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Chronic Diseases Related to Aging: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10226
Date
2011-10-17
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-10-17
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association wishes to commend the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for undertaking this study of the issue of chronic diseases related to aging. It is a timely issue, since the first members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65 in 2011 and it's predicted that by 2031 a quarter of Canada's population will be 65 or older. Though chronic disease is not exclusive to seniors, its prevalence does rise with age: according to Statistics Canada, about 74% of Canadians over 65 have at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or depression and nearly 25% have three or more. The proportion is higher among people 85 years old and over. What are the causes of chronic disease? There are many. Some of them are rooted in unhealthy behaviour: smoking, poor nutrition and, in particular, lack of physical activity. Physicians are concerned about rising obesity rates in Canada, for example, because obesity increases one's risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. But there is more to chronic disease than unhealthy behaviour. It is also affected by a person's biological and genetic makeup, as well as by his or her social environment. Lower income and educational levels, poor housing, and social isolation, which is a greater problem for seniors than for other populations, are all associated with poorer health status. Now the good news: chronic disease is not an inevitable consequence of aging. We can delay the onset of chronic disease, and perhaps even reduce the risk that it will occur. Patients who do have existing chronic disease, their conditions can often be controlled successfully through appropriate health care and disease management, so that they can continue to lead active, independent lives. Thus the CMA supports initiatives promoting healthy aging - which the Public Health Agency of Canada defines as "the process of optimizing opportunities for physical, mental and social health as people age." Healthy lifestyles should be encouraged at any age. For example, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which CMA supports, recommend that people 65 or older accumulate at least two-and-a-half hours per week of aerobic activity such as walking, swimming or cycling. Experts believe that healthy aging will compress a person's period of illness and disability into a short period just prior to death, enabling a longer period of healthy, independent and fulfilling life. For those who are already affected with chronic diseases, treatment is long term and can be very complex. People with diabetes, for example, need a continuous ongoing program to monitor their blood sugar levels and maintain them at an appropriate level; people with arthritis or other mobility problems may require regular physical therapy. For the patient, chronic disease means a long-term management that is much more complicated than taking antibiotics for an infection. People with two or more chronic conditions may be consulting a different specialist for each, as well as seeking support from nurse counsellors, dieticians, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers or other health professionals. Often, management requires medication. The majority of Canadians over 65 take at least one prescription drug, and nearly 15% are on five drugs or more, which increases the possibility that, for example, two of those drugs could interact negatively with each other to produce unpleasant and possibly serious side effects. Long-term, complex chronic disease care is in fact the new paradigm in our health care system. About 80% of the care now provided in the United States is for chronic diseases, and there is no reason to believe Canada is greatly different. Hence, it is worth considering what form, ideally, a comprehensive program of chronic disease management should take, for patients of any age. The CMA believes it should include the following four elements: * First, access to a primary care provider who has responsibility for the overall care of the patient. For more than 30 million Canadians, that primary care provider is a family physician. Family physicians who have established long-standing professional relationships with their patients, can better understand their needs and preferences. They can build a relationship of trust, so that patients are comfortable in discussing frankly how they want to treat their conditions: for example, whether to take medication for depression or seek counselling with a therapist. The family physician can also serve as a co-ordinator of the care delivered by other providers. This leads to our second recommended element: * Collaborative and coordinated care. The CMA believes that, given the number of providers who may be involved in the care of chronic diseases, the health care system should encourage the creation of interdisciplinary teams or, at minimum, enable a high level of communication and coordination among individual providers. We believe all governments should support: o Interdisciplinary primary care practices, such as Family Health Networks in Ontario, which bring a variety of different health professionals and their expertise into one practice setting; o Widespread use of the electronic health record, which can facilitate information sharing and communication among providers; and o A smooth process for referral: for example, from family physician to specialists, or from family physician to physiotherapist. The CMA is working with other medical stakeholders to create a referral process tool kit that governments, health care organizations and practitioners can use to support the development of more effective and efficient referral systems. The patient may also need non-medical support services to help cope with disability related to chronic disease. For example, a person with arthritis who wants to remain at home may need to have grab bars, ramps or stair lifts installed there. Ideally, a coordinated system of chronic disease management would also include referral to those who could provide these services. * The third necessary element is support for informal caregivers. These are the unsung heroes of elder care. An estimated four million Canadians are providing informal, unpaid care to family members or friends. About a quarter of these caregivers are themselves 65 or older. Their burden can be a heavy one, in terms of both time and expense. Stress and isolation are common among caregivers. The federal government has taken steps to provide much-needed support to informal caregivers. The most recent federal budget, for example, increased the amount of its Caregiver Tax Credit. We recommend that the government build on these actions, to provide a solid network of support, financial and otherwise, to informal caregivers. * The fourth and final element is improving access to necessary services. Only physician and hospital services are covered through the Canada Health Act, and many other services are not. All provinces have pharmacare programs for people over 65, but coverage varies widely between provinces and many, particularly those with lower incomes, find it difficult to pay for their necessary medications. Seniors who do not have post-retirement benefit plans - and these are the majority - also need to pay out of pocket for dental care, physiotherapy, mental health care and other needed supports. We recommend that all levels of government explore adjusting the basket of services provided through public funding, to make sure that it reflects the needs of the growing number of Canadians burdened by chronic disease. In particular, we recommend that the federal government negotiate a cost-shared program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage with provincial/territorial governments. In conclusion, the CMA believes the committee is wise to consider how we might reduce the impact - on individual patients, the health care system and society - of chronic disease related to aging. Chronic disease management is a complex problem, but warrants close attention as it is now the dominant form of health care in Canada. We look forward to the results of the Committee's deliberations.
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CMA Letter to the Legislative Committee on Bill C-30: Clean Air Act

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8714
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to participate in the review of the Clean Air Act, Bill C- 30. The CMA, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 64,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and health care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy. The Environment: A Key Determinant of Health The physical environment is a key determinant of a population's health and the medical profession is concerned about environmental conditions that contribute to declining health in individuals and the population as a whole. Physicians have been part of an early warning system of scientists and other health professionals calling attention to the effects on human health of poor air quality because we see the impact in our practice and in our communities. There is strong evidence that air pollution is the most harmful environmental problem in Canada in terms of human health effects. We know from the smog health studies undertaken by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), Health Canada and others, about the public health crisis created by polluted air in many parts of Canada. And it is a crisis. A study by the federal government estimated that 5,900 premature deaths occur annually in eight large Canadian cities. This is a conservative estimate as the study focused on the short-term impact of smog pollutants using time-series studies. This study was never extrapolated to the whole Canadian population, but we know that only approximately one third of the Canadian population, mainly residents of large, urban areas, were included in the analysis.1 The OMA Illness Costs of Air Pollution study estimated that there were 5,800 premature deaths due to air pollution in Ontario alone in 2005, and examined both short-term and long-term health impacts. The OMA projected that the annual figure will grow to 10,000 premature deaths by 2026 unless effective steps are taken to reduce smog.2 In addition to premature deaths, the OMA estimated that there were 16,000 hospital admissions and 60,000 emergency room visits in Ontario in 2005 because of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses associated with air pollution exposure. During that same year, the OMA also estimated that there were 29 million minor illness days, defined as days where individuals either suffered from asthma symptoms or had to restrict their activities. Most of the people affected by these so-called minor illness days are children. In British Columbia, the Provincial Officer for Health published a conservative estimate in 2004 that air pollution in B.C. is causing between 140 and 400 premature deaths, 700 to 2,100 hospital stays, and between 900 and 2,750 emergency room visits each year.3 The direct and indirect costs of air pollution on the health of Canadians are estimated to be in the billions of dollars. According to the Ontario Medical Association, in 2005, air pollution costs in Ontario were estimated at: - $374 million in lost productivity and work time; - $507 million in direct health care costs; - $537 million in pain and suffering due to non-fatal illness; and - $6.4 billion in loss due to premature death.4 In Canada the environment is currently considered to be the most important issue facing society. In a recent poll by the Strategic Counsel for the Globe & Mail/CTV5 a majority of respondents ranked the impact of toxic chemicals, air and water pollution and global warming as life threatening. The environment, while a major concern today for the general public, has been of concern to physicians for some time. CMA, Health and the Environment In 1991 the CMA, released a policy paper Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development6 that clearly linked health and the environment. Building on the 1987 Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future) that tied sustainable development to the environment and the economy, the CMA inserted health into this pair of interactions and stated that "continued environmental degradation will increase hazard to human health." The paper concluded with a number of recommendations for governments, the health sector, and physicians in support of environmentally sustainable development. The CMA has continued to give attention to environmental issues urging the government, prior to Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada's international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. In 2002, the CMA also recommended that the federal Environment and Health Ministers commit their departments to improved health-based reporting by regularly updating the health effects information for pollutants of concern. Clean Air Act: A Physicians Perspective Doctors understand the concept that success from an intervention can be nuanced. In the case of disease, physicians know and accept that there are benefits of treatment even if a patient cannot be cured. Sometimes we just reduce their symptoms, or slow their rate of decline. But when treating the natural environment, so critical to human health, we suggest that you cannot accept a palliative solution. We must aim for cure. We must commit to measures of success in terms of real improvement in health. It is through this lens that the CMA urges that you view the Clean Air Act to ensure that it is health-relevant. The CMA would like to commend this government for acknowledging the impact of the physical environment on human health and we are encouraged that the Act recognizes the intimate connection between greenhouse gas reductions and improved air quality. Air pollution does not respect provincial borders therefore it is very important to establish national objectives and Canada wide standards that are strong and consistent across the country. To be health relevant national air quality objectives must result in air quality improvements. To this end, regardless of whether they are called objectives or standards, national air quality targets must protect the health of all Canadians and must be binding. Voluntary air quality guidelines guarantee no health benefit. The federal government must ensure that there is a regulatory framework in place to ensure that the standards are mandatory across the country. The annual reporting to Parliament on the attainment of the national air quality objectives and the effectiveness of measures to attain the objectives, as outlined in the Act, is very important. Transparency in reporting is essential to the integrity of any program, but is integral to the determination of health benefit. The International Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment report released on February 2, 2007, concluded that global warming is unequivocal and that human activity is the main driver, asserting with near certainty - more than 90 percent confidence - that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming since 1950. Its Third Assessment report: Climate Change 2001: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability noted that global climate change will have a wide range of impacts on human health. "Overall, negative health impacts are expected to outweigh positive health impacts. Some health impacts would result from changes in the frequencies and intensities of extremes of heat and cold and of floods and droughts. Other health impacts would result from the impacts of climate change on ecological and social systems and would include changes in infectious disease occurrence, local food production and nutritional adequacy, and concentrations of local air pollutants and aeroallergens, as well as various health consequences of population displacement and economic disruption."7 Given the indisputable impact of greenhouse gas increases on climate change and its connection to human health, it is critical to ensure that Canada is moving quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Air Act and the subsequent notice of intent sets out short, medium and long term targets and timelines for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The target setting approach proposed in the Act, based on emission intensity in the short and medium term is not health relevant. To be health relevant, targets should be presented in the context of overall emissions, i.e., emissions reductions minus emissions increases. An emission reduction from a particular source is only health-relevant if we can guarantee that there is not a corresponding emissions increase at another source nearby, because it is the absolute exposure that an individual experiences that affects the risk of an adverse health effect. Just as slowing the progression of a disease can never be considered a cure, attempting only to limit the growth of those emissions cannot result in true success by any measure. It is not until 2050 that the government has committed to achieving an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 45 - 65% of 2003 levels. Based on the emission intensity targets in the Clean Air Act, emissions and air pollution levels will, in fact, continue to rise as will the health consequences. In order to protect the health of Canadians the government needs to set policies, with targets and timelines that maximize absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, which are consistent with the scale and urgency of the challenge. To ensure that prescribed policies result in the intended environment and health outcomes, short and medium-term targets for absolute emission reductions would benchmark progress and allow for mid-course corrections, if they were needed. With respect to indoor air quality, physicians have long been proponents of initiatives to reduce exposure to contaminants such as second-hand tobacco smoke. The CMA is concerned about the impact on human health of exposure to high levels of radon and the associated increased risk of lung cancer. The intention to develop measures to address indoor air quality through a national radon strategy is a positive step. It is important that our patients are made aware of such threats in their homes, and also that they are presented with a way to reduce their exposure. Environmentally related illness is essentially the combined result of exposure and vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are human beings; each human being has different physical strengths and weaknesses. Some vulnerabilities to environmental influences are genetic, and some the results of pre-existing disease. There is not much that government can do about this part of the equation. Our exposure, on the other hand is related to the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. This is where the federal government is critical, and where the measures of success will be the most important. Proxy measures for the health outcomes that matter must be relevant from a health perspective. Health-based success can only be measured by quantifiable reductions in the exposure levels of contaminants in our air as well as in our water and soil. Clean air is absolutely fundamental to a healthy population - without it all else is irrelevant. Actions to curb air pollution must be taken in all sectors and levels of society in a concerted, non-partisan effort with the health of the population and the planet as our yardstick of success. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our comments on Bill C-30, the Clean Air Act. We look forward to working with you to improve the Clean Air Act and ensure that the measure of its success will benefit the health of Canadians. Sincerely Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP President 1 S. Judek, B. Jessiman, D. Stieb, and R. Vet. 2005. Estimated Number of Excess Deaths in Canada Due to Air Pollution". Health Canada and Environment Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/ nr-cp/2005/2005_32bk2_e.html#top 2 Ontario Medical Association. 2005. The Illness Costs of Air Pollution: 2005-2026 Health and Economic Damage Estimates. Toronto: OMA. 3 B.C. Provincial Health Officer. 2004. Every Breath You Take: Air Quality in British Columbia, A Public Health Perspective. 2003 Annual Report. Victoria: Ministry of Health Services. 4 Ontario Medical Association , 2005 5 GLOBE/CTV POLL Climate concerns now top security and health One in four label environmental issues as most important, The Globe and Mail, Fri 26 Jan 2007, Page: A1, Section: National News , Byline: Brian Laghi 6 Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development, Canadian Medical Association , 1991 7 WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001, IPPC Third Assessment Report: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, accessed Feb 7, 2007 http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg2/348.htm
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Disability Tax Credit Program : CMA Submission to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (House of Commons)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1972
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy. The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act. However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored. In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission). The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component. The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC. Physician Involvement in the DTC Program The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive. Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today. Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program: * The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. * The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible. * The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf. * Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals. * A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced. * A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken. The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations. Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups. We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers. Program Integrity A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process. Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient. There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised. Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. Fairness and Equity The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society. However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below. 1) Defining “disability” One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform. In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 2) Remuneration The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not. Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators. Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider. Tax Advisor Referrals With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit. The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support. This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment. Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment. As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. Conclusion The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions: 1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration. 6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. 7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population. i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001 ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.
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Healthy Living: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10058
Date
2011-02-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-02-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
I would like to thank the Committee for inviting the Canadian Medical Association to appear on this very important topic. As a family physician in Saskatoon and the past president of the CMA, I can assure you that Canada's physicians have an acute interest in drawing attention to the health consequences of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, and the challenge of obesity. We know that obesity is a contributor to a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and liver disease, as well as breast, colon and prostate cancer. We know that over-consumption of salt, sugars, and saturated and trans fats can be a factor in hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke, and kidney disease. And we know that Canadians have become dramatically less physically fit in recent decades. As a country, we need to espouse a culture of health and wellness, based on good nutrition and physical activity. Finding solutions will require a collaborative, system-wide approach involving all levels of government, the health, education, industry, finance and transportation ministries, and the private sector. We know that if provided with support when young, children can adopt healthy life styles. That is why the CMA continues to call on governments across the country to work with school boards to: * provide at least 30 minutes of active daily physical education for all primary and secondary grades, given by trained educators in the field; * provide access to attractive, affordable, healthy food choices and clearly post the nutrition content of the foods they sell; and * ban junk food sales in all primary, intermediate and secondary schools in Canada. The CMA has advocated policies and regulations for food safety, and promoted healthy eating and physical activity as key components of healthy living and the prevention of disease. The CMA policy statement Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Weights calls for a Canada-wide strategy for healthy living that includes: * information and support for Canadians to help them make healthy choices; * support for health professionals in counselling patients on healthy weight and in treating existing obesity; * community infrastructure that makes healthy living choices easier; and * public policies that encourage healthy eating and physical activity. All Canadians need access to nutritious food at affordable prices. The price of milk, produce and other healthy foods varies greatly in different parts of Canada. In remote areas, they are even more expensive because of high transportation costs. In urban areas, nutritious food may be unaffordable for people on low incomes and unavailable as grocery stores move to the suburbs thus creating "food deserts". Among other strategies, governments should consider: implementing school meal programs; and taking into account the cost of nutritious food when setting social assistance rates. The proliferation of packaged, prepared foods and fast foods has contributed to excess amounts of salt, sugar, saturated and trans fat and calories in our diet. While we welcome the federal government's support for the reduction of trans fats and sodium levels in processed foods, reliance on the food industry to voluntarily reduce these ingredients has not been successful. We believe that regulation is needed to safeguard the health of Canadians. Healthy living begins with an awareness of the impact of food and exercise on health. While individuals must take responsibility for making healthy choices, the CMA believes that governments have an obligation to provide guidance on healthy eating and physical activity that can be easily incorporated into daily lives. We commend the federal and provincial/ territorial governments for their recent Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. Physicians were also pleased to see the revised Canada's Food Guide in 2007, and the recent update to Canada's Physical Activity Guide. The CMA supports nutrition and caloric labeling on packaged foods to help Canadians make informed food choices. The federal nutrition labeling awareness initiative is useful to consumers but we think information can be simplified. For example, the UK is testing front of pack 'traffic light' coding for fats, salt, sugar and calories. The CMA has also called for a clear display of caloric counts, and sodium, trans-fats and protein levels on restaurant and cafeteria menus. The CMA believes encouragement of active transportation, that is walking and cycling, is a way to increase physical activity. Communities need to make it easier for Canadians to be physically active in their day-to-day life by providing sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly intersections; bike lanes, paths and parking spaces; and trails, parks and green spaces. One area that we believe warrants further study is the use of incentives to promote healthy behaviours. By transferring funds or other benefits to an individual, incentives provide immediate rewards for behaviours that can lead to long-term health gains. An example in Canada is the Children's Fitness Tax Credit, which is intended to help children be more active by off-setting some of the costs incurred by families for sports and leisure programs. Government disincentives largely involve the use of regulation and taxation in order to change individual behaviour. This helps to create an environment in which healthy choices are easier to make. It is impossible to overstate the importance of nutrition and physical activity to our health. Encouraging Canadians to make healthy choices requires a wide ranging, long-term and collaborative approach. The CMA believes this challenge should be met urgently. Canada's physicians are more than ready to work with governments to ensure that Canadians can improve and maintain their health.
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A Healthy Population for a Stronger Economy: CMA pre-budget consultation submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10224
Date
2011-08-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-08-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance examines how increasing retirement income saving options, improving access to prescription drugs, and planning for a Canadian Health Quality Alliance to promote innovation in the delivery of high quality health care can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. Higher quality health care and expanded options for meeting the needs of retired and elderly Canadians will contribute to the ultimate goals of better patient care, improved population health and help our country reach its full potential. Polls show that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of their health care system, particularly in terms of their ability to access essential care. The CMA's 2011 pre-budget submission responds to these concerns and supports a healthy population, a healthy medical profession and a healthy economic recovery. Our recommendations are as follows: Recommendation # 1 The federal government should study options to expand the current PRPP definition beyond defined contribution pension plans. Also, the federal government should expand the definition of eligible administrators of PRPPs beyond financial institutions to include organizations such as professional associations. Recommendation # 2 Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, should establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Recommendation # 3 The federal government should convene a time-limited national steering committee that would engage key stakeholders in developing a proposal for a pan-Canadian Health Quality Alliance with a mandate to work collaboratively towards integrated approaches for a sustainable health care system through innovative practices in the delivery of high quality health care. Introduction Over the past year, the CMA has engaged Canadians across the country in a broad-based public consultation on health care and heard about their concerns and experiences with the system. This exercise was undertaken as part of the CMA's Health Care Transformation (HCT) initiative, a roadmap for modernizing Canada's health care systemi so that it puts patients first and provides Canadians with better value for money. We have heard through these consultations that Canadians do not believe they are currently getting good value from their health care system, a feeling borne out by studies comparing Canada's health care system to those in leading countries in Europe. We also heard that Canadians are concerned about inequities in access to care beyond the basic medicare basket, particularly in the area of access to prescription drugs. While all levels of government need to be involved, it is the federal government that must lead the transformation of our most cherished social program. 1. Retirement Income Improvement Issue: Increasing retirement savings options for Canadians with a focus on improving their ability to look after their long-term care needs. Background The CMA remains concerned about the status of Canada's retirement income system and the future ability of Canada's seniors to adequately fund their long-term and supportive care needs. The proportion of Canadian seniors (65+) is expected to almost double from its present level of 13% to almost 25% by 2036. Statistics Canada projections show that between 2015 and 2021 the number of seniors will, for the first time, surpass the number of children under 14 years of age.ii The CMA has been working proactively on this issue in several ways, including through the recently created Retirement Income Improvement Coalition (RIIC), a broad-based coalition of 11 organizations representing over one million self-employed professionals. The coalition has previously recommended to the federal government the following actions: * increased retirement saving options for all Canadians, particularly the self-employed; * changes to the Income Tax Act, Income Tax Regulations and the Employment Standards Act to enable the self-employed to participate in pension plans; * the approval of Pooled Retirement Pension Plans (PRPP) as a retirement savings program for the self-employed; * changes to the current tax-deferred income saving options (increase the percentage of earned income or the maximum-dollar amount contribution limit for RRSPs); * a requirement that registration to all retirement saving options be voluntary (optional); and * opportunities for Canadians to become better educated about retirement saving options (financial literacy).iii The CMA appreciates that federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers are moving ahead with the introduction of Pooled Registered Retirement Plans (PRPPs). The CMA, as part of the RIIC, has been providing input into the consultation process. However, PRPPs represent only one piece of a more comprehensive retirement savings structure. Recommendation # 1 The federal government should study options that would not limit PRPPs to defined contribution pension plans. Target benefit plans should be permitted and encouraged. Target benefit plans allow risk to be pooled among the plan members, providing a more secure vehicle than defined contribution plans. Also, the administrators of PRPPs should not be limited to financial institutions. Well-governed organizations that represent a particular membership should be able to sponsor and administer RPPs and PRPPs for their own members, including self-employed members. The CMA also continues to be concerned about the ability of Canadians to save for their long-term health care needs. The Wait Time Alliance - a coalition of 14 national medical organizations whose members provide specialty care to patients - reported recently that many patients, particularly the elderly, are in hospital while waiting for more suitable and appropriate care arrangements. Mostly in need of support rather than medical care, these patients are hindered by the lack of options available to them, often due to limited personal income. The CMA has previously recommended that the federal government should study options for pre-funding long-term care, including private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance. This remains pertinent. 2. Universal access to prescription drugs Issue: Ensuring all Canadians have access to a basic level of prescription drugs. Background Universal access to prescription drugs is widely acknowledged as part of the "unfinished business" of medicare in Canada. In 1964 the Hall Commission recommended that the federal government contribute 50% of the cost of a Prescription Drug Benefit within the Health Services Program. It also recommended a $1.00 contributory payment by the purchaser for each prescription. This has never been implemented.iv What has emerged since then is a public-private mix of funding for prescription drugs. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has estimated that, as of 2010, 46% of prescription drug expenditures were public, 36% were paid for by private insurance and 18% were paid for out-of-pocket.v Nationally there is evidence of wide variability in levels of drug coverage. According to Statistics Canada, 3% of households spent greater than 5% of after-tax income on prescription drugs in 2008. Across provinces this ranged from 2.2% in Ontario and Alberta, to 5.8% in P.E.I. and 5.9% in Saskatchewan.vi Moreover, there is significant variation between the coverage levels of the various provincial plans across Canada. For example, the Manitoba Pharmacare Program is based on total income, with adjustment for spouse and dependents under 18, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, the plan is based on net family income.vii,viii The Commonwealth Fund's 2010 International Health Policy Survey found that 10% of Canadian respondents said they had either not filled a prescription or skipped doses because of cost issues.ix Moreover, there have been numerous media stories about inequities in access across provinces to cancer drugs and expensive drugs for rare diseases. The high cost of prescription drugs was frequently raised during our public consultations this year. The need for a national drug strategy or pharmacare plan was mentioned by an overwhelming number of respondents, many of whom detailed how they had been affected by the high cost of drugs. The cost to the federal government of a program that would ensure universal access to prescription drugs would depend on the threshold of out-of-pocket contribution and the proportion of expenses that it would be willing to share with private and provincial/territorial public plans. Estimates have ranged from $500 millionx, and $1 billionxi, to the most recent estimate from the provincial-territorial health ministers of $2.5 billion (2006).xii Recommendation # 2 Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, should establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Such a program should include: * a mandate for all Canadians to have either private or public coverage for prescription drugs; * a uniform income-based ceiling (between public and private plans and across provinces/territories) on out-of-pocket expenditures, on drug plan premiums and/or prescription drugs; * federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing of prescription drug expenditures above a household income ceiling, subject to capping the total federal and/or provincial/territorial contributions either by adjusting the federal/provincial/territorial sharing of reimbursement or by scaling the household income ceiling or both; * a requirement for group insurance plans and administrators of employee benefit plans to pool risk above a threshold linked to group size; and * a continued strong role for private supplementary insurance plans and public drug plans on a level playing field (i.e., premiums and co-payments to cover plan costs). 3. Innovation for Quality in Canadian Health Care Issue: Development of a proposal to establish a Canadian Health Quality Alliance to promote innovation in the delivery of high-quality health care in Canada. Background There is general agreement that Canada's health care system is no longer a strong performer compared to similar nations. Clearly, we can do better. However, progress has been slow on a comprehensive quality agenda for our health care system. At the national level, there is no coordination or body with a mandate to promote a comprehensive approach to quality improvement. Over the past two decades, health care stakeholders in Canada have gradually come to embrace a multi-dimensional concept of quality in health care encompassing safety, appropriateness, effectiveness, accessibility, competency and efficiency. The unilateral federal funding cuts to health transfers that took effect in 1996 precipitated a long preoccupation with the accessibility dimension that was finally acknowledged with the Wait Time Reduction Fund in the 2004 First Ministers Accord. The safety dimension was recognized with the establishment of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) in 2003. Competence has been recognized by health professional organizations and regulatory bodies through the development of peer-review programs and mandated career-long professional development. While six provinces have established some form of health quality council (B.C., Alta., Sask., Ont., Que., N.B.), there is no national approach to quality improvement beyond safety. Given that health care stands as Canadians' top national priority and that it represents a very large expenditure item for all levels of government, the lack of a national approach to quality improvement is a major shortcoming. In the U.S., the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is dedicated to developing and promulgating methods and processes for improving the delivery of care throughout the world.xiii England's National Health Service (NHS) has also created focal points over the past decade to accelerate innovation and improvement throughout their health system. Canadian advancements in the health field have occurred when the expertise and perspective of a range of stakeholders have come together. The CPSI, for example, was established following the deliberations and report of the National Steering Committee on Patient Safety.xiv It is estimated that it would cost less than $500,000 for a multi-stakeholder committee to develop a proposal for a national alliance for quality improvement, including the cost of any commissioned research. Recommendation # 3 The federal government should convene a time-limited national steering committee that would engage key stakeholders in developing a proposal for a pan-Canadian Health Quality Alliance with a mandate to work collaboratively towards integrated approaches for a sustainable health care system through innovative practices in the delivery of high quality health care. This alliance would be expected to achieve the following in order to modernize health care services: * Promote a comprehensive approach to quality improvement in health care; * Promote pan-Canadian sharing of innovative and best practices; * Develop and disseminate methods of engaging frontline clinicians in quality improvement processes; and * Establish international partnerships for the exchange of innovative practices. Such an alliance could be established in a variety of ways: * Virtually, using the Networks of Centres of Excellencexv approach; * By expanding the mandate of an existing body; or * Through the creation of a new body. REFERENCES i Canadian Medical Association. Health Care Transformation in Canada. Change that Works. Care that Lasts. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Advocacy/HCT/HCT-2010report_en.pdf Accessed 13/07/11. ii Statistics Canada. Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-520-x/2010001/aftertoc-aprestdm1-eng.htm. Accessed 13/07/11. iii Retirement Income Improvement Coalition. Letter to the federal Minister of Finance and the Minister of State (Finance). March 17, 2011. ivHall, E. Royal Commission on Health Services. Volume 1. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1964. vCanadian Institute for Health Information. Drug Expenditure in Canada, 1985 to 2010. Ottawa, 2010. viStatistics Canada. CANSIM Table 109-5012 Household spending on prescription drugs as a percentage of after-tax income, Canada and provinces, annual (percent). http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/pick-choisir?lang=eng&searchTypeByValue=1&id=1095012. Accessed 05/29/11. vii Manitoba Health. Pharmacare deductible estimator. http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/pharmacare/estimator.html. Accessed 07/28/11. viii Newfoundland Department of Health and Community Services. Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP). http://www.health.gov.nl.ca/health/prescription/nlpdp_application_form.pdf. Accessed 07/29/11. ixCommonwealth Fund. International health policy survey in eleven countries. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Chartbook/2010/PDF_2010_IHP_Survey_Chartpack_FULL_12022010.pdf. Accessed 05/29/11. x Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The health of Canadians - the federal role. Volume six: recommendations for reform. Ottawa, 2002. xi Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Building on values: the future of health care in Canada. Ottawa, 2002. xii Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Backgrounder: National Pharmaceutical Strategy decision points. http://www.scics.gc.ca/english/conferences.asp?a=viewdocument&id=112. Accessed 23/07/11. xiii http://www.ihi.org. Accessed 29/07/10. xiv National Steering Committee on Patient Safety. Building a safer system: a national integrated strategy for improving patient safety in Canadian health care. http://rcpsc.medical.org/publications/building_a_safer_system_e.pdf. Accessed 23/07/11. xv http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/index_eng.asp. Accessed 29/07/10.
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A Healthy Population for a Stronger Economy: The Canadian Medical Association's Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance's pre-budget consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10228
Date
2011-10-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-10-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee. Over the past year, the Canadian Medical Association has engaged in a wide-ranging public consultation on health care and heard from thousands of Canadians about their concerns and experiences with the system. This exercise was undertaken as part of the CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative, a roadmap for modernizing our country's health care system so that it puts patients first and provides Canadians with better value for money. The CMA found there is a groundswell of support for change among other health care providers, stakeholders and countless Canadians who share our view that the best catalyst for transformation is the next accord on federal transfers to provinces for health care. That said, while looking ahead to what we would like to see in the next health care accord, we have identified immediate opportunities for federal leadership in making achievable, positive changes to our health care system that would help Canadians be healthier and more secure and help ensure the prudent use of their health care dollars. During our consultation, we heard repeated concerns that Canada's medicare system is a shadow of its former self. Once a world leader, Canada now lags behind comparable nations in providing high quality health care. Improving the quality of health care services is key if Canada is ever going to have a high performing health system. The key dimensions of quality, and by extension, the areas that need attention are: Safety, Effectiveness, Patient-Centeredness, Efficiency, Timeliness, Equitability and Appropriateness. Excellence in quality improvement in these areas will be a crucial step towards sustainability. To date, six provinces have instituted health quality councils. Their mandates and their effectiveness in actually achieving lasting system wide improvements vary by province. What is missing, and urgently needed, is an integrated, Pan-Canadian approach to quality improvement in health care in Canada that can begin to chart a course that will ensure that Canadians ultimately have the best health and health care in the world. Canadians deserve no less and, with the resources at our disposal, there is no reason why this should not be achievable. The CMA recommends that the Federal Government funds the establishment, and adequately resources the operations, of an arms length Canadian Health Quality Council with the mandate to be a catalyst for change, a spark for innovation and a facilitator to disseminate evidence based quality improvement initiatives so that they become embedded in the fabric of our health systems from coast to coast to coast. Canadians are increasingly questioning whether they are getting value for the $190 billion a year that go into our country's health care system... with good reason as international studies indicate they are not getting good value for money. Defining, promoting and measuring quality care are not only essential to obtaining better health outcomes, they are crucial to building the accountability to Canadians that they deserve as consumers and funders of the system. We also heard during our consultation that Canadians worry about inequities in access to care beyond the hospital and doctor services covered within medicare, particularly when it comes to the high cost of prescription drugs. Almost 50 years ago, the Hall Commission recommended that all Canadians have access to a basic level of prescription drug coverage, yet what we have now is a jumble of public and private funding for prescription drugs that varies widely across the country. Last year, one in 10 Canadians either failed to fill a prescription or skipped a dose because they couldn't afford it. Universal access to prescription drugs is widely acknowledged to be part of the unfinished business of medicare in Canada. Our second recommendation, therefore, is that governments establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. This should be done in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public. In the 21st century, no Canadian should be denied access to medically necessary prescription drugs because of an inability to pay for them. Our third and final recommendation relates to our aging population and the concerns Canadians share about their ability to save for their future needs. We recommend that the federal government study options that would not limit PRPPs to defined contribution pension plans. Target benefit plans should be permitted and encouraged as they allow risk to be pooled among the plan members, providing a more secure vehicle than defined contribution plans. As well, the administrators of PRPPs should not be limited to financial institutions. Well-governed organizations that represent a particular membership should be able to sponsor and administer RPPs and PRPPs for their own members, including self-employed members. The CMA appreciates that governments are moving ahead with the introduction of Pooled Registered Retirement Plans. However, we note that PRPPs represent only one piece of a more comprehensive saving structure. We also continue to be concerned about the ability of Canadians to save for their long-term health care needs. Many patients, particularly the elderly, are in hospital waiting for more suitable care arrangement. These patients are hindered by a lack of available options, often because they lack the means to pay for long-term care. They and their families suffer as a result, and so, too, does our health care system. While not in this pre-budget brief, the CMA holds to recommendations we have made in previous years that the federal government study options to help Canadians pre-fund long-term care. In closing, let me simply say that carrying out these recommendations would make a huge and positive impact, soon and over the long term, in the lives of literally millions of Canadians from every walk of life. Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer your questions.
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Nutrition Labelling: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10085
Date
2011-03-03
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-03-03
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you very much for inviting the Canadian Medical Association back to this committee as you continue your study on healthy living. A few weeks ago my colleague Dr. Doig was here to talk about the health consequences of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity and the policies CMA has advocated to promote healthy living. Today I would like to expand upon nutrition labelling and health claims on foods, and on the labelling of foods regulated as natural health products. Nutrition facts tables can be an important source of information, but many Canadians have difficulty interpreting them. A 2009 Health Canada review of research on nutrition labelling indicated that: * those with little nutrition knowledge have difficulty using the tables and are unable to relate the information they contain to their own dietary needs; and that * the concept of percentage of daily value is often misunderstood. There has been an increase in the use of health claims on the front of packaging expressed as slogans or logos such as "healthy choice," as well as in disease reduction and nutrient content claims. Studies have shown that foods carrying health-related claims are seen by consumers as healthier choices. But the myriad of different claims can be confusing and may, in fact, draw attention away from the less healthy characteristics of a food, or oversimplify complex nutritional messages. We believe a standard consistent "at a glance" approach to front-of-package food labelling could reduce confusion and help consumers make informed dietary choices. The "traffic light" front-of-pack labelling currently in voluntary use in the UK is an example. The front-of-pack labels on composite processed foods use green, amber and red to indicate low, medium or high levels of the nutrients most strongly associated with diet-related health risks: fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Also included is calorie count per serving and percentage daily amount information. Research in the UK has shown that consumers generally understand these labels. Shoppers are most likely to use them when buying a product for the first time; to compare different products; when shopping for children; when trying to control intake of certain ingredients such as fat or salt, for health reasons; or when trying to lose weight. Not surprisingly, research in the UK and Canada also shows that those most likely to read nutrition labels are those who are already interested in healthy eating. For this reason, labelling policy must be embedded in a broader nutrition policy that uses multiple instruments to foster education and interest in healthy eating, and helps ensure that Canadians have healthy food choices by, for example, regulating amounts of salt in processed food. In addition, physicians have become quite concerned about a recent tendency toward regulating 'fortified foods 'as Natural Health Products. The Food and Drugs Act effectively prevents products classified as foods from being marketed as having medicinal benefits unless there is compelling scientific evidence that the claims are true and the products are safe. The same strong legislation does not apply to Natural Health Products (NHPs), which are regulated under a different act. This is a concern because a trend is emerging whereby manufacturers of products normally sold as foods fortify their products with approved natural health products such as vitamins or minerals. Examples of these are energy drinks and vitamin-enhanced juice, power bars, gums and candy. The manufacturer can then request federal approval to market the product as a 'health product in food format.' If approved, food labelling requirements no longer apply and health claims that would not be allowed under the Food and Drugs Act can be made. Without proper nutrition labelling, it is difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to make informed food choices. This can be particularly troubling for those with special diets or health concerns. Further, those misled by dubious health claims might be consuming empty calories or high amounts of fat or sodium, with no corresponding benefit. The result is that the health of Canadians may be compromised. The CMA has called on Health Canada to require compelling evidence of health benefits before changing a product's regulatory status from food to natural health product, and nutrition labelling for all foods regulated as a natural health product. Faced with an array of products and health claims, and a barrage of advertising extolling their benefits, Canadians can find it challenging to make healthier food choices. To find our way through to the right choice, we need good nutritional information, and the ability to access and understand this information. Governments and health care providers share a responsibility to help Canadians make choices that will help them achieve and maintain good health. Canada's doctors are partners in healthy living and are ready to work with governments and others toward a healthy population. I welcome your questions.
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