact is taken into account). The adoption of an evidence-based HIA is one way in which the federal government can play a leadership role in health care. The CMA recommends that:
- The federal government include a Health Impact Assessment as part of its policy development process to ensure that the health of Canadians is a key factor in every policy decision it makes.
- The federal government recognize the relationship of the social determinants of health on the demands of the health care system.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates the opportunity to provide additional comments and recommendations as part of Finance Canada's 2012 pre-budget consultations.
The health sector provides essential services and high value jobs supporting communities across Canada. Statistics Canada reports that employment in the health sector accounts for 10% of the Canadian labour force.i In considering possible additional economic stimulus measures that build on the success of Canada's Economic Action Plan, the CMA encourages the federal government to consider investments that target efficiency improvements in the health sector. Efficiency improvements in the health sector yield benefits to all orders of government and Canadians.
The following recommendations are advanced for Finance Canada's consideration:
* In order to improve the delivery of better care, better health, and better value, the CMA recommends that the federal government work with the provinces, territories and health sector stakeholders to develop a model for accountability and patient-centred care. The CMA encourages the federal government to adopt the Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation, developed by the CMA together with the Canadian Nurses Association and since endorsed by over 60 organizations, as the basis of a pan-Canadian model for accountability and patient-centred care.
* Recognizing the significance of nationally comparable metrics on health outcomes and the health care system together with the effectiveness of national public reporting in demonstrating accountability, the CMA recommends that the federal government undertake efforts towards identifying pan-Canadian metrics and measurement that will link health care expenditures to comparable health outcomes.
* As the federal government prepares to engage with the provinces and territories to further map out improvements to Canada's health system, the CMA strongly encourages consideration be given to the federal role in coordinating the development of pan-Canadian clinical practice guidelines (CPGs).
* While, as previously indicated, the CMA supports the federal government's proposal to expand access to pensions, specifically by developing pooled registered retirement plans (PRPPs), the limitations to PRPPs should be addressed to ensure that they provide value to self-employed Canadians, including physicians. Specifically, addressing the limitations would include: (1) expanding the PRPP framework to include defined benefit and targeted benefit pension plans; (2) increasing the retirement savings capacity of self-employed individuals by either raising the RRSP limit or providing a distinct limit for PRPPs; and, (3) ensuring the PRPP framework expands the eligibility of administrators beyond financial institutions.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates the opportunity to provide additional recommendations to the Government of Canada as part of its 2012 Pre-Budget consultation. Building upon the CMA's recommendations to the House of Commons' Finance Committee, this submission focuses on three issues: (1) improving accountability and patient-centred care in the delivery of new federal health care funding; (2) coordinating the development of pan-Canadian clinical practice guidelines; and (3) addressing limitations in the federal framework for pension reform.
1. Accountability and patient-centred care
"Raising sufficient money for health is imperative, but just having the money will not ensure universal coverage. Nor will removing financial barriers to access through prepayment and pooling. The final requirement is to ensure resources are used efficiently." World Health Organization (2010)
As the federal government finalizes the Strategic and Operating Review and considers other measures to eliminate the deficit, including scaling down the Economic Action Plan, it must be recognized that improved health systems and the resultant improved productivity pay economic dividends for the country; and, further, that "health" by today's standards is not just the assessment and treatment of illness, but also the prevention of illness, and the creation and support of social factors that contribute to health should also be considered.
With the recent announcement by Minister Flaherty with respect to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and Canada Social Transfer (CST), the financial parameters for future health care funding have been established.
Consistent with previous public opinion research, recent polling by Ekos Research Associates shows that 76% of Canadians identify improving health care as the leading priority for the federal government, ahead of reducing the national debt and deficit.ii However, as we have learned with the 2004 Health Accord, funding alone is not sufficient to ensure Canadian taxpayers benefit from improvements in health care, health outcomes, and value for money.
Despite laying out laudable objectives, progress to improve our health care system has been slow following the 2003 and 2004 agreements. There is a general agreement that Canada's health care system is no longer a strong performer when compared to similar nations. The OECD's Health Data, 2011 ranks Canada eighth highest of 34 member states in per capita health care spending, the second highest in hospital spending per discharge, and the seventh lowest in the number of physicians per capita. While Canada outperforms the U.S. on most measures, we fall below the median performance of the OECD on common health quality and system measures. With the new health care funding commitment to 2024, it is now time to plan how to transform the health care system.
Principles-based approach is required
The CMA is advocating built-in accountability mechanisms to ensure Canada's health care system is focused on delivering improved patient outcomes. Developing a system that is accountable and patient-centred depends on continuously striving to achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's (IHI) Triple Aim objectives of better care, better health and better value. Launched in 2007, the IHI Triple Aim initiative was designed to direct the improvement of the patients' experience of care (including quality, access, and reliability) while lowering the per capita cost of care.
It was with the Triple Aim objectives in mind that the CMA jointly developed Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation in Canada with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA). It is our strong belief that discussions about the future of health care in Canada must be guided by these principles.
The CMA-CNA principles are summarized as follows:
* Patient-centred: Patients must be at the centre of health care, with seamless access to the continuum of care based on their needs.
* Quality: Canadians deserve quality services that are appropriate for patient needs, respect individual choice and are delivered in a manner that is timely, safe, effective and according to the most currently available scientific knowledge.
* Health promotion and illness prevention: The health system must support Canadians in the prevention of illness and the enhancement of their well-being, with attention paid to broader social determinants of health.
* Equitable: The health care system has a duty to Canadians to provide and advocate for equitable access to quality care and commonly adopted policies to address the social determinants of health.
* Sustainable: Sustainable health care requires universal access to quality health services that are adequately resourced and delivered across the board in a timely and cost-effective manner.
* Accountable: The public, patients, families, providers and funders all have a responsibility for ensuring the system is effective and accountable.
In order to ensure that future federal funding delivers on the Triple Aim objectives of better care, better health and better value, a model for accountability and patient-centred care is required. Such a model would expand upon the CMA-CNA Principles through the development of a set of measurable indicators related to each principle that can be used for setting national standards, monitoring progress and demonstrating accountability to Canadians.
The CMA therefore urges the federal government to facilitate discussions with the provinces and territories to identify how resources will be used to improve patient care and health outcomes across the country. To this end, the CMA has urged the Minister of Health to move quickly to engage the provincial and territorial health ministers on transforming the health care system.
The CMA recommends that the federal government work with provinces and territories, in consultation with national health sector stakeholders, to develop a model for accountability and patient-centred care. The CMA encourages the federal government to adopt the CMA-CNA Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation as the basis of a pan-Canadian model for accountability and patient-centred care.
Improving public reporting: The cornerstone of accountability
The federal government has a significant stake in national public reporting on the health of Canadians and on the performance of the health care system. As required by the Canada Health Act, the Minister of Health must publicly report administration, operation and adherence to the Act each year. Further, as the largest contributor to the single-payer system, the federal government has a unique role in demonstrating value for money and reporting on strategies to improve the quality, effectiveness and sustainability of the health care system. To facilitate public reporting, in addition to Statistics Canada, the federal government is supported by the Health Council of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, both established as government-funded non-profits, however, with distinct mandates.
Despite pan-Canadian efforts such as provincial health quality councils and federal and non-governmental reporting, there remains significant room for improvement in the area of monitoring and reporting, both on health outcomes and system performance. As noted in the Commonwealth Fund's report on international health care systems, "reporting on health system performance [in Canada] varies widely across the provinces and territories...there is so far little connection between financial rewards and public reporting of performance." Not surprising, this issue was also identified by the Health Council of Canada in its Progress Report 2011. It highlights the challenges in reporting progress and explains the difficulties inherent to the current patchwork, "[w]here provinces and territories had set and publicized targets, it was easier for us to track progress. Where we could not find targets, assessing progress was more difficult."
The CMA has long supported improved pan-Canadian public reporting on health and health care. Most recently, the CMA hosted a symposium with health reporting stakeholders to discuss the current status of national reporting and the need for the development of a pan-Canadian reporting framework. As recognized by the symposium's participants, there is a great deal of excellent data collection work occurring across the country. However, these efforts are largely uncoordinated and do not tell the full story of the health of Canadians or adequately assess the performance of the health care system. Indeed, despite an abundance of metrics and measurement, in many cases, data is not necessarily usable by the public or decision-makers and, unfortunately, is not necessarily comparable between jurisdictions.
The CMA recommends that the federal government recognize the significance of nationally comparable metrics on health and the health care system and national public reporting in demonstrating accountability (i.e. better health, better care, and better value). In achieving these objectives, the CMA recommends that the federal government mandate an appropriate national organization, such as the Health Council of Canada, to undertake a consultative process with the aim of identifying pan-Canadian metrics and measurement that will link health expenditures and comparable health outcomes.
2. Coordinate the development of pan-Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines
As the federal government prepares to engage with the provinces and territories to further map out improvements to Canada's health system, the CMA strongly encourages consideration be given to the federal role in coordinating the development of pan-Canadian clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). Such a role would build upon the commitment made by the provinces and territories under the auspices of the Council of the Federation to collaborate on the development of three to five CPGs over the coming year.
CPGs are systematically developed, evidence- or consensus-based statements to assist health care providers in making decisions about the most appropriate health care to be provided in specific clinical circumstances. There is compelling evidence in the literature, supported by the experience of other countries, that well-designed and disseminated CPGs can enhance the clinical behaviour of providers and provide a positive impact on patient outcomes.
The principle argument in support of CPGs is their ability to enhance quality of care and patient outcomes. In addition, CPGs have been found to:
* Provide publicly accessible descriptions of appropriate care by which to gauge health care performance;
* Help to reduce inappropriate variations in care across diverse geographical and clinical settings;
* Offer the potential of empowering patients as to appropriate care expectations; and,
* Contribute to public policy goals, such as cost containment, through encouraging more appropriate provider use of resources.
However, in the absence of a pan-Canadian approach, CPGs across Canada are of uneven quality and even excellent guidelines may not be effectively disseminated or implemented. In contrast to Canada, peer-nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia have committed at a national level to support the development and dissemination of CPGs.
In November 2011, the CMA, together with leading national medical and health sector stakeholders, convened a Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines Summit, attended by representatives of the federal and most provincial and territorial governments, to explore key components of a pan-Canadian strategy on CPGs. Emerging from this summit was a clear consensus that it was the federal role to provide the infrastructure support necessary to facilitate the development and dissemination of high-quality CPGs, customizable to the needs of all jurisdictions in Canada.
Guideline development and implementation is a complex, lengthy and resource-intensive process. In the absence of federal coordination in Canada, guidelines are produced by disparate, disease-specific groups, often funded by the pharmaceutical industry. This creates an obvious potential for conflict of interest where the guideline development process is far from transparent. Many guidelines are published without disclosure on conflict of interest or methodology applied. Concern over the quality of guidelines presents one the most persistent barriers to adoption by physicians of the recommended practice. The resulting underutilization of CPGs in Canada is widely documented. Clearly, the development and dissemination of pan-Canadian CGPs present a unique and significant opportunity for improvement in Canada's health care system.
The CMA recommends that as part of further discussions with the provinces and territories, the federal government commit to working with the provinces, territories and health sector stakeholders towards the development of a pan-Canadian clinical practice guideline initiative. In particular, the CMA recommends that the federal government commit support for the infrastructure necessary for the development, maintenance, and active dissemination of relevant, high-quality clinical practice guidelines.
3. Address the limitations proposed under the pension reform framework
As previously indicated in the August 2011 submission to Finance Canada by the Retirement Income Improvement Coalition (RIIC), the CMA supports the federal government's proposal to expand access to pensions, specifically by developing pooled registered retirement plans (PRPPs).
While we are currently assessing the package of proposed Income Tax Act amendments and will provide more detailed comments as part of the legislative process, the CMA is concerned that the framework, as proposed, limits the potential for PRPPs to expand physician access to, and investment in, pensions.
Based on preliminary analysis, it is our understanding that the core benefit of the PRPP framework is in providing small businesses access to low-cost pension plans, thereby providing a vehicle to encourage employers to establish, and contribute to, pensions for their employees. Given that a significant proportion of physicians are self-employed, they would not benefit from employer contributions to a PRPP. Further, as proposed, the contribution limit to PRPPs would be calculated as an element of the current RRSP and pension contribution limit. Finally, further clarification is required on the type of organization that may qualify as a PRPP administrator. Well-governed organizations that represent a particular membership should be able to sponsor and administer RPPs and PRPPs for their own members, including self-employed members.
While the CMA supports the proposed PRPP framework in principle, the limitations to PRPPs should be addressed to ensure that they provide value to self-employed Canadians, including physicians.
The CMA recommends that Finance Canada consider amendments to the proposed Income Tax Act amendments to address limitations to PRPPs, specifically: (1) expanding the PRPP framework to include defined benefit and targeted benefit pension plans; (2) increasing the retirement savings capacity of self-employed individuals by either raising the RRSP limit or providing a distinct limit for PRPPs; and, (3) ensuring the PRPP framework expands the eligibility of administrators beyond financial institutions.
The comments and recommendations provided herein represent the CMA's priority recommendations for targeted federal funding towards the achievement of efficiency improvements in Canada's health sector.
It is the CMA's position that these measures will contribute to a healthy, more productive and innovative economy by contributing to better care, better health and better value in the health care system.
Once again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide these additional comments and recommendations.
i 2006 Census data
In its Economic Action Plan 2011(Budget 2011), the Government of Canada committed to consult stakeholders on the next long-term plan for public infrastructure which would extend beyond the expiry of the current framework, the Building Canada Plan, on March 31, 2014.
The CMA’s 2012-13 pre-budget brief recommends that the federal government ensure health infrastructure is eligible for funding as part of the next long-term plan for public infrastructure. The purpose of which is to address a particular health infrastructure deficit that is preventing the optimization of health care resources and exacerbating wait times and ensure that Canadian communities are able to meet the current and emerging care needs of their older seniors. The CMA has prepared this brief to provide further details on the scope of the proposed infrastructure funding for the health sector, its rationale and economic benefit, and how it could be applied.
2. Overview of proposal
The CMA recommends that the federal government ensure health sector infrastructure for long-term care facilities is eligible for funding under the next long-term infrastructure program. This funding should be applicable both for new capital projects and for renovating/retrofitting existing facilities.
This recommendation, and the recognition of the need for additional capacity in the long-term care sector, is part of a pan-Canadian approach to redirect alternate level of care patients from hospitals to homes, communities and long-term care facilities, where they can receive more appropriate care at a lower cost. It costs $842 per day for a hospital bed versus $126 per day for a long-term care bed. If ALC patients were moved to more appropriate care settings, in this case, from hospital to long-term care, this would save the health care system about $1.4 billion a year.
For the purposes of this recommendation, long-term care facilities include long-term care residential homes, assisted living units and other types of innovative residential models that ensure residents are in the setting most appropriate to their needs. The long-term care sector is facing significant change due to increasing numbers of older seniors and their increasingly complex care needs. These pressures not only relate to the construction of new facilities but apply to the need to maintain existing facilities, including retrofitting to meet higher regulatory requirements, as well as struggling to meet higher care needs of their increasingly elderly population.
The CMA’s recommendation to ensure that long-term care infrastructure qualify under the next long-term infrastructure plan is one component of the association’s Health Care Transformation initiative and would support a pan-Canadian approach for continuing care, which would integrate home care and facility-based long-term, respite and palliative care services fully within the health care system.
The rationale behind the recommendation for health infrastructure to qualify for the next long-term infrastructure plan is based primarily on the care needs of Canada’s growing seniors’ population and its impact on Canada’s health care system. Communities across Canada face a common problem of a lack of resources to properly meet the housing and care needs of their seniors population. Demographic trends indicate this problem will only intensify. However, as demonstrated below, investing in seniors can generate substantial direct and indirect economic benefits.
Meeting the needs of Canada’s growing seniors population and their changing care needs
While all advanced countries are expected to age over the coming decades, the Canadian population is projected to age more rapidly than that of most other OECD countries, according to a recent report from Finance Canada. Statistics Canada reports the number of seniors (65+) in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million in 2036, with their share of the total population increasing from 13.2 per cent to 24.5 per cent. The number and proportion of older seniors – those 75 and older – are expected to increase significantly as well. Ontario’s population of people aged 75 and up is expected to grow by almost 30 per cent between 2012 and 2021. According to Statistics Canada’s medium-growth population projection scenario, the population aged 80 years or over will increase 2.6 times by 2036 – to 3.3 million persons.
While the rate of residency in long-term care facilities among seniors has been declining, as the aging of Canada’s population accelerates, the demand for residential care will nonetheless increase significantly over the near term due to higher numbers of elderly seniors.
Not only is the size of the elderly population increasing, but their health needs are changing too, particularly among those requiring residential care. Long-term care residents are older today than in previous years and have more complex health needs than ever before. A Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) comparison of home care clients and seniors who are living in residential care found that “seniors in residential care were more likely to require extensive assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing and toileting (74 per cent versus 18 per cent). They were also more likely to have moderate to severe cognitive impairment (60 per cent versus 14 per cent). The number of residents with dementia is expected to increase. In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia – that’s 14.9 per cent of Canadians 65 and older. By 2031, this figure will increase to 1.4 million. At the request of the House of Commons Finance Committee, the CMA submitted a national dementia strategy. This proposal to fund long-term care facilities supports such a strategy.
Many existing residential facilities are poorly equipped to meet the care needs of their residents, which are more complex now than when these facilities were originally built. For example, many facilities do not meet current building safety standards and the limited provincial and municipal funding available is usually insufficient to bring them up to code. Also, there is a lack of units with shared space to better support residents with dementia, as well as a shortage of appropriate units to care for residents who are disabled or obese. Renovations are also required to make better use of long-term care beds for other purposes such as providing short-stay respite care or transitional care. According to the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres, the lack of physical facilities necessary for care was the reason most often given by homes for declining to admit a long-term care wait-list client.
Opportunity to improve health care efficiency and reallocate existing program spending
We recognize that addressing the current gap in long-term care residency options is only one strategy to improve the effectiveness of Canada’s health care system. However, we believe it is a critical component of an integrated continuum of care strategy that provides for increased home and community supports. Improving options for seniors will have a positive cascading effect on many other elements of the system. Not only will seniors reside in more appropriate and safer settings but acute care resources will be better used. Consider that about 45 per cent of provincial and territorial governments’ health care spending in 2009 went toward those 65 years and older, while this group constituted only 14 per cent of the population.
A major issue facing Canada’s health care system is the high number of alternate level of care patients (ALC) who occupy acute care beds. ALC patients are those who have completed the acute care phase of their treatment but remain in an acute care bed or who are admitted into a hospital bed due to the lack of a more appropriate care setting. In most cases, these people would be better served living in their own home with the appropriate level of supports or in a long-term care residence.
The high number of ALC patients in hospitals is a problem experienced across the country. The total number of hospital bed days for ALC patients in 2007-2008 (latest figures) was 1.7 million.
Furthermore, the lack of options for ALC patients also contributes to a high percentage of these patients being readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge (see Appendix A). According to CIHI figures, 85 per cent of ALC patients were older than age 65, with almost half waiting for placement in long-term care. A high percentage of ALC patients suffer from dementia.
It costs $842 per day for a hospital bed versus $126 per day for a long-term care bed. If ALC patients were moved to more appropriate care settings, in this case, from hospital to long-term care, this would save the health care system about $1.4 billion a year. The presence of ALC patients in hospitals also lead to longer surgical wait times and longer delays in the emergency department as acute care beds remain unavailable. In fact, the Wait Time Alliance – an alliance of 14 national medical organizations and specialties – has said “the most important action to improve timely access to specialty care for Canadians is by addressing the ALC issue.”
Available wait-time data (See Appendix B) for long-term care show that wait times to access a long-term care bed can often be measured in, not months or days, but years. Data from Ontario for 2004 to 2008 found that less than 50 per cent of seniors with high or very high needs were placed in a long-term care facility within a year of being put on a wait list. The average wait time for placement in Quebec is 13 months (ranging between five months and four years). The most recent report by Ontario’s Auditor General found that 15 per cent of patients on the provincial wait list for long-term care passed away while waiting for placement.
The wait to access residential care can vary immensely depending on where one resides. Often the wait is longer for residents in small, rural and northern communities. Sometimes the only route to securing a placement is for the resident to move to a facility in another community.
According to Statistics Canada, there are 261,945 long-term care beds in operation in Canada (latest figures, 2009/10.) How many residential beds will be required in the future to meet the growing number of elderly seniors?
The Conference Board of Canada has produced a bed forecast tied to the growth of the population aged 75 and over and based on a decreased bed ratio demand of 0.59 per cent per year to reflect the greater shift to community-based services and supportive housing options being advanced at the provincial level. This bed ratio demand is described by the Canadian Healthcare Association as representing a modest shift from the current reliance on long-term care to community services. Based on these assumptions, it has been estimated that Canada will require an average of 10,535 new beds per year over the next 35 years, for a total of 637,721 beds by 2047. Demand would vary over the 35-year period, peaking between 2022 and 2040 (See Appendix C). The five-year projection for beds is as follows:
Table 1: Projected shortage in long-term care beds, 2014 to 2019
[SEE PDF FOR CORRECT DISPLAY OF TABLE]
Year Number of additional beds required
Projected 5-year shortage 29,693
As shown, there is a projected shortage of 29,693 beds over the next five years. For the purposes of longer-term planning, the gap in beds required for the following five-year period (2019-2023) is as follows:
Table 2: Projected shortage in long-term care beds, 2019 to 2023
[SEE PDF FOR CORRECT DISPLAY OF TABLE]
Year Number of additional beds required
As previously outlined, the rising gap in bed numbers is affected by the increased numbers in people aged 75 and older anticipated over the next 35 years.
The estimated cost to construct 10,535 beds (the average number of beds required to be built per year from 2013 to 2047) is $2.8 billion, based on a cost estimate of $269,000 per bed. This figure could include both public and private spending.
The purpose of this bed projection is to provide a sense of the immense challenge Canada faces in addressing the needs of a vulnerable segment of its older seniors population. It is important to note that this forecast does not include the significant investments required to renovate and retrofit the existing stock of residential facilities, not only to meet the current standards but to effectively respond to the complex care needs of residents requiring long-term care today and in the future. Similarly, the potential facility capacity expansions through retrofit or renovation are not included. Moreover, innovative capital investment in residential facilities can provide opportunities for their greater use by other members of the community. They can, for example, provide short-stay respite to support families and convalescent care programs such as those found in the United Kingdom. We also recognize that supportive housing and healthy aging programming are important components of an integrated solution to the ALC issue and to ensuring seniors reside in the most appropriate place.
4. How the funding would work
Health infrastructure could qualify under a communities component of the next long-term infrastructure plan where this federal funding can be leveraged with provincial and and / or municipal investment (e.g. 1/3 federal component matched by + 2/3 provincial and / or municipal). This funding allocation could also include the use of public-private partnership models.
Investing in Canada’s Continuing Care Sector Provides a Wide Range of Economic Benefits
Construction of new residential care models and renovating/retrofitting existing facilities will provide significant economic opportunities for many communities across Canada (See Appendix E for detailed figures).
Based on Conference Board of Canada estimates, the construction and maintenance of 10,535 long-term care beds (the average number of new beds needed per year from 2013 to 2047) will yield direct economic benefits on an annual basis that include $1.23 billion contribution to GDP and 14,141 high value jobs during the capital investment phase and $637 million contribution to GDP and 11,604 high value jobs during the facility operation phase (based on an average annual capital investment); and close the significant gap between the projected long-term care bed shortages and current planned investment.
When indirect economic contributions are included, the total estimated annual contribution to Canada’s GDP reaches almost $3 billion, yielding 37,528 new jobs (construction, care providers and other sectors). Details on these economic benefits are provided in Appendix F, but a summary is presented below:
Table 3: Average annual total economic contribution of new residential care facilities
[SEE PDF FOR CORRECT DISPLAY OF TABLE]
(10, 535 new beds per year at market prices)
GDP (in 2013 $millions)
Number of jobs created
Average direct contribution to GDP of investing in new facilities (construction)
Average direct contribution to GDP of operating the new facilities
Average indirect contribution to GDP of investing in new facilities (construction)
Average indirect contribution to GDP of operating the new facilities
TOTAL (both direct and indirect)
For every 100 jobs created in the construction of long-term care facilities, an additional 72 jobs would be created in other sectors, while for every 100 jobs created in the long-term care sector, 14 jobs would be created in other sectors.
The numbers provided above reflect the annual average contribution. On a time specific level, covering the five-year period between 2014 and 2018, an estimated 167,840 jobs would be created, based on the construction of 29,693 new beds.
Another important economic benefit is the return in government revenues. The increase in construction and operating spending per average year will provide over $425 million in federal government revenues and over $370 million in provincial revenues (See Appendix G).
As previously identified, an improved stock of long-term care beds will provide many other economic spinoffs, including savings in health care costs that can be reallocated to better meet Canadians’ health care needs and to provide greater support for families in their role as caregivers. Without adequate provision of long-term care resources, Canada’s labour force may experience a productivity drag through increased leaves and absenteeism to care for elderly relatives.
The aging of our population touches all Canadians – from seniors who need the services to families who serve as caregivers and/or contribute financially to the care of aging relatives. Recent data show that 32 per cent of caregivers who provide more than 21 hours of care per week report distress in their role – four times the proportion of distressed caregivers who provide less than 10 hours of informal care per week.
The federal government has a long history of allocating capital investment in the health sector. Previous examples include the Hospitals and Construction Grants Program in 1948, the Health Resources Fund established in 1966 and, more recently, the funding of capital projects at research hospitals under the Canada Foundation for Innovation Leading Edge and New Initiatives Funds in 2012.
All communities across Canada are strongly affected by the social and health care needs of their growing senior and long-term care populations (see Appendix H for a sample of recent news stories.) Federal capital investment will help narrow the significant gap between the projected long-term care bed shortages and current planned investment in the area of residential care facilities. Further, it would have a cascading effect leading to a more effective and efficient Canadian health care system.
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that the federal government allocate $2.3 billion over a five-year period in the next long-term infrastructure plan for the construction, renovation and retrofitting of long-term care facilities. Long-term care facilities include long-term care residential homes, assisted living units and other types of innovative residential models that ensure residents are in the most care setting most appropriate to their needs. This funding could be delivered as part of the communities component of the next long-term infrastructure plan.
1 Department of Finance Canada. Economic and fiscal implications of Canada's aging population. Ottawa, 2012.
2 Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. 2012 annual report. 2012. http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_en/en12/2012ar_en.pdf. Accessed 01/30/13.
3 Statistics Canada. Population projections for Canada, provinces and territories 2009 to 2036. June 2010. 91-520-X
4 Alzheimer's Society Ontario. Facts about dementia. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/on/About-dementia/Dementias/What-is-dementia/Facts-about-dementia. Accessed 01/30/13.
5 Canadian Medical Association. Toward a Dementia Strategy for Canada. Ottawa, 2013. http://www.cma.ca/submissions-to-government Accessed 01/30/13.
6 Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors. Proposals for the Ontario Budget. Fiscal Year 2012-13. March 2012.
7 David Walker. Caring for our aging population and addressing alternate level of care. Report Submitted to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. June 30, 2011. Toronto.
8 Long Term Care Innovation Expert Panel. Why not now? A bold, five-year strategy for innovating Ontario's system of care for older adults. March 2012. http://www.oltca.com/axiom/DailyNews/2012/June/LTCIEPFullREport_web_jun6.pdf. Accessed 01/30/13.
9 For an example of an integrated continuum of post-acute care model see CARP, One Patient: CARP's Care Continuum. http://www.carp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/One-Patient-Brief-Updated-Oct-18.pdf. Accessed 01/30/13.
10 Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. Improving the accessibility, quality and sustainability of long-term care in Canada. CLHIA Report on Long-Term Care Policy. June 2012.
11 Wait Time Alliance. Time out! Report card on wait times in Canada. 2011. http://www.waittimealliance.ca/media/2011reportcard/WTA2011-reportcard_e.pdf. Accessed 01/30/13.
12 Correspondence with officials from Bruyère Continuing Care in Ottawa. January 2013.
13 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Health care in Canada, 2011 2011. .
14 Rapport du Vérificateur général du Québec à l'Assemblée nationale pour l'année 2012-2013.
15 Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. 2012 annual report. 2012.
16 The .59 per cent decrease in bed ratio is presented as Scenario 2 in Lazurko, M. and Hearn, B. Canadian Continuing Care Scenarios 1999-2041, KPMG Final Project Report to FPT Advisory Committee on Health Services, Ottawa. 2000. Presented in Canadian Healthcare Association, New Directions for Facility-Based Long-Term Care. 2009. http://www.cha.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/CHA_LTC_9-22-09_eng.pdf. Accessed 01/30/13.
17 Canadian Institute for Health Information, Health Care in Canada, 2011.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance discusses the important role of the federal government in ensuring Canada's health care system is cost-effective, accountable and accessible in order to support the country's economic advantage. As in other leading industrialized countries, the federal government has an important role in the effective allocation of health-related resources and the health outcomes of Canadians.
The purpose of this brief is to provide decision-makers with recommendations on areas within existing federal mandates in which the Government of Canada can contribute to advancing Health Care Transformation and improving the health of Canadians and the health care system - an issue Canadians consistently rank as their top concern. These recommendations focus on federal investment in a seniors care strategy, the social determinants of health and health sector innovation and productivity.
Summary of Recommendations
Recommendation # 1
The CMA recommends that the Government of Canada collaborate with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to establish and invest in a pan-Canadian strategy for seniors care.
Recommendation # 2
The CMA recommends that funding for health infrastructure qualify under the next Building Canada Plan to support the construction, renovation and retrofitting of long-term care facilities.
Recommendation # 3
The CMA recommends that the Government of Canada invest $25 million per year over five years toward a pan-Canadian dementia strategy.
Recommendation # 4
The CMA recommends that the Government of Canada establish a Canada-wide injury prevention strategy to identify successful programs and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources that will enable them to be disseminated nationwide.
Recommendation # 5
In support of a pan-Canadian palliative care strategy, CMA recommends that the Government of Canada undertake research to identify successful programs and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources so that they can be replicated nationwide.
Recommendation # 6
The CMA recommends that the Government of Canada establish health as a required consideration in the Cabinet decision-making process.
Recommendation # 7
The CMA recommends that the federal government, in consultation with the provincial and territorial governments, health care providers, the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
The CMA recommends that the Government of Canada establish and invest in a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of aboriginal peoples that involves a partnership among governments, non-governmental organizations, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
The CMA recommends that the federal government rescind changes made to the Interim Federal Health Program until appropriate consultation and program review occur.
As in other leading industrialized countries, the federal government has an important stewardship role in the effective allocation of health-related resources and health outcomes of Canadians; this is central to a productive workforce and a strong economy.
This brief provides tangible, actionable recommendations on how the federal government can contribute to transforming Canada's health care system and improving the health of Canadians. The focus is on three critical areas for federal investment: a senior's care strategy; the social determinants of health and health equity; and health sector innovation and productivity. The recommendations in these areas are aligned with the CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative, the principles of which have been endorsed by 134 organizations, representing millions of Canadians.1
1. Contributing to a National Seniors Care Strategy
Issue: Engagement and investment from the Government of Canada is essential to meet the increasing needs of Canada's aging population.
It is expected that by 2036, a quarter of Canada's population will be over the age of 65. The number of people in the oldest age group - the age group most likely to experience serious health problems - is expected to increase at an even faster rate: Statistics Canada predicts that in 2036 there will be 2.6 times as many people 80 years old or over as there are today. 2
Already, patients age 65 or older account for nearly half of Canada's health care spending (45% in 2009).3 Canada's governments are rightly concerned about how to provide sustainable, high-quality health care to all Canadians as the country's population ages. The Canadian public shares this concern. In an Ipsos Reid public opinion survey done for CMA in July 2013, 83% of respondents said they were concerned about their health care in their retirement years.
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada collaborate with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to establish and invest in a pan-Canadian strategy for seniors care.
As elaborated below, the CMA recommends that this strategy include adequate investment in long-term care, home care, as well as palliative and end-of-life care to ensure access to the continuum of care. In addition, there should be investment in programs to address age-related health risks of particular concern, notably dementia and injuries due to falls. These areas, including recommendations for immediate investment by the Government of Canada are discussed in greater detail below.
i) Ensure continuing care qualifies under the new Building Canada Plan4
Addressing the gap in long-term care residency options is a critical component of an integrated continuum of care strategy that provides for increased home and community supports. Communities across Canada face a common problem of a lack of resources to properly meet the housing and care needs of their seniors population. While the percentage of older Canadians who live in long-term care facilities is declining, as the aging of Canada's population accelerates, the demand for residential care will increase significantly.
The current wait times in the long-term care sector are contributing to the high number of alternate level of care patients (ALC) who occupy acute care beds; a major issue facing Canada's health care system. At more than 3 million ALC days, the high number of ALC patients in hospitals is a problem experienced across the country.5 Based on the difference between the average cost of care in hospital versus long-term care, if ALC patients were moved from hospital to long-term care this would save the health care system about $2.3 billion a year.
The Conference Board of Canada has produced a bed forecast tied to the growth of the population aged 75 and over and based on a decreased bed ratio demand to reflect the greater shift to community-based services and supportive housing options being advanced at the provincial level. Based on these assumptions, over the five-year period ending in 2018, an estimated 29,693 additional beds will be required, representing a pan-Canadian investment of $7.98 billion.
It is evident that the existing and planned schedule of provincial projects will be unable to meet the estimated demand. Based on a review of provincial budgets, current capital investments already committed at the provincial level represent at least $861 million allocated over the next 10 years, representing approximately 3,200 new beds. The shortfall between our projected gap (29,693) and our calculation of provincial committed projects is 26,493 beds, at a cost of $7.1 billion.
The CMA recommends funding for health infrastructure qualify under the next Building Canada Plan to support the construction, renovation and retrofitting of long-term care facilities.
ii) Invest in a national dementia strategy
About three quarters of a million Canadians currently live with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive impairment. Our knowledge of how to prevent dementia is limited. We do not fully understand its causes and there is no known cure. People with dementia may live for years with the condition and will eventually need round-the-clock care. Dementia currently costs Canada roughly $33 billion per year, both in direct health care expenses and in indirect costs such as lost earnings of the patient's caregivers.
Given that the prevalence of dementia will unquestionably increase with the aging of Canada's population, the Alzheimer Society of Canada predicts that by 2040 the annual cost to the country will reach $293 billion. 6
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada invest $25 million per year over five years toward a pan-Canadian dementia strategy.
This $25 million investment would be distributed as follows:
- $10 million to support research on key aspects of dementia, including prevention, treatment options, and improving quality of life.
- $10 million in increased support for informal caregivers. This includes both financial support and programs to relieve the stress experienced by caregivers such as education, skill-building and provision of respite care and other support services.
- $5 million toward knowledge transfer, dissemination of best practices and education and training to support:
- an integrated system of care facilitated by effective co-ordination and case management
- a strengthened dementia workforce, which includes development of an adequate supply of specialists and improving diagnosis and treatment capabilities of all frontline health professionals.
iii) Establish an injury prevention strategy for Canada
Falls are the primary cause of injury among older Canadians; they account for 40% of admissions to nursing homes, 85% of injury-related hospitalizations and nearly 90% of all hip fractures. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that injuries among seniors cost Canada approximately $2 billion a year in direct health care costs.7 They are also a major contributor to alternate level of care patients in hospitals given the shortages in the home care, rehabilitation or long-term care sector.
Falls can be prevented, and a growing number of regional programs across Canada are identifying and modifying risk factors for falls in their client population specific to seniors.
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada establish a Canada-wide injury prevention strategy to identify successful programs and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources that will enable them to be disseminated nationwide.
iv) Support the expansion of palliative care in Canada
Experts believe that a palliative-care approach - when combined with treatment - leads to better outcomes by reducing the length of stay in hospitals and the number of deaths in acute care. In Canada, according to Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), only 16% to 30% of patients have access to hospice palliative and end-of-life services.8 These services tend to be delivered in institutional settings on a tertiary or intensive model; and like falls prevention programs, they tend to be delivered locally.
The CMA strongly supports an approach that integrates palliative care with chronic care in the community, earlier in the patient's condition. In support of a pan-Canadian palliative care strategy, CMA recommends that the Government of Canada undertake research to identify successful programs and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources so that they can be replicated nationwide.
2. Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity
Issue: Addressing the social and economic determinants of health is critical to ensuring improved health outcomes for Canadians.
Research suggests that 15% of population health is determined by biology and genetics, 10% by physical environments, 25% by the actions of the health care system, with 50% being determined by our social and economic environment.9 While a strong health care system is vital, changes to our health system alone will not be sufficient to improve health outcomes or reduce the disparities that currently exist in disease burden and health risks.
Addressing the social and economic determinants of health has an important role in ensuring the sustainability of the health care system. It is estimated that one in five dollars spent on health care in Canada can be attributed to socio-economic disparities. These are the avoidable health costs linked to issues such as poverty, poor housing, health illiteracy, and unemployment among others. In 2012 health care dollars, these potentially avoided costs represented $40 billion in public spending. 10
Many of these social and economic determinants fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government such as tax policy. The section below elaborates on how the federal government can contribute to addressing the social determinants of health and reduce health inequity.
i) Ensure healthy public policy
Recognizing that the social and economic determinants of health have an important role in the health of Canadians, the policy decision-making process across departments must include a consideration of health. This can be accomplished by establishing health as a required consideration in the Cabinet decision-making process to ensure that the health promoting aspects of policies and programs are strengthened while potential negative impacts can be avoided or mitigated. In short it will ensure healthy public policy.
Not only could health care costs be reduced, but ensuring healthy public policy has the potential to provide significant benefits for the Canadian economy. Healthier people lose fewer days of work and contribute to overall economic productivity.11
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada establish health as a required consideration in the Cabinet decision-making process.
ii) Address access to prescription pharmaceuticals
Universal access to prescription drugs is widely acknowledged as part of the "unfinished business" of Medicare in Canada. What exists today is a public-private mix of funding for prescription drugs. As of 2011, CIHI has estimated that 44% of prescription drug expenditures were public, 38% were paid for by private insurance and 18% were paid out of pocket.12 At present, Quebec is the only province to have universal prescription drug coverage for its residents, either through private insurance or a public plan, introduced in 1997.
Of serious concern, there is evidence of wide variability in levels of drug coverage across Canada. According to Statistics Canada, almost one in 10 (7.6%) of households spent greater than 3% of after tax income on prescription drugs in 2008. Across provinces, this ranged from 4.6% in Alberta and 4.7% in Ontario to 13.3% in PEI.13 Further, 10% of the Canadian respondents to the Commonwealth Fund's 2010 International Health Policy Survey said they had either not filled a prescription or skipped doses because of cost issues.14 Research conducted by Ipsos Reid in 2012 showed that almost one in five households (18%) does not have supplementary insurance coverage that would cover prescription drugs.15
Statistics Canada's 2011 Survey of Household spending clearly shows the burden on seniors and low-income Canadians. Households headed by a person aged 65 and older spent 50% more, on average, on prescription drugs when compared with all households.16 Those in the lowest income groups are three times less likely to fill needed prescriptions.17 This has consequences not only for their health but for the health care system as well. Individuals who are unable to manage treatable conditions often end up hospitalized at a great cost to the health care system.
The CMA recommends the federal government, in consultation with the provincial and territorial governments, health care providers, the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
iii) Address health disparities experienced by First Nations, Métis and Inuit
During a cross-country town hall consultation in Winnipeg on Feb. 4, 2013, the CMA heard about the adverse effects of inequalities and disparities and their impact on the health and wellness of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada. As elaborated below, the inequalities and disparities in the social determinants of health can have a significant impact on the health of the population.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada experience higher rates of chronic disease, addictions, mental illness and childhood abuse. The Health Council of Canada reports that the crude mortality rate for First Nations is higher and life expectancy lower than the Canadian average.18 In 2009, UNICEF reported that the infant mortality rate for First Nations on reserve was seven times higher than the national average.19 First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples suffer much higher rates of infectious and chronic diseases. Tuberculosis rates are six times higher in First Nations populations and 17 times higher in Inuit communities as compared to the rest of Canada.20 Diabetes rates are higher among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples - 15.5% vs. just over 4.7% for the non-Aboriginal population,21 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities face higher rates of heart and circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, and mental health disorders.22
Housing is a key area of concern for First Nations, Métis and Inuit. It is estimated that there will be a backlog of 130,000 housing units in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities between 2010 and 2031, with 44% of existing units needing significant repairs and 18% requiring complete replacement.23 This inadequate housing can lead to serious health problems. The quality of housing stock directly affects health through exposure to lead, mold and other toxins that are harmful to health. Action is needed to develop an appropriate housing strategy for Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit that includes consideration of expiring social housing arrangements on and off reserve.
Access to health care also plays a role in determining health. This can be a challenge for First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Many live in communities with limited access to health care services, sometimes having to travel hundreds of miles to access care.24 Additionally, there are jurisdictional challenges between federal and provincial delivery of health services. First Nations, Métis and Inuit living in Canada's urban centres also face significant barriers to accessing health care. Further, even when care is available it may not be culturally appropriate.
Utilizing the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program can be problematic for some First Nations. It is the CMA's understanding that funding constraints can lead to decreased quality of services, treatment delays or even in some cases denial of services. While the federal government has committed to continuing payments for the NIHB program the CMA is aware of concerns with current funding is inadequate to account for the growing native population, the addition of other beneficiaries, and the higher health care utilization as a result of the poor health status of many of Canada's First Nations.25
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada establish and invest in a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of First Nations, Metis and Inuit that involves a partnership among governments, non-governmental organizations, and Aboriginal communities.
iv) Restore coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program
The CMA, together with other medical, health and social organizations, have recommended that the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program be rescinded until appropriate consultation is undertaken. The purpose of this consultation would be to identify opportunities to achieve the Government of Canada's cost saving objectives while maintaining the scope of health care coverage for the program recipients. To date, this consultation has not occurred.
One of the primary rationales for the program changes was an estimated cost savings of $20 million per annum in health care costs covered by the federal government. As evident by the recent statements of provincial health ministers following the Oct. 3 Federal/ Provincial/ Territorial Health Ministers Meeting, these projected cost savings are not likely to be realized.
The CMA is concerned that the costs of the program have been downloaded on the provincial health systems, the charitable sector, and other public programs and organizations that provide the uninsured with benefits. Further, there has been significant confusion that has resulted in an increased administrative burden on the health sector following continual changes in this program.
The CMA recommends the federal government rescind changes made to the Interim Federal Health Program until appropriate consultation and program review occur.
3. Improving Health Care Productivity and Innovation
The CMA supports federal engagement to advance a health sector innovation and productivity framework, the purpose of which would be to support the introduction and expansion of innovation in health technology and processes of delivery to yield better health outcomes and productivity. As part of this framework, the CMA encourages federal focus on accountability measures and health information technology, as elaborated below.
i) Accountability mechanism to improve productivity and quality care
Despite the importance of the health care sector to Canada's economy and quality of life, it is generally agreed that in health care, Canada is no longer a strong performer relative to similar nations. For instance, OECD Health Data 2012 ranks Canada seventh highest of 34 member states in per capita health care spending, while Canada's health care system continues to rank below most of our comparator countries in terms of performance. 26 According to the latest forecast report by CIHI, public spending on health care was to surpass $200 billion in 2012.
According to the OECD, if the Canadian health sector was to become as efficient as the most efficient countries, we could save 2.5% of GDP in public expenditure by 2017.27 The need to improve system performance will only intensify as demand for health care services increases and the system is pressed to effectively manage the rising number of Canadians with chronic diseases.
While the provinces and territories have initiated steps to collaborate on the sharing of best practices in health care, federal leadership is necessary to address the overall performance of the health care system in Canada. This includes collaborating with the provinces and territories on the identification of pan-Canadian metrics that link health expenditures to nationally comparable health outcomes and system performance.
CIHI does develop and collect data on numerous health indicators and has developed a performance measurement framework with an initial set of indicators coming out in the near future. However, there is currently no pan-Canadian process to set targets and monitor outcomes and system performance, the purpose of which is to demonstrate accountability to Canadians, improve health outcomes and health sector performance.
The CMA recommends the federal government engage the provinces and territories in a collaborative process to identify pan-Canadian metrics and measurements that link health expenditures to nationally comparable health outcomes and system performance.
ii) Maximizing the value of Electronic Medical Records
The digitization of our health care system is central to quality, safety and the continuity of patient care for all Canadians. Canada continues to make progress in the adoption of health information technology (HIT). It is forecast that 70% of physicians will have an electronic medical record (EMR) system in place by 2014. Almost 90% of the most common radiology examinations and reports in Canada's acute care hospitals are now digital, up from approximately 38% only six years ago.
However, there is still a long way to go in order to share information more effectively among caregivers, enable patient access to clinical information, and optimize the use of these systems. Areas where progress has stalled include: specialist EMR needs, applied research, local interoperability, decision support tools, and analytical tools.
Stalled progress in these areas has meant Canadians are not benefiting at the point of care such as allowing comparisons between patients within a practice, comparing across practices, facilitating sentinel disease surveillance and a population health approach to primary care, and allowing patients to get consistent, more understandable information from their providers electronically through portals, emails and other e-routes.
As we look to the future - and in particular the next three years - there's a need to reframe the discussion from building HIT infrastructure to deriving benefits. To this end, investment is required to ensure that the efforts to date are fully utilized and support improved patient outcomes. A committee comprised of CMA and Provincial Territorial Medical Associations representatives considered this issue and developed recommendation for targeted investment in HIT; these are outlined below.
The CMA recommends the Government of Canada allocate $545 million as follows:
* $200 million to support an additional 10,000 physicians not covered by current programs.
* $200 million to support change management for EMR adoption.
* $10 million to support data migration (i.e. clinics have to move to new products).
* $100 million to support local interoperability solutions.
* $5 million to support the Standards Collaborative.
* $20 million to support research into HIT effectiveness.
* $5 million to support solutions for the integration of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs).
* $5 million for applied research on patient portal.
This additional investment would benefit patients, providers and governments through improved patient care and improved performance of health care systems. In addition, the appropriate use of health information technology will contribute toward a more effective health care system supporting Canada's economic competitiveness.
Working with the provinces and territories and health care providers in delivering better health care to all Canadians through enhancing productivity and innovation is a policy challenge requiring federal leadership and engagement.
The CMA believes the Government of Canada should act upon the recommendations included in this brief and collaborate with stakeholders to ultimately contribute to optimal health outcomes for Canadians, and health services that are delivered in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
1 For the latest update on the Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation, visit: www.cma.ca/cma-media-releases
2 Statistics Canada. Population projections for Canada, provinces and territories 2009 to 2036. June 2010. 91-520-X
3 CIHI. Health Care in Canada, 2011, 1.
4 CMA. The need for health infrastructure. Submission to the Minister of Infrastructure, March 1, 2013. www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Submissions/2013/Health-Infrastructure_en.pdf .
5 CIHI. 2012. Health Care in Canada, 2012: A focus on wait times.
6 Alzheimer Society of Canada. A New Way of Looking at Dementia in Canada. Based on a study conducted by RiskAnalytica. C. 2010
7 PHAC. The Safe Living Guide - A guide to home safety for seniors. 2005. Revised 2011.
8 CIHI. 2013. End-of-life hospital care for cancer patients.
9 Keon, Wilbert J. & Lucie Pépin (2008) Population Health Policy: Issues and Options. Available at: www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/392/soci/rep/rep10apr08-e.pdf
10 Public Health Agency of Canada (2004) Reducing Health Disparities-Roles of the Health Sector: Discussion Paper. Available at: publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/HP5-4-2005E.pdf
11 Munro, Daniel (2008) "Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits: The Case for Business Action on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health." The Conference Board of Canada. Available at: www.conferenceboard.ca/Libraries/NETWORK_PUBLIC/dec2008_report_healthypeople.sflb
12 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Drug expenditure in Canada, 1985 to 2011. Ottawa.
13 Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 109-5012 - Household spending on prescription drugs as a percentage of after-tax income, Canada and provinces. www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/pick-choisir;jsessionid=4FF8F1A5D604C73873F71D9FDE6141C5. Accessed 12/10/12.
14 Commonwealth Fund. 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey. www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Surveys/2010/IHP%202010%20Toplines.pdf Accessed 12/10/12.
15 Ipsos Reid. Supplementary health benefits research. www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Media_Release/2012/ CMA-Benefits-Research-Survey_en.pdf. Accessed 12/10/12.
16 Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 203-0026. Accessed 06/18/13.
17 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Available at: http://www.thecanadianfacts.org/The_Canadian_Facts.pdf
18 Health Council of Canada, "The Health Status of Canada's First Nations, Métis And Inuit Peoples", 2005, online: http://healthcouncilcanada.ca.c9.previewyoursite.com/docs/papers/2005/BkgrdHealthyCdnsENG.pdf Accessed October 20, 2010.
19 National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health & UNICEF Canada "Leaving no child behind - national spotlight on health gap for Aboriginal children in Canada" 2009, online: www.nccah-ccnsa.ca/s_140.asp Accessed November 20, 2009
20 Health Council, supra note 34.
21 NWAC, 2009, supra note 39.
22 Canada, Health Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health, (Ottawa: Health Canada), online: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/pubs/index-eng.php Accessed November 4, 2009
23 Assembly of First Nations (2013) Taking Action Together on Shared Priorities Towards a Fair and Prosperous Future: AFN Submission to the Council of the Federation. Available at: www.afn.ca/uploads/files/13-07-23_afn_submission_to_cof_2013.pdf
24 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations.
25 Assembly of First Nations (2011) Structural Transformation & Critical Investments in First Nations on the Path to Shared Prosperity. Pre-Budget Submission, 2011. Available at: www.afn.ca/uploads/files/2011-pre-budget-submission.pdf
26 OECD Health Data 2012 - www.oecd.org/health/healthgrowthinhealthspendinggrindstoahalt.htm
27 OECD, Economic Survey of Canada 2012. www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/economicsurveyofcanada2012.htm
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance discusses the important role of the federal government in ensuring Canada's health care system is cost-effective, accountable and accessible across the country in order to support the country's economic advantage. Investing in health and health care is required to generate wealth. As in other leading industrialized countries, the federal government needs to play a stewardship role in the effective allocation of health-related resources to foster a productive workforce and a strong economy.
The purpose of this brief is to provide decision-makers with information on areas in which the federal government can contribute to improving the health of Canadians and the health care system - an issue Canadians consistently rank as their top concern.
The CMA recommends that:
Recommendation # 1
The federal government endorse the Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation, developed by the CMA together with the Canadian Nurses Association and since endorsed by over 120 national organizations.
The federal government engage the provinces and territories in a consultative process to identify pan-Canadian metrics and measurement that link health expenditures to nationally comparable health outcomes. The purpose of which is to demonstrate accountability to Canadians.
Recommendation # 3
The federal government recognize the implications of the social determinants of health on the demands on the health care system.
Recommendation # 4
The federal government require that the federal cabinet's decision-making process include a Health Impact Assessment.
Recommendation # 5
The federal government, in consultation with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drugs.
Recommendation # 6
The federal government, together with the provinces and territories, develop and implement a pan-Canadian strategy for continuing care, which would integrate home care and facility-based long-term, respite and palliative care services fully within health care systems.
Recommendation # 7
A targeted health infrastructure fund be established as part of the federal government's long-term plan for public infrastructure. The purpose of this fund would be to address infrastructure shortages in the health sector that prevent the optimization of health human resources and exacerbate wait times.
Recommendation # 8
The federal government expand the relief programs for informal caregivers to provide guaranteed access to respite services for people dealing with emergency situations, as well as increase the Family Caregiver Tax Credit to better reflect the annual cost of family caregivers' time at market rates.
Recommendation # 9
The federal government establish programs to encourage Canadians to save for their long-term care needs by pre-funding long-term care through for example, private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance, such as an RESP-type savings vehicle.
Recommendation # 10
The federal government develop and implement a national dementia strategy. Such a strategy will contribute to addressing the alternative level of care crisis impacting the efficiency of the overall health care system.
Despite significant investments in health care and improvements in medical treatment and technologies, health outcomes in Canada are not improving. The incidence of chronic disease, such as diabetes and the corresponding risk factors, among them obesity, continues to rise. These negative outcomes can have a significant impact on the prosperity of the country as health is necessary for individuals to lead a prosperous and autonomous life. While the federal government's investment in the sector has continually increased, it is generally agreed that, in terms of its health care system, Canada is no longer a strong performer compared to similar nations.
As in other leading industrialized countries, the Government of Canada needs to play a stewardship role in the effective allocation of health-related resources, which in turn will foster a productive workforce and a strong economy. The federal government also has a role in addressing the social and economic factors that affect the health of Canadians. These factors are often referred to as the social determinants of health and were a central theme at the CMA's annual General Council meeting this year.
This brief provides tangible recommendations on how the federal government can contribute to the transformation of Canada's health care system and to improving the health of Canadians.
1. The Role of the Federal Government
Issue: The federal government has the levers to foster a healthy, productive workforce.
This section discusses opportunities for the federal government to address the challenges facing Canada's overall health care system.
Even though the fiscal arrangement for the future Canada Health Transfers has been established, the federal government has other significant responsibilities with respect to the health of Canadians and the overall health care system.
This view is shared by a majority of Canadians. Recent polling found that: 75 per cent of Canadians believe health care should be the federal government's top priority; 87 per cent believe that the federal government should pay more attention to health care, and 85 per cent believe the federal government should play a leading role in protecting and strengthening the health care system.
An important role to be fulfilled by the federal government is to ensure Canada's health care system is cost-effective, accountable and accessible across the country. Health expenditures account for an increasing proportion of provincial and territorial budgets, and many warn of increasing future demands on health care. In his Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report of May 17, 2012, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that "the provincial-territorial long-term fiscal situation has deteriorated." Measures that transfer costs from one level of government to another do not improve Canada's overall fiscal situation.
Despite the importance of the health care sector to Canada's economy and quality of life, it is generally agreed that in health care, Canada is no longer a strong performer relative to similar nations. For instance, OECD Health Data 2012 ranks Canada seventh highest of 34 member states in per capita health care spending,1 while Canada's health care system continues to rank below most of our comparator countries in terms of performance. In addition, recent projections indicate that the overall spending on health as a percentage of GDP will continue to increase.2
However, the health sector has an important role in sustaining Canada's economic recovery and enhancing economic growth. In fact, the health sector supports a healthy and productive workforce by providing over one million high-value jobs, representing about 10 per cent of Canada's labour force. The contribution of Canada's health care system to the international competitiveness of our economy has been repeatedly demonstrated in KPMG's Competitive Alternatives report.3
Taken together, these issues highlight significant potential for the health sector, through efficiency improvements gained by health care transformation, to support long-term economic recovery and growth in Canada.
Finally, while the provinces and territories have initiated positive steps to collaborate on the sharing of best practices in health care, federal leadership could contribute to these efforts by addressing the overall performance of the health care system in Canada.
The federal government should collaborate with the provinces and territories to introduce a pan-Canadian framework for reporting to Canadians on performance, outcomes and expenditures, including on whether national standards of quality and timeliness have been met.
The federal government would also fall under this framework, as it is responsible for the delivery of health care services to a large population. In fact, in health care delivery, it is the fifth-largest jurisdiction in Canada.
The CMA recommends that:
* The federal government engage the provinces and territories in a consultative process to identify pan-Canadian metrics and measurement that link health expenditures to nationally comparable health outcomes. The purpose of which is to demonstrate accountability to Canadians.
2. The need for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA)
Issue: All federal government decisions need to be viewed through the lens of their possible impact on health, health care and Canada's overall health objectives.
While a strong health care system is vital, improvements to it alone will not improve health outcomes or reduce the disparities that currently exist in disease burden and health risks. Research suggests that 50 per cent of population health is determined by our social and economic environment.4 What is needed is a process to address the social determinants that can be barriers or enablers to health and to ensure healthy public policy for all Canadians.
A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic process for making evidence-based judgments on the health impacts of any given policy and to identify and recommend strategies to protect and promote health. The HIA is used in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States.
The HIA can ensure that all government departments are able to consider the health impacts of their programs and policies by anticipating possible unintended health consequences or impacts on health care spending. The implementation of an evidence-based HIA is one way in which the federal government can play a leadership role in health care and strengthen accountability to Canadians.
The CMA recommends that:
* The federal government recognize the implications of the social determinants of health on the demands on the health care system; and that,
* The federal government require that the federal cabinet's decision-making process include a Health Impact Assessment to ensure that the health of Canadians is a key factor in every policy decision it makes and unintended consequences are avoided.
3. Contribute to Health Care Transformation (HCT)
Issue: A transformed health care system will be more effective and comprehensive and will strengthen Canada's competitive advantage.
In 2010, as part of its Health Care Transformation (HCT) initiative, the CMA broadly consulted Canadians across the country on their views on health care. Canadians said they do not believe they are getting good value from their health care system, a feeling borne out by studies comparing Canada's health care system to those in leading countries in Europe. Following this consultation, in partnership with the Canadian Nurses Association, the CMA developed Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation in Canada to guide the transformation of Canada's health care system. To date, over 120 national medical, health and organizations have endorsed these principles.
During the HCT consultation, we also heard that Canadians are concerned about inequities in access to care beyond the basic medicare basket, particularly in the area of prescription drugs. In fact, reports in 2002 by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Kirby) and the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (Romanow) forged a consensus on the need for "catastrophic" pharmaceutical coverage, which may be defined as out-of-pocket prescription drug expenditures that exceed a certain threshold of household income.
Under the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy (NPS), cost projections of catastrophic pharmaceutical coverage were explored and seemed to favour the use of a variable percentage threshold linked to income. However, there has been no public reporting on progress since 2006.5 Moreover, there is also an issue of expensive drugs that may be used for common diseases. Finally, as highlighted by recent experiences, Canada does not have a monitoring and early notification system for drug shortages nor a systematic mechanism to prevent interruptions in the provision of medically necessary medications.
Thus far, the term "catastrophic" has been used by First Ministers and the NPS to describe their vision of national pharmaceutical coverage. As defined by the World Health Organization, catastrophic expenditure reflects a level of out-of-pocket health expenditures so high that households have to cut down on necessities such as food and clothing and items related to children's education.6 In the CMA's view, this does not go far enough and what Canada must strive for is "comprehensive" coverage that covers the whole population and effectively pools risk across individuals, public and private plans, and jurisdictions.
There are several indicators that show health care services and coverage are not keeping up with Canadians' needs and vary depending on where one lives in Canada. Wide variation in access to pharmaceutical treatments remains the most glaring example of inequity in our
health care system - all Canadians should have a basic level of drug coverage. Further, long wait times for medical care can be found in smaller provinces and drug coverage and services for seniors are particularly poor in Atlantic Canada.
The fact remains that one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the medications they are prescribed.7 For this reason, ensuring access by all Canadians to needed prescription drugs is an essential element in the CMA's proposed framework for Health Care Transformation.
By working to establish comprehensive prescription coverage, the federal government would not only uphold its commitment to ensure the best health for Canadians, but also contribute to the transformation of our country's most cherished social program.
The CMA recommends that:
* The federal government endorse the Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation, developed by the CMA together with the Canadian Nurses Association and since endorsed by over 120 organizations.
* The federal government, in consultation with provincial, territorial and other stakeholders, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drugs.
4. Meeting the health and health care needs of Canadians
Issue: Measures should be taken to prepare for the looming demographic change and address the needs of Canada's aging population
Steps need to be taken to ensure that Canada is prepared to handle the growing long-term care needs of its citizens. These should include funding for much-needed infrastructure and additional support for both health care providers and informal caregivers.
In its most recent report, the Wait Time Alliance noted a link between the rise in diagnosis of dementia and the rise in alternate-levels-of-care (ALC) patient stays in hospitals. These are patients who are in hospital while they await an alternative level of care in a more appropriate setting, often a long-term facility. The shortage of long-term care facilities is a major impediment to achieving efficiency in the health care system and yet another issue for which the federal government is well positioned to collaborate and coordinate on a pan-Canadian strategy.
Under its next long-term infrastructure program, the federal government should include a targeted health sector infrastructure fund for long-term care facilities. This should be part of a pan-Canadian strategy to redirect care from hospitals to homes, communities and long-term care facilities, where patients can receive more appropriate care at a lower cost.
We can expect that many more facilities will be required to meet the long-term care needs of Canadians. The most recent census data shows that over the last decade there has been a 38 per cent increase in the number of seniors living in special care facilities.8 Based on residency rates of the present population, Canada will need over 800,000 long-term care beds by 2047.
Considering the average size of existing long-term care facilities it is estimated that meeting this future demand will require construction of almost 6,000 additional long-term care facilities over the next 35 years, almost 170 a year.9
Another related issue that has the potential to affect productivity is the burden of providing care to family members. Without adequate long-term care resources and support for home care, Canada's labour force may experience a productivity drag as a result of increased leave and absenteeism to care for elderly relatives.
The 2011 federal budget took a first step at providing tax relief for informal caregivers with the introduction of the Family Caregiver Tax Credit. However, this credit of up to $300 a year by no means provides sufficient support for informal caregivers. A 2004 Canadian study estimated that the annual cost of a caregiver's time at market rates for moderately to severely disabled home care clients ranged from $5,221 to $13,374, depending on the community in which they reside.10 Expanding the Family Caregiver Tax Credit would help, but the CMA believes that additional support for informal caregivers will also be needed in the coming years.
Also, according to a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report on dementia,11 Canada is one of the few members of the G7 without a national strategy on dementia. There is a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, which results in stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care, and has an impact on caregivers, families and societies - physically, psychologically and economically. Canada's aging population, and the projected rise in Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, pose an emerging health crisis that require federal leadership.
The CMA recommends that:
* The federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, develop and implement an integrated, pan-Canadian strategy for continuing care, which would integrate home care and facility-based long-term, respite and palliative care services fully within health care systems. Such a strategy would help prepare for the looming demographic change and the address the needs of Canada's aging population.
* A targeted health infrastructure fund be established as part of the federal government's next long-term plan for public infrastructure. The purpose of this fund would be to support communities across Canada in addressing infrastructure shortages in the health sector that prevent the optimization of health human resources and exacerbate wait times.
* The federal government expand the relief programs for informal caregivers to provide guaranteed access to respite services for people dealing with emergency situations, as well as increase the Family Caregiver Tax Credit to better reflect the annual cost of family caregivers' time at market rates.
* The federal government establish programs to encourage Canadians to save for their long-term care needs by pre-funding long-term care through for example, private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance, such as an RESP-type savings vehicle.
* The federal government develop and implement a national dementia strategy. Such a strategy will contribute to addressing the alternative level of care crisis impacting the efficiency of the overall health care system.
1 OECD Health Data 2012 - http://www.oecd.org/health/healthgrowthinhealthspendinggrindstoahalt.htm
2 CD Howe Commentary Chronic healthcare spending disease: a macro diagnosis and prognosis and
Livio Di Matteo and ROSANNA DI MATTEO, The Fiscal Sustainability of Canadian Publicly Funded Healthcare Systems and the Policy Response to the Fiscal Gap CHSRF series of reports on financing models: Paper 5, January 2012. http://www.chsrf.ca/Libraries/Commissioned_Research_Reports/Dimatteo-Fiscal-E.sflb.ashx
3 KPMG. Competitive Alternatives: KPMG's Guide to International Business Location Costs. 2012 edition
4 The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Final Report of Senate Subcommittee on Population Health. June 2009.
5 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministerial Task Force on the National Pharmaceutical Strategy Progress Report. June 2006. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/alt_formats/hpb-dgps/pdf/pubs/2006-nps-snpp/2006-nps-snpp-eng.pdf. Accessed 08-05-08.
6 Xu K, Evans D, Carrin G, Aguillar-Riviera A. Designing health financing systems to reduce catastrophic health expenditure. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2005.
7 Law MR, Cheng L, Dhalla IA et al. The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada. CMAJ February 21, 2012 vol. 184 no. 3
8 Statistics Canada. September 19, 2012. Living arrangements of seniors: Families, households and marital status Structural type of dwelling and collectives, 2011 Census of Population.
9 According to the Canadian Healthcare Association (New Directions for Facility-Based Long-Term care), in 2007 there were 2,577 long-term care facilities in Canada and 217,969 beds. We used the average number of beds per facility to calculate the number of facilities required to meet expected future demand.
10 Chappell, N.L., B.H. Dlitt, M.J. Hollander, J.A. Miller and C. McWilliam. 2004. "Comparative Costs of Home Care and Residential Care." The Gerontologist 44(3): 389-400
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present this brief to the House of
Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-462 Disability Tax Credit
Promoters Restrictions Act.
The Canadian Medical Association represents 78,000 physicians in Canada; its mission is to
serve and unite the physicians of Canada and to be the national advocate, in partnership
with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.
The CMA is pleased that the House of Commons has made Bill C-462 a priority. This bill is
an important step toward addressing the unintended consequences that have emerged from
the Disability Tax Credit since 2005.
Part 2: Issues to be addressed
In 2005, the Disability Tax Credit was expanded to allow individuals to back-file for up to 10
years. While this was a welcome tax measure for individuals with disabilities, the CMA has
been urging the Canada Revenue Agency to address the numerous unintended consequences
that have emerged. Central among these has been the emergence of a “cottage industry” of
third-party companies engaged in a number of over-reaching tactics. The practices of these
companies have included aggressive promotional activities to seek and encourage individuals
to file the Disability Tax Credit. The primary driver behind these tactics is profit; some
companies are charging fees of up to 40 per cent of an individual’s refund when the tax
credit is approved.
Further to targeting a vulnerable population, these activities have yielded an increase in the
quantity of Disability Tax Credit forms in physician offices and contributed to red tape in the
health sector. In some cases, third parties have placed physicians in an adversarial position
with their patients. We are pleased that this bill attempts to address the concerns we have
The CMA supports Bill C-462 as a necessary measure to address the issues that have
emerged since the changes to the Disability Tax Credit in 2005. However, to avoid additional
unintended consequences, the CMA recommends that the Finance Committee address three
issues prior to advancing Bill C-462.
First, as currently written, Bill C-462 proposes to apply the same requirements to physicians
as to third-party companies if physicians apply a fee for form completion, a typical practice
for uninsured physician services. Such fees are subject to guidelines and oversight by
provincial and territorial medical regulatory colleges (see Appendix 1: CMA Policy on Third
Party Forms: The Physician Role).
The CMA recommends that the Finance Committee:
Amend the definition of “promoters” under section 2 to exclude “a health care
practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides
health care and treatment.”
If the committee imports the term “person” from the Income Tax Act, then the
applicable section of Bill C-462 should be amended to specify that, for the purposes
of the act, “Person does not include a health care practitioner duly licensed under the
applicable regulatory authority who provides health care and treatment.”
Second, the CMA is concerned that one of the reasons individuals may be engaging the
services of third-party companies is a lack of awareness of the purpose and benefits of the
Disability Tax Credit. Additional efforts are required to ensure that the Disability Tax Credit
form (Form T2201) be more informative and user-friendly for patients. Form T2201 should
explain more clearly to patients the reason behind the tax credit, and explicitly indicate there
is no need to use third-party companies to submit the claim to the CRA.
The CMA recommends that the Finance Committee:
Recommend that the Canada Revenue Agency undertake additional efforts to ensure
that the Disability Tax Credit form is more informative, accessible and user-friendly for
Finally, the CMA recommends that a privacy assessment be undertaken before the bill moves
forward in the legislative process. It appears that, as written, Bill C-462 would authorize the
inter-departmental sharing of personal information. The CMA raises this issue for
consideration because protecting the privacy of patient information is a key duty of a
physician under the CMA Code of Ethics.
Part 3: Closing
The CMA encourages the Finance Committee to address these issues to ensure that Bill C-
462 resolves existing problems with the Disability Tax Credit while not introducing new ones.
The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input to the Finance Committee’s study of
this bill and, with the amendments outlined herein, supports its passage.
Summary of Recommendations
The definition of “promoters” under section 2 of Bill C-462 should be amended to exclude “a
health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides
health care and treatment.”
If the Committee imports the definition of “persons” from the Income Tax Act, the applicable
section of Bill C-462 should be amended to specify that, for the purposes of the act, “Person
does not include a health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory
authority who provides health care and treatment.”
The Canada Revenue Agency should undertake additional efforts to ensure that the Disability
Tax Credit form is informative, accessible and user-friendly.
Prior to advancing in the legislative process, Bill C-462 should undergo a privacy assessment.