Skip header and navigation
CMA PolicyBase

Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


4 records – page 1 of 1.

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

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

Building a Comprehensive Post-Market Surveillance System : Canadian Medical Association Response to Health Canada’s Discussion Paper “Designing a Mandatory System for Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions”

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1951
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-07-28
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-07-28
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Building a Comprehensive Post-Market Surveillance System Canadian Medical Association Response to Health Canada’s Discussion Paper “Designing a Mandatory System for Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions” Submitted to Health Canada July 28, 2005 Overview The CMA believes that all stakeholders should work together to improve adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting, in the interests of improving patients’ safety and health. However, we believe that activity in pursuit of this end must be based on two fundamental premises: a) Reporting is only one part of a comprehensive post-market surveillance system. In order to effectively monitor the safety of Canada’s drug supply, this system should include: * a simple, comprehensive and user-friendly reporting process; * rigorous analysis of reports to identify significant threats to drug safety; * a communications system that produces useful information, distributed to health care providers and the public in a timely, easily understood manner. There is no point in enacting a mandatory reporting requirement until all of these elements are in place. We wonder why mandatory reporting has been singled out for discussion when a holistic approach to reforming Canada’s drug safety system is called for. b) Health care providers should be encouraged to participate willingly and voluntarily in the reporting process. To be successful, Canada’s post-market surveillance system will depend on the active participation of physicians and other health professionals. Experience with health system quality and safety improvement efforts over the past several years has demonstrated that meaningful acceptance is most effectively obtained when those involved are willing participants. If you build a comprehensive, efficient and effective post-market surveillance system, physicians will participate actively in it. Forcing them to participate before the system has been built will result in alienation, frustration and failure. Comments on Discussion Paper a) Is Mandatory Reporting Necessary? This is a fundamental question and the discussion paper does not satisfactorily address it. There are two reasons why we question the necessity for imposing an ADR reporting requirement on health professionals. First, as awareness of the drug-safety system’s importance has increased, the number of ADR reports has increased along with it - more than 10% in 2004, as the discussion paper notes - without a mandatory reporting requirement. Given this trend, it is highly probable that time, education, adequate resources and increasing familiarity with the surveillance system will raise reporting rates to the desired level (however defined) without mandatory reporting. Second, as the discussion paper points out, there is no evidence that mandatory reporting has been effective in other jurisdictions where it has been implemented. The paper offers no clear explanation for this lack of success. More importantly, it does not indicate how Health Canada plans to ensure that mandatory reporting will succeed in this country when it has proven ineffective elsewhere. A primary principle of any system change is that we should not repeat the mistakes of others. Before launching a program whose success has not been proven, other viable, and possibly more effective, alternatives should be examined. b) Addressing known barriers to reporting The CMA acknowledges that ADRs are under-reported, in Canada and worldwide. The discussion paper identifies a number of barriers to reporting, and its list mirrors the observations and experiences of our own members. We believe most of these barriers can, and should, be overcome. We also agree that it is necessary to raise health professionals’ awareness of the importance of, and process for, ADR reporting. But we question the curious assertion that “Mandatory reporting could raise awareness of the value of reporting simply by virtue of the public debate.” Surely there are more positive ways to raise awareness than publicly speculating about the punitive consequences of non-compliance. We suggest that instead, Health Canada work with physicians and other health professionals to address the existing barriers to reporting. Specifically, we recommend that Health Canada implement: * a well-funded and targeted awareness-raising campaign focused on provider education and positive messaging, * a user-friendly reporting system, including appropriate forms, efficient processes and adequate fees. These measures are within Health Canada’s purview in the existing policy and legislative environment. We believe they would increase reporting without the need for coercive measures. At a minimum, positive system improvements should be tried first before considering a mandatory-reporting requirement. With regard to specific questions posed in the discussion paper: Question 1: Health professionals should be explicitly protected from any liability as a result of reporting an adverse drug reaction. This should be the case regardless of whether reporting is voluntary or mandatory. Question 2: Professionals should be compensated for all meaningful work including the completion of forms and any follow-up required as a result of the information they have provided. We would be happy to expand further on this issue on request. Question 3: Issues of confidentiality should be covered in legislation. The CMA has developed an extensive and authoritative body of knowledge on privacy issues in health care, which we would be pleased to share with Health Canada. c) Improved report quality We agree that increasing the quality and richness of ADR reports is as important as increasing their number. Perhaps it is even more important, since high-quality reports allow for high-quality analysis. Mandatory reporting will not improve the quality of ADR reports; it will simply increase their quantity. It may even compromise the system’s efficiency and effectiveness by increasing the volume of clinically insignificant reports. Experience elsewhere has taught us that true quality cannot be legislated or imposed; any attempt to do so would be pointless. If ADR reports included the information listed in Table 4, this would improve their usefulness and the effectiveness of the overall surveillance process. However, it is unrealistic to expect all reports to contain this level of information. The treating physician may not be able to provide all of it, especially if he or she is not the patient’s regular primary care provider. Some of this information, particularly about outcomes, may not be available at the time of the reporting, and gathering it would require follow-up by Health Canada. Health Canada should consider measures other than mandatory reporting to improve the quality of ADR reports. The CMA suggests that consideration be given to: * Improving follow-up capacity. We agree that it should be made easier for Health Canada officials to contact reporters and request details on follow-up or outcomes. This should be considered as part of a comprehensive initiative to improve Health Canada’s capacity to analyze ADR reports. * Establishing a sentinel system. Another option for increasing high-quality reports would be to establish a “sentinel” group of practicing physicians who would contract to report all ADRs in detail. These physicians, because of their contractual obligation, would be committed to assiduous reporting. Sentinel systems could be established concurrently with efforts to increase voluntary ADR reporting by the broader health professional community. In addition to the current information provided, consideration should be given to including on reporting forms the option to allow Health Canada officials to act on information the physician provides; for example, in the reporting of sexually transmitted diseases physicians provide certain information and have the option to request that public health officials undertake follow-up and contact tracing. d) Minimize administrative burden We agree that Health Canada should give consideration to making the ADR reporting system user-friendly, non-complex and easy to integrate into the patient-care work stream. These reforms can and should be implemented regardless of whether a mandatory requirement is in place. They do not need mandatory reporting to make them work; in fact, they are more likely to encourage ADR reporting than any form of coercive legislation. Rather than making a mandatory reporting requirement “fit” with the traditional patient-care framework, we invite Health Canada to work with us to increase health professionals’ capacity to report ADRs voluntarily. We are already working with Health Canada to improve physicians’ access to drug safety material. Health Canada’s ADR reporting form can now be downloaded from the cma.ca web site, which also posts the latest drug alerts from Health Canada and from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. We have developed an on-line course in partnership with Health Canada, to teach physicians when and how to make ADR reports. We hope to build on this collaboration, with the goal of making it possible for physicians to report ADRs online via cma.ca. This will permit them to fit reporting more conveniently into their daily workflow. (Note: the “MedEffects” Web portal now being developed at Health Canada does not fit well into the workflow and therefore will not make reporting easier for health professionals.) In the future, we hope that ADR reporting can be built directly into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). We think this will be a critical element in the bi-directional communicating that ADR reporting requires. It will also enable rapid integration of advisories into the EMR so that they can be available to physicians at the time they are writing a prescription. Before electronic ADR reporting can work, a standard for electronic data should be in place (at present it is not) and Health Canada should develop the capacity to accept data electronically. Health Canada’s discussion paper makes reference to cost-benefit analysis. We recommend that you take great care not to over-emphasize cost-benefit when it comes to enhancing patient safety. Meaningful improvements in the post-market surveillance system will be costly whatever solution Health Canada eventually embraces, and it is impossible to measure financially the value of safety. What is an acceptable cost for one life saved? e) Minimize Over-Reporting The discussion paper acknowledges that not all adverse reactions need be reported. We strongly agree that one of the dangers of mandatory reporting is its potential to overwhelm the system with an unmanageable flood of reports. There is no reason to require reports of minor side effects that are already known to be associated with given drugs. We agree that the reactions Health Canada most needs to know about are those which are severe and/or unexpected. If Health Canada insists on implementing a mandatory reporting system, it should be limited to these reactions (possibly with the corollary that well known serious ADRs would not need to be reported). However, the operating definitions may need clarification, and we recommend that Health Canada consult with health professionals and others on operational guidelines for defining “serious adverse reaction.” Health Canada’s desire to encourage reports on drugs approved within the last 5 years is understandable (though some drugs may be on the market for longer than this before their true risks are known). In practice, however, many physicians do not know which drugs these are, and seeking out this information may impose a heavy administrative burden. As we move toward an EMR-based reporting system, a tag on the Drug Identification Number to tell when the drug was approved will allow physicians to identify which medications require special vigilance. Appropriate reporting could be encouraged, and over-reporting discouraged, by clear guidelines as to what should be reported as well as appropriate compensation for reporting. f) Match Assessment Capacities In our opinion, this is one of the most important sections in the document. What happens once the reports have been received is crucial if we want to identify a serious drug risk as quickly as possible. Under the current system, one of the most significant barriers to physicians’ reporting is lack of confidence that anything meaningful will be done with their reports. Enhancements to the analysis function must be made concurrently with efforts to increase ADR reporting. ADR reports are only cyber-bytes or stacks of paper unless we can learn from them. This requires rigorous data analysis that can sort “signal from noise” – in other words, sift through thousands of reports, find the ones that indicate unusual events, investigate their cause, and isolate those that indicate a serious public health risk. This requires substantial resources, including an adequate number of staff with the expertise and sensitivity required for this demanding task. Unless Health Canada has this capacity, increasing the number of reports will only add to the backlog in analysts’ in-boxes. The CMA recommends that Health Canada allocate sufficient resources to enable it to effectively analyze and respond to ADR reports and other post-market surveillance information. g) Respect privacy Privacy of both patient and physician information is a significant concern. Physicians’ ethical obligation to maintain patient confidentially is central to the patient-physician relationship and must be protected. We acknowledge that issues of privacy and confidentiality must be resolved when designing an ADR reporting system, particularly as we work toward electronic communication of drug surveillance data and its incorporation into an EMR. For example, regulations should explicitly state that ADR reports are to be used only for the purpose for which they were submitted, i.e. for post-market drug surveillance. In addition, Health Canada should ensure that any privacy provisions it develops meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code (Attachment I). Health Canada can be assured that physicians take their privacy obligations seriously. The CMA has been a strong and pro-active player in debate on this issue, and our Privacy Code lays the groundwork on which we believe any privacy policies involving ADR reporting should be based. h) Compliance through sanctions Physicians are motivated to report ADRs by their concern for public health and their patients’ well-being. In addition, they are guided by the CMA Code of Ethics and governed by regulatory authorities in every province. A clear ethical and professional obligation already exists to report anything that poses a serious threat to patient safety. If physicians do not comply with this obligation, sanctions are available to the provincial regulatory authorities. In fact, the most serious threat for physicians is loss of standing with the professional regulatory authority, not the courts or any external judicial system. It would be superfluous to add a second level of regulation or scrutiny when remedies already exist. The discussion paper presents few alternatives to the existing self-regulatory system. As the paper itself acknowledges, it is unrealistic to impose sanctions based on failure to report an ADR, since it is not always easy to determine whether an adverse effect is attributable to a health product. But the only suggested alternatives - requiring physicians to demonstrate knowledge, or to have the required reporting forms in their office - seem intrusive, crude and unreasonable; they are also meaningless since they have no direct relation to a physician’s failure to report. If Health Canada is considering a large outlay of taxpayers’ dollars for post-market surveillance, we suggest they target those funds to education and awareness raising, and to enhancing the system’s ability to generate and communicate meaningful signal data, rather than to enforcing a mandatory reporting system based on weak compliance measures, with no evidence of its effectiveness in other jurisdictions. Physicians who are in serious breach of their ethical and legal responsibility to report are subject to sanctions by provincial regulatory authorities. Most provincial colleges have policies or guidelines regarding timely reporting and appropriate enforcement mechanisms. Medicine’s tradition of self-regulation has served it well, and we recommend that Health Canada respect and support existing regulatory authorities as they maintain the standards for appropriate professional behaviour. As we have said before - the preferred quality improvement tools to enhance performance and encourage compliance are education and positive reinforcement, not legislation and the threat of sanctions. Conclusion In its discussion paper Health Canada has invited stakeholders to provide their input on how best to develop a mandatory system for reporting ADRs. The Canadian Medical Association believes that the best way to do this is not to develop one at all. Instead, we believe stakeholders should concentrate on building a sustainable, robust and effective post-market surveillance system which: * encourages and facilitates voluntary reporting, by designing a simple and efficient process that can be incorporated into a physician’s daily workflow; * effectively uses reporting data to identify major public health risks; * communicates drug safety information to providers and the public in a timely, meaningful and practical way. The CMA is committed to working, in partnership with Health Canada and other stakeholders, toward the ultimate goal of a responsive, efficient and effective post-market drug surveillance system. This is part of our long-standing commitment to optimizing Canadians’ safety and health, and achieving our vision of a healthy population and a vibrant medical profession.
Documents
Less detail

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

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

A Prescription for Productivity: Toward a more efficient, equitable and effective health system : CMA’s 2005 Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1946
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-24
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-24
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Introduction This pre-budget submission makes the case that healthier Canadians are more productive Canadians. It also recognizes that the delivery of quality health care, in a timely manner, is paramount and is not mutually exclusive to any productivity agenda. As Emerson once said, “the first wealth is health.” 1 Last fall, the First Ministers recognized this by agreeing on a plan that will, over the next 10-years, add an additional $41 billion federal dollars into our health care system. The Canadian Medical Association applauds the government for spearheading this renaissance in federal health care funding. But like the human body, that is always evolving, the health care system needs to be monitored and trained for optimal performance. The consequences of under investing in health care in the past are haunting us today. Better health … better Canada Canada, which at one time was the most attractive place on earth to live, is falling behind. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada’s overall economic performance has fallen from 3rd best in the world, to 6th and now to 12th. One of the drivers of this precipitous fall is – according to the Conference Board’s analysis – the weakened state of our health care system. For example, our infant mortality rates are rising, not falling, in relative terms. We have tumbled from our top-five ranking in the 1980s — to where we are today in the 22nd spot out of 27 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). That is why, now more than ever, Canada’s economy is in need of strategic federal direct investments in health care as part of an overall productivity enhancing package. The CMA is not alone in linking health care investments to better economic performance. According to the latest economic research, “There is now strong empirical evidence to suggest a two-way relationship: improved health significantly enhances economic productivity and growth. 2 ” Furthermore, the Royal Institute of International Affairs states that, “…improved health supports labour productivity; by augmenting life expectancy, it encourages savings and private investment. Health expenditures are an investment not a cost. It is crucial that governments develop a long-term perspective.” The health care sector in Canada employs over a million people or 7.5% of the labour force. In 2004, Canada invested $130 billion in health care representing 10% of our GDP. The benefits of the health care investments not only accrue to a higher quality of life for all Canadians, but the economic multiplier effect of the initial investment is estimated to create an additional $65 billion in economic activity. 3 The CMA has identified a number of key issues related to health human resources and infrastructure that require immediate attention if the Canadian economy is to retain its competitive position in the global economy. We will make the case that, by making strategic federal direct investments in health human resources and public health, the federal government can make a great leap forward in reinforcing a critical foundation for a healthier more productive Canadian economy. These initiatives involve investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital, which if sustained over the long-term, will pay dividends in terms of improved population health. The competition for world class health care labour is becoming more global and will intensify. Unless Canada can provide excellent training, tools and working conditions international demand threatens to undermine the foundations of our system. For example, if Canada were to move today to cap working hours on physicians to 48 hours per week as the European Union has done, Canada would be short a whopping 12,780 physicians. Not only is there international demand for world class medical professionals, but also the stock of these professionals especially in Canada is aging. The United States is expected to be short by 200,000 physicians by 2020. They have looked to Canada before to fill the gap, and they may again. This is why the federal government must play a leadership role in supporting health human resources (HHR) while at the same time sustaining Canadian health care industries. When investments in health are aligned with technology at the right time, they can, as Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan suggests, “provide key insights into clinical best practices and substantially reduce administrative costs.” One of the key health infrastructure investments that has to be made is the electronic medical record (EMR). For too long Canada has lagged all major industrialized countries in adopting an EMR. A pan-Canadian EMR would deliver higher quality care, faster and at a higher value. An EMR would also allow Canada’s health care system to dramatically increase communication between jurisdictions. Communication and coordination of resources are keys to dealing with natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans. We need these investments sooner rather than later to avoid making the mistakes (e.g. in the case of SARS) as pointed out by the Naylor Report 4 . One of the key areas where the federal government can make a difference is the creation of a secure communications network linking up public health authorities and health providers across the country. According to Dr. Klaus Stöhr, project leader of the Global Pandemic Project at the World Health Organization, “Once a pandemic virus emerges, it is too late to begin planning or to begin collaboration.” 5 In spite of the imminent threat of a pandemic influenza, there are $34.3 millions in planned cuts to the Public Health Agency of Canada, over the next two years, as a result of program review. We need only look as far as New Orleans to see what an under-funded federal emergency preparedness system can reap. The loss of life in New Orleans was tragic and many agree unnecessary. In Canada we had SARS. Canada did squelch SARS and learned a lot about our capacities, yet we still have not lived up to the potential of being better prepared. Looking ahead, “In the event of a pandemic, the economic effects could be severe, affecting virtually all sectors and regions,” according to Dr. Sherry Cooper Chief Economist, BMO Nesbitt Burns. Dr. Cooper goes on to say that “Awareness is key to preparedness and proper surveillance, planning and preparation are essential to effective response and containment.” 6 Over the last several years, the CMA raised serious concerns about the ability of Canada’s public health system to respond to disasters and made a number of recommendations to address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity of the system. The CMA firmly believes that there remain significant shortcomings in our capacity to respond to health care emergencies. As we look to the future it is critical that the federal government make a stronger commitment to public health. Public health programming is too important to be sacrificed in the short-term expenditure review exercises. The continued application of the GST on physician practices is an unfair tax on health. Because physicians cannot recapture the GST paid on goods and services for their practices in the same way most other businesses can, the GST distorts resource allocation for the provision of medical care. As a result, physicians end up investing less than they otherwise could on goods and services that could improve patient care and enhance health care productivity such as information management and information technology systems. Zero-rating the GST on physician practices would remove an unfair tax on health and allow for greater investment in technologies that would result in better care. Summary The CMA’s pre-budget submission has presented the facts on how investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. As our health care system efficiencies improve, the benefits not only accrue to health care workers, but also the ultimate dividend is better patient care and improved population health. Improvements in the quality of care, and especially speed of care, enable the Canadian labour force to increase its performance and fully reach its potential. These health care investments ultimately translate into a stronger, more competitive and more productive economy. CMA’s 10 point productivity plan (with estimated investment) Efficiency Recommendation #1: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial governments and Canada’s medical schools, provide funding for 600 postgraduate training positions to enable qualified international medical graduates who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants to complete medical training requirements. Investment: $45 million per year for 3 years. [600 x $75k (approximate annual training cost per resident]. Recommendation #2: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Foreign Affairs Canada and provincial and territorial governments, carry out a direct ad campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10 million. Recommendation #3: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health allocate $1 billion over 5 years to a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund. This fund would be used to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Investment: $1 billion over 5 years. Recommendation #4: That Health Canada, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the provincial and territorial governments, create the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources to facilitate pan-Canadian planning of health human resource needs. Investment: $3 million per year. Equity Recommendation #5: That the Minister of Finance introduces legislation to amend the federal Excise Tax Act to zero-rate the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on physician practices. Investment: $84 million per year or 0.27 % of total $31.5 billion GST revenues in 2005/06. Recommendation #6 That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health provide additional financial support to Canada Health Infoway, to realize the vision of a secure interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record, with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $1.5 billion over 10 years. Recommendation #7: That the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. Investment: $5 million per year. Recommendation #8: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health as well as significantly accelerating the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600 million over 3 years. Effectiveness Recommendation #9: In order to ensure that adequate emergency preparedness and public health capacity is built at both federal and provincial levels, the federal government should provide sustained additional funding, to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and exempt it from expenditure review contributions. Investment: $684.3 million over 3 years (details in Appendix 1). Recommendation #10: That Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide a one-time infusion of $100 million, to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real-time during health emergencies. Investment: A one time investment of $ 100 million. The first wealth is health Canada, which at one time was the most attractive place on Earth to live, is falling behind. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada’s overall economic performance has fallen from 3rd best in the world, to 6th and now to 12th. One of the drivers of this precipitous fall is – according to the Conference Board’s analysis – the weakened state of our health care system. For example, our infant mortality rates are rising, not falling, in relative and absolute terms. We have tumbled from our top-five ranking in the 1980s — to where we are today; in the 22nd spot out of 27 OECD countries. That is why, now more than ever, Canada’s economy is in need of strategic federal direct investments in health care as part of an overall productivity enhancing package. According to the latest economic research, “There is now strong empirical evidence to suggest a two-way relationship: improved health significantly enhances economic productivity and growth. 7 ” The health care sector in Canada employs over a million people or 7.5% of the labour force. In 2004, Canada invested $130 billion in health care, representing 10% of our GDP. The benefits of the health care investments not only accrue to a higher quality of life for all Canadians, but the economic multiplier effect of the initial investment is estimated to create an additional $65 billion in economic activity. 8 I. Efficiency – providing tools to improve patient care and productivity A healthy and productive health workforce is the key to a well performing health care system and sets the foundation for a productive labour force. That is the ideal. However, there is a shortage of physicians across Canada. This shortage is creating a tremendous amount of pressure on the health care system. As demand for health care increases and the supply of health care workers is fixed, the pressure on these workers to do “more with less” is enormous. That is why Canadian physicians need the federal government’s support to have the tools and time to build on their productivity. Making human capital investments in physicians (value centres) Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh acknowledged the value of physicians in his speech to the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council this August 2005 by saying, “I want you to know that our government sees physicians … not as cost centres but as value centres”. It is in this spirit that we urge the government to invest in HHR. In order for the First Ministers Meeting (FMM) Agreement to be successful in improving access to care, governments must make the health workforce a major priority. In particular, the $1 billion in HHR funding in the Wait Times Reduction Fund should be made available immediately to address the crisis in health human resources rather than in the last 4 years of the 10-year agreement as currently projected. Given the current shortages in health human resources, action on HHR must begin now — not in 2010. Investing in physicians, or as Minister Dosanjh eloquently put, “value centres” will have real dividends for Canadians and the health care system. Accordingly, the CMA calls upon the federal government to play a key role in improving the availability of health human resources by developing a pan-Canadian HHR strategy that includes the involvement of health care providers. 9 For as Minister Dosanjh acknowledged, "It is clear to me that, if we are going to achieve the kind of solutions that have the support of Canadians, that our physicians must be engaged as active and valued partners.” The cost of under-investing in health human resources The pressures on human capital within the health care system are clear. Since the cutbacks in medical school admissions in the early 1990s, the gap between the growing demand for medical care and physician supply has widened. Canada’s ratio of 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population remains one of the lowest among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and below the OECD average of 2.9. With this ratio, Canada ranks 24th out of 30 OECD countries. In addition, as more doctors enter retirement age the shortage of physicians is becoming acute. The cost to patients — and their employers — is manifested in wait times, increasing difficulty to access primary care. In spite of these pressures Canada still does not educate enough doctors to replace those about to retire. The status quo threatens capital stock within the health sector, the general labour force, and even the world. “In the face of a global shortage of health care workers … can a country in which 24% of practicing doctors were educated outside its own borders continue to rely on physicians from countries that can least afford to lose them?” — Dr. Peter Barrett, CMA past president, August 2005 CMA annual meeting. Social and economic dividends of investing in HHR The CMA recommends that Canada’s long-term objective should be to increase enrolments in health disciplines to achieve greater self-sufficiency. The dividend of investing in HHR is a better, more efficient health care workforce who will deliver higher quality care in a timely manner. A well funded public health care system makes all Canadians healthier and more productive in their economic and social roles. In addition, becoming HHR self-sufficient also has the potential benefit of eventually exporting made-in-Canada health sector goods and services. But beyond re-stocking the pool of HHR for the future, attention also needs to be paid to the current stock of physicians. The issue of retention, or keeping physicians interested in working, is especially important now considering that a record number of physicians are about to retire. (i) Maximizing our existing health human capital — providing more training opportunities for international medical graduates As noted earlier, Canada ranks at the bottom among OECD countries in physicians per capita. As blunt an indicator as this may be the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Zeliotis case is a poignant reminder that there is an imbalance in the system between supply (HHR) and demand. We need more health care workers to protect, or save from burnout, the health care human capital investments that Canada has made already. We also need to ensure that Canada’s labour force — our macro human capital — has access to quality care without reasonable delays. Since it takes anywhere from 7 to 10 years to train a new physician, there are limits to how much can be done in the short term to address shortages. One short-term response would be to facilitate the training of qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) who are already in Canada. The CMA has welcomed the federal government’s recent investment of $75 million in the 2005 budget for the integration of internationally trained health workers, and notes that federal funding has already produced tangible results as some medical schools have increased the number of postgraduate training positions available to IMGs. However, there is an issue of clinical training capacity at Canada’s medical schools; consequently this initial investment is insufficient to provide training opportunities for over 600 IMGs and countless other qualified internationally trained health workers who are already in Canada. Accordingly, the CMA recommends that the federal government provide sufficient funding to provide additional training positions to train the existing supply of IMGs who would be eligible to begin a post-MD residency training immediately. The capacity to train these Canadian citizens or landed immigrants exists in Canadian medical schools. Currently, Canadian medical schools are providing postgraduate training opportunities to close to 900 visa trainees from abroad, largely from Persian Gulf countries. The federal government helps redeploy some of this capacity by offering medical schools, on a time-limited basis, to purchase some of these visa trainee positions to train IMGs that can then be deployed in Canada’s health care system. Such funding could also provide for the comprehensive assessments of IMGs that have been developed in several jurisdictions. The CMA also strongly supports the initiative of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) in developing a pilot for the off-shore electronic administration of the MCC’s evaluation exams. Recommendation #1: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial governments and Canada’s medical schools, provide funding for 600 postgraduate training positions to enable qualified international medical graduates who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants to complete medical training requirements. Investment: $45 million per year for 3 years. [600 x $75k (approximate annual training cost per resident]. (ii) Repatriating human capital - getting our Canadian physicians back home from the US Canada has been a net exporter of physicians to the United States for a generation. As government funding for health care fell in the 1990s exports of Canadian physicians to the US rose. Last year was the first year in which Canada gained more physicians than it sent to the US. There is a window of opportunity to repatriate Canadian physicians from the United States. The quality of Canadian life, competitive remuneration packages and a practice commitment that is characterized by greater physician autonomy are many of the chief drawing points for such a campaign. As the Canadian dollar approaches US $0.90 advertising in the US has also become much more affordable. Recommendation #2: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Foreign Affairs Canada and provincial and territorial governments, carry out a direct ad campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10 million. (iii) Diligence on HHR As Canada’s population ages and as health care technology improves, demand for health care will increase. Health care in economic terms is a superior good: as the population’s standard of living improves, so does the demand for superior goods. But will this increased demand be met with an adequate supply of physicians to provide the kind of care Canadians need in a timely manner? Not likely, but we don’t know for sure because Canada does not currently have a way to assess the ability of our medical schools to meet these future needs across the country. An inadequate physician supply has important implications for human, physical and entrepreneurial capital in Canada’s economy. If the physician supply is not properly aligned with the demographic needs of the population the result is a loss (calculations vary and depend on the individual) in potential human capital as patients postpone treatment or wait too long for treatment. Investments in future physical capital investments may also be misallocated or not made at all if the proper health human resources are not in place. In addition, entrepreneurial capital may also very well flow to places where the optimal health human resources are in place. Why we need a Health Human Resources Reinvestment fund Canada lags behind other countries in the education and training of physicians. For example, as of 2002-2003 there were 12.2 first-year medical school places per 100,000 population in England compared with only 6.5 per 100,000 in Canada. It should be added that the United Kingdom has aggressively expanded medical enrolment since the late 1990s by opening 4 new medical schools and increasing medical school intake by some 2,300 places (60%) between 1997 and 2004. The CMA and other major national medical organizations have called on governments to increase medical school capacity to 3,000 first-year training positions per year in order to stabilize Canada’s physician supply. With recent increases in positions at a number of medical schools, current indications suggest that we have reached about 2,300 positions per year. However, given the growing demand for health services and changing patterns of medical practice, it is likely that medical school capacity will have to be increased much more significantly. For example, if Canada were to move today to cap working hours on physicians to 48 hours per week as the European Union has done, Canada would be short a whopping 12,780 physicians. Accordingly, as was done in the 1960s when the federal government introduced the Health Resources Fund, the CMA urges the federal government to create a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund in order to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Recommendation #3: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health allocate $1 billion over 5 years to a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund. This fund would be used to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Investment: $1 billion over 5 years. (iv) Creation of the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources At a broader level, there is also a need for continued coordination of pan-Canadian HHR needs for today and the future. Governments are investing very large sums of funding in health care without having the benefit of a national long-term health human resources strategy. Since health human resources are increasingly mobile in the global economy, it is essential that Canada’s 14 provincial, territorial and federal health care systems devise a coordinated approach to training, recruiting and retaining health human resources. The Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources would be modeled along the same lines as the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment (CCOHTA) created in 1989. Presently, there is no overall national coordinating body to assist provinces and territories in the planning of health human resources, particularly one that includes all pertinent stakeholders including physicians and other health care professionals. Building on previous federal investments in health sector studies across a number of health disciplines, the CMA urges the federal government to establish a Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources involving representation from health care professions — something both the Romanow and Senator Kirby reports recommended. Recommendation #4: That Health Canada, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the provincial and territorial governments, create the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources to facilitate pan-Canadian planning of health human resource needs. Investment: $3 million per year. II. Equity: improving health infrastructure and technology to provide better care (v) Freeing-up entrepreneurial capital and retaining physicians Why the GST should not apply to physician practices The CMA is calling on the federal government to remove an insidious tax on health by zero-rating (10 ) the GST on physician practices. The introduction of the GST was never intended to fall onto the human and physical capital used to produce goods and services. The GST is a value-added tax on consumption that was put into place to remove the distorting impact that the federal manufacturers sales tax was having on business decisions. However, the GST was applied to physician practices in a way that does exactly the opposite. The federal government must rectify the situation once and for all. Based on estimates by KPMG, physicians have paid $1.1 billion in GST related to their medical practice. This is $1.1 billion that could have been invested in better technology to increase care and productivity. Re-investing the zero-rating of the GST for physician practices Zero-rating the GST would initially cost the federal government $84 million (11) or 0.27% of total GST revenues for 2005/06. However, as physicians across Canada re-invest the zero-rated GST tax back into their practices — and especially in their patients — there would be considerable dividend back to the federal government in terms of healthier Canadians and a more efficient economy. Zero-rating the GST for physician practices is about properly calibrating the tax system with the health care delivery system, in order to help meet our national health and economic goals. Dispelling the myth of a GST precedent Some bureaucrats and politicians believe that zero-rating the GST for physician practices may set a precedent. In fact, the precedent has already been set: significant elements of publicly-funded health care are already zero-rated or qualify for a rebate on GST. For example, prescription drugs, a significant and growing driver of total health care costs, have been zero-rated since 1996. Hospitals have benefited from an 83% rebate since the inception of the GST, and the 2005 budget extended the reach of this rebate to not-for-profit organizations delivering services that were previously delivered in the hospital setting. In addition to hospitals, rebates have been extended to other public and para-public sectors such as municipalities, universities and schools (the so-called “MUSH” sector). The 2004 federal budget confirmed that municipalities would be able to recover 100% of the GST and the federal component of the harmonized sales tax (HST) immediately. Recommendation #5: That the Minister of Finance introduces legislation to amend the federal Excise Tax Act to zero-rate the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on physician practices. Investment: $84 million per year or 0.27 % of total $31.5 billion GST revenues in 2005/06. (vi) Electronic Medical Record — increasing health and productivity In the words of Finance Minister Goodale, “Top-notch physical infrastructure is essential to a successful economy and a rising quality of life.” To be sure, Canada needs better highways, bridges and sewer systems. We need this basic infrastructure to enjoy a basic quality of life. But we want more than a basic life. To achieve a higher quality of life and to ensure international competitiveness, Canada needs to invest in the infrastructure of the 21st century, this is e-infrastructure. A pan-Canadian Electronic Medical Record (EMR) would deliver higher quality care, faster and at higher value. An EMR will save lives and improve efficiencies When investments in health are aligned with technology at the right time, they can as Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan suggest, “provide key insights into clinical best practices and substantially reduce administrative costs.” Health care delivery in Canada is a $130 billion industry. It represents more than 10% of our country’s gross domestic product. And it continues to grow. Yet we are managing the system with technology that would have been unacceptable to the banking industry even 20 years ago. Studies show (12) that the sooner we have a pan-Canadian EMR in place, the sooner the quality of health care will improve. For too long Canada has lagged all major industrialized countries in adopting an EMR (see Table 2). [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 Canada has fallen behind in EMR investments Percent of physicians using electronic records and prescriptions Country Records Prescriptions Britain 59% 87% New Zealand 52% 52% Australia 25% 44% United States 17% 9% Canada 14% 8% Harris Interactive Survey (2001) conducted for Harvard School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund's International Health Care Symposium. [TABLE END] An adequate health information infrastructure with pan-Canadian connectivity With an initial investment of $1.2 billion, Canada Health Infoway (CHI) has been working with provincial and territorial governments to put in place key components of a pan-Canadian health information infrastructure. While significant investments have been made in provincial and territorial health information systems, two key concerns have emerged. First, the $1.2 billion investment in CHI, while significant, is only 15% of the estimated cost of implementing a fully interoperable electronic medical record system in Canada. Second, CHI has made very limited progress in building a common, secure and interoperable platform - the backbone of a pan-Canadian system. Accordingly the CMA endorses the recommendations put forward by the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (ACAHO), the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Healthcare Association to provide CHI with significant funding so that it may fulfill its core mission. Empowering investments in e-entrepreneurship for better health One of the gaps in the pan-Canadian EMR is the lack of attention paid to health information infrastructure on the front lines of health care delivery. While medical services across the country are largely publicly – funded, most physicians run their own practices. As entrepreneurs doctors take on the responsibility and risk of investing in new capital equipment from diagnostics to EMRs. Like any other business, doctors must calculate the return on investment for any capital equipment that they buy. In the case of the EMR, most of the return benefits the government, according to a Center for Information Technology Leadership in the United States 13 . A physical capital investment in an EMR improves care and deepens entrepreneurial capital By making all relevant patient information immediately available at the time of any encounter, and by providing equally rapid access to general medical information that assists in clinical decision-making, an EMR significantly enhances a clinician's ability to make good decisions, which will reduce medical errors and their associated costs. The timeliness of information also means that diagnoses are made more quickly, which significantly reduces the amount of time that patients need to spend using costly hospital beds or emergency room resources. Further cost reductions come from diminished duplication: all too often, time is lost and money is spent repeating diagnostic tests that were recently done but whose results are unavailable. Recovery of health information technology investments is almost immediate A Booz, Allan, Hamilton study on the Canadian health care system estimates that the benefits of an EMR could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion, due to a reduction in duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reduction in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The study went on to state that the benefits to health care outcomes would equal or surpass these annual savings. Mobilizing physicians to operationalize a pan-Canadian EMR The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal governments make a connected health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi stakeholder process encompassing the entire health care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and CHI. The CMA is urging the federal government to allocate an additional investment of $1.5 billion to Canada Health Infoway. Criteria would be set for the fund that would restrict investment to automating physician offices through an agreement between the medical division and the appropriate province or territory. The $1.5 billion federal investment would be leveraged on the basis of a 75:25 sharing with physicians to generate $1.5 billion in physician office automation investment over the next 10 years. Specific modalities of disbursements of these funds would be set up by agreements with the provincial medical associations. CHI already has stringent financial controls and processes in place and can extend them to manage this program. Recommendation #6: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health provides additional financial support to Canada Health Infoway, to realize the vision of a secure interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record, with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $1.5 billion over 10 years. (vii) Alleviating medical resident debt ? extend the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents Medical students are accumulating unprecedented levels of debt as tuition fees for medical school continue to sky rocket. The increase in debt influences the kind of practice young physicians pursue as well as where they practice. The Canadian Medical Association commends the federal government for its commitment to reduce the financial burden on students in health care professions as announced in the 2004 FMM Agreement and encourages it to act on this promise by extending the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents. Extending the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents would avoid distorting medical students’ career choices and encourage new graduates to stay in Canada. Deregulation of tuition => increased debt burden => drag on entrepreneurship It wasn’t always this way. The deregulation of medical school tuition fees in some provinces dramatically increased the debt burden of medical students. It is important to note that medical residents are in a unique situation not faced by other students who graduate from university programs. Once students graduate from medical school, they earn the right to be called physicians. However, they cannot practice until they complete a residency program. The program, which takes between 2-10 years to complete, certifies them as a specialist in a number of disciplines ranging from family medicine to radiology to rheumatology. During the compulsory residency program they must act as both student and employee. Table 1 includes the annual salary of medical residents and fellow hospital employees. Medical residents are not paid by the hour; otherwise their wages would be higher as there is no limit on the hours (80+) they work. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1. Medical residents learn a lot but don’t earn a lot Resident stipend versus fully qualified health care employees Status, Ottawa, Ontario Annual Stipend or Fulltime Salary (as applicable) Minimum Postsecondary Education Requirement Minimum Related Experience Requirement Ontario Resident, PGY-1 (national average is $42,862) $ 44,230 7 + years 7+ years related clinical and other experience acquired through undergraduate medical education and pre-professional experiences, including clerkships, electives, etc. Locksmith/Door Mechanic, Ottawa Hospital $44,051 None. High school diploma required and a course or certificate in locksmithing 5-years relevant experience Supervisor of Housekeeping, Ottawa Hospital $ 41,165 - $48,000 2 years OR certified member of the OHHA CAHA, or related 3-years general supervisory experience [TABLE END] The Cost of under-investing in medical residents hits rural Canada hard As medical debt increases more physicians are choosing to go into some specialties (remunerated at a much higher rate) as opposed to family medicine. This has an impact on the accessibility, quality and overall cost of the health care system. Family practitioners are on the front-lines of medical care, and they treat and prevent millions of illnesses across Canada every year. The fall in demand for family practice in general, and rural family practice in particular, is now having a significant impact on health care and economic performance. The lack of a local family physician is often a determining factor in a company’s decision to make a direct investment in a community. For example, a multi-national company would likely not invest in a multi-billion dollar ski hill if there were no doctors available to treat ski related accidents. Improving access to medical education Canada’s future depends on ensuring that all Canadians have access to our medical schools. This sentiment was recently echoed by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, “...but such skills are still confined to a minority of our population. We must do better. Canada’s future depends upon it.” Extending the interest-free status on Canada student loans would be an important signal to young Canadians from all socio-economic backgrounds that want to become a doctor. Drawing from a smaller portion of the population limits the experience and variety of community contact. Specific knowledge of a patient group allows a future physician adapt their care for that group. Thus, we should be graduating residents from all across the country from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This is not unlike an entrepreneur who by tailoring services to a clients need that were previously unmet delivers better service and captures market share. Recommendation #7: That the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. Investment: $5 million per year. (viii) Making medical research investments count – supporting knowledge transfer The Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was created to be Canada's premier health research funding agency. One of the most successful aspects of the CIHR is its promotion of inter-disciplinary research across the four pillars of biomedical, clinical, health systems and services as well as population health. This has made Canada a world leader in new ways of conducting health research. However, with its current level of funding, Canada is significantly lagging other industrialized countries in its commitment to health research. Knowledge transfer is one of the areas where additional resources would be most usefully invested. Knowledge Translation (KT), a prominent and innovative feature of the CIHR mandate, has the potential to: * Significantly increase and accelerate the benefits flowing to Canadians from their investments in health research; and  * Establish Canada as an innovative and authoritative contributor to health-related knowledge translation. Population and public health research is another area where increased funding commitments would yield long-term dividends. For example, “Researchers (and research funders) should create more opportunities for interactions with the potential users of their research. They should consider such activities as part of the 'real' world of research, not a superfluous add-on.”(Lavis et al., 2001) 14 Recommendation #8: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health as well as significantly accelerating the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600 million over 3 years. III. Effective - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure A little preparation before a crisis occurs is preferable to a lot of fixing up afterward. According to the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) an influenza pandemic is inevitable. The consequences of not being adequately prepared will result in more lost lives and a multi-billion dollar hole in our economy, as was the experience in Toronto as a result of SARS in 2003. Looking ahead, PHAC estimates that the impact of pandemic influenza in Canada, if vaccines are not available, is between 11,000 and 58,000 deaths and economic costs of $5 to $38 billion. (ix) Protecting our capital infrastructure through emergency preparedness When SARS hit Canada in the spring of 2003 people got very sick and died. There was public confusion that quickly spilled into the economy. Internal and external trade in Canada was disrupted. According to the Conference Board of Canada the economic impact of the outbreak of SARS in the Greater Toronto Area equaled $1.5 billion. Investments in public health and emergency preparedness will allow the system to function more effectively and alleviate the impact of novel infectious diseases. We have expert advice how to do it – the Naylor Report. Reduce the economic burden of pandemics — close the Naylor Gap The National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the Naylor Report) estimated that approximately $1 billion in annual funding is required to implement and sustain the public health programming that Canada requires. Although representing an important reinvestment in this country’s public health system, the funding announced in the 2005 budget falls well short of this basic requirement. Dr. Jeffrey Koplan 15 , the past Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out 7 areas for building capacity and preparedness within a public health system: 1. A well trained, well staffed public health workforce. 2. Laboratory capacity to produce timely and accurate results for diagnosis and investigation. 3. Epidemiology and surveillance to rapidly detect health threats. 4. Secure accessible information systems to help analyze and interpret health data. 5. Solid communication to ensure a secure two-way flow of information. 6. Effective policy evaluation capability. 7. A preparedness and response capability that includes a response plan and testing and maintaining a high state of preparedness. These points apply for both the day-to-day functioning of the public health system and its ability to respond to threats whether it is a new infectious disease, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Public health must be ready for all such threats. It is crucial, that the federal government build and maintain its stockpile of supplies for emergency use, its public health laboratories for early detection, its capacity to rapidly train and inform front-line health workers of emerging threats, its ability to assist the provinces and territories, and coordinate provincial responses in the event of overwhelming or multiple simultaneous threats. Vaccination is the most cost-effective health intervention available When a pandemic hits Canada vaccinations are a key component in reducing the impact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination against childhood diseases is one of the most cost effective health interventions available. For example the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination saves $16.34 in direct medical costs for every dollar spent. The CMA urges the federal government to continue to support the National Immunization Strategy and the consistent availability of National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended vaccines in all provinces and territories. A clear role for federal leadership – protecting our future The idea that public health is a federal responsibility “is based on the premise that public health matters - particularly emergencies - are so important that the federal government should simply use its powers for ”peace, order and good government” to unilaterally direct how public health matters should be addressed, and to ensure they are fully addressed.” 16 Consequently, the CMA recommends the enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation to allow for a more rapid national response in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated systematic approach to emergencies that pose an acute an imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is, under certain circumstances public health officials will need to turn to the provincial, territorial or the federal government for help. The success of such a multi-jurisdictional approach is contingent upon good planning beforehand between the federal, provincial and territorial and local-level governments. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the coordination among authorities and reduce the variability between various response plans in cooperation with provincial authorities. Public health investments take time Public health must be funded consistently in order to reap the full benefit of the initial investment. Investments in public health will produce healthier Canadians and a more productivity workforce for the Canadian economy. But this takes time. By the same token, neglect of the public health system will cost lives and hit the Canadian economy hard. As the federal government examines ways of achieving efficiencies and cost savings in federal programs through the Cabinet Committee on Expenditure Review it is critical that the Public Health Agency of Canada be protected from any cuts. Recommendation #9: In order to ensure that adequate emergency preparedness and public health capacity is built at both federal and provincial levels, the federal government should provide sustained additional funding, to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and exempt it from expenditure review contributions. Investment: $684.3 million over 3 years (details in Appendix 1). (x) Investments in effective public health communication are crucial The effectiveness of the public health system is dependent, in large part, on its capacity to communicate authoritative information in a timely way. A two-way flow of information between public health experts and the practicing community is necessary at all times. It becomes essential during emergency situations. The rapid, effective, accessible and linked (REAL) health communication and coordination initiative improves the ability of the public health system to communicate in a rapid fashion by: * Providing a focal point for inter-jurisdictional communication and coordination to improve preparedness in times of emergency. * Developing a seamless communication system leveraging formal and informal networks. * Researching the best way to disseminate emergency information and health alerts to targeted health professionals and public health officials in a rapid, effective and accessible fashion. Recommendation #10: That Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide a one-time infusion of $100 million, to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real-time during health emergencies. A one time investment of $100 million. Conclusion — the economic impact of investments in health care The CMA’s pre-budget submission has presented the facts on how investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. Improvements in the quality of care, and especially speed of care, enable the Canadian labour increase their performance and reach their potential. The 2004 First Minister Health Accord is a positive step in renewing the federal government’s commitment to publicly funded health care, more needs to be done. Like the human body, that is always evolving, the health care system needs to be calibrated for optimal performance. Targeted investments in health human resources as well as health care infrastructure will result in an optimal allocation of resources, better health and a stronger economy. Appendix 1 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY]  CMA’s 10 point productivity plan    (in millions of dollars) 3-year 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 Total   Efficiency i. Improving access -opening-up training positions for International Medical Graduates 45.0 45.0 45.0 135.0   ii. Repatriating our human capital -getting Canadian physicians home from the U.S. 10.0 0.0 0.0 10.0   iii. Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund* 100.0 200.0 300.0 600.0   iv. Creating the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources 3.0 3.1 3.2 9.3   Efficiency total 158.0 248.1 348.2 754.3   Equity v. Freeing-up entrepreneurial capital -zero-rating the GST on physician practices 84.0 86.1 88.3 258.4 vi. Investing in physical and human capital through physician office automation (CHI transfer)** 1,463.7 0.0 0.0 1,463.7   vii. Providing debt-relief to medical residents - an investment in human capital 5.0 5.1 5.3 15.4   viii. Making health research investments count -supporting knowledge transfer 100.0 200.0 300.0 600.0   Equity total 1,652.7 291.2 393.6 2,337.5   Effectiveness ix. Planning for the worst -pandemic preparation 25.0 25.0 25.0 75.0   Closing the Naylor Gap 75.0 150.0 250.0 475.0   Protection from expenditure review committee reductions*** 16.4 17.9 0.0 34.3   x. Ensuring effective public health communication 100.0 0.0 0.0 100.0   Effectiveness total 216.4 192.9 275.0 684.3   Total 2,027.1 732.2 1,016.8 3,776.1 * Note: additional 2 years of funding at $200 million per year. ** Note: the physician office automation financing plan is a 1-time transfer to Canada Health Infoway (CHI). CHI would deliver funding directly. Estimates are based on information from CHI (October 2005). *** Working Group on a Public Health Agency for Canada In Report: A Public Health Agency of Canada Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; Apr 2004. Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/rpp-2005-06/index.html#2b (accessed Oct 2005). [TABLE END] Appendix 2 10 year Costing of the Physician Automation [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] 1. There are approximately 60,000 licensed physicians in Canada. It is estimated that 20% already have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) in their clinical office. Therefore this costing analysis is to support the other 48,000 physicians to automate their offices. 2. The cost to automate an office is based on the work carried out by the Alberta government and the Alberta Medical Association through the Physician Office Support Program (POSP).They have used a four year cost of $41,000 which covers capital, installation, training and operational costs over the four years. First year costs are $26,000 with $5,000 over the remaining three years. References 1 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), essayist, poet, philosopher. “Power,” The Conduct of Life (1860). 2 According to the Royal Institute of International Affairs who also quote two Nobel Laureates in Economics. In, Health Expenditure and Investment Rather than a Cost? International Economics Program, Chatham House. 07/05. Available: www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=189&pid=245 (accessed Oct 2005). 3 The additional economic activity generated by the health care sector is based on a conservative 1.5 multiplier. The CMA is pursuing precise estimates of the benefits of health care investments in Canada. 4 Learning from SARS - Renewal of Public Health in Canada A report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health. Ottawa: Health Canada; Oct 2003. Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/sars-sras/naylor/(accessed October 2005) 5 5 Cooper S. Don’t fear fear or panic panic an economist’s view of pandemic flu Toronto: BMO Nesbitt Burns; October 2005. Avalable www2.bmo.com/news/article/0,1257,contentCode-5047_divId-4_langId-1_navCode-112,00.html 6 ibid 7 According to the Royal Institute of International Affairs who also quote two Nobel Laureates in Economics. In, Health Expenditure and Investment Rather than a Cost? International Economics Program, Chatham House. 07/05. Available: www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=189&pid=245 (accessed Oct 2005). 8 The additional economic activity generated by the health care sector is based on a conservative 1.5 multiplier. The CMA is currently pursuing precise economic multiplier estimates of the benefits of health care investments in Canada. 9 The CMA and the Canadian Nurse Association go into greater depth concerning the pressures on a strategy for HHR in, “Planning Framework for Health Human Resources. A Green Paper. June 2005 Available: www.cna-nurses.ca/CNA/documents/ pdf/publications/CMA_CNA_Green_Paper_e.pdf. 10 Zero-rated supplies refer to a limited number of goods and services that are taxable at the rate of 0%. This means there is no GST/HST charged on the supply of these goods and services, but GST/HST registrants can claim an input tax credit (ITC) for the GST/HST they pay or owe on purchases and expenses made to provide them. Available: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/business/topics/gst/glossary-e.html (accessed September 2005) 11 An independent study by KPMG estimated that physicians have “overcontributed” in terms of unclaimed ITCs by approximately $57.2 million in 1992. In 2005, this comes to an inflation adjusted figure of $84 million. 12 Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada’s Health Infoway’s 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06 13 The Center for Information Technology Leadership (www.citl.org) is non-profit research organization established in 2002 to guide the health care community in making more informed strategic IT investment decisions. 14 Lavis, J., Ross, S., Hurley, J., Hohenadel, J., Stoddart, G., Woodward, C., Abelson, J. Reflections on the Role of Health-Services Research in Public Policy-Making. Paper 01-06. 15 Koplan JP. Building Infrastructure to Protect the Public’s Health. Public Health Training Network Broadcast Available: www.phppo.cdc.gov/documents/KoplanASTHO.pdf (accessed Oct 2005). 16 Report: A Public Health Agency for Canada Building a Foundation for Intergovernmental Harmony and Cooperation Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/phawg-aspgt-noseworthy/2_e.html (accessed Oct 2005)
Documents
Less detail