CMA President Dr. Cindy Forbes took part in pre-budget consultations on Feb.17 to deliver a seven-point plan for immediate and meaningful action to address major health care challenges arising from Canada’s aging population.
The CMA’s recommendations in advance of the 2016 budget reinforce the federal government’s health sector commitments and lay the groundwork to support collaboration with the provinces and territories on a new Health Accord.
Dr. Forbes conveyed the CMA’s recommendation on new funding to the provinces and territories to support seniors care with a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer.
The $1.6 billion in additional funding, which could be provided quickly in the 2016-17 fiscal year, would be calculated on the basis of each jurisdiction’s population aging needs. This approach could lead to immediate action because it respects the current health care funding formula.
The CMA also recommended that the federal government move urgently to expand the availability of continuing care in Canada, including home care and long-term care as well as support for informal caregivers.
For home care, the CMA is suggesting the budget include a new targeted home care innovation fund. To improve access to long-term care, where wait times across Canada can range up to hundreds of days, the CMA recommends including capital investment in continuing care infrastructure as part of the federal government’s commitment to invest in social infrastructure.
To support the 8.1 million friends and family currently serving in the critical role of informal caregivers, the CMA is recommending that the federal government amend the Caregiver and Family Caregiver Tax Credits to make them refundable.
While the CMA is supportive of the federal government’s recent announcement to join the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, Dr. Forbes urged the committee to support inviting the private health insurance industry to participate in the work of the Alliance as well.
Additionally, as a step toward comprehensive, universal coverage for prescription medicine, the budget should establish a new funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication. This would contribute to reducing drug costs and address a situation where many Canadians cannot afford their prescribed medicines.
Dr. Forbes also took the opportunity to call on the government to affirm its commitment to the existing framework governing Canadian-controlled Private Corporations. As the majority of Canada’s doctors are self-employed, small business owners, she reminded the committee that changes to this framework could have unintended consequences for the health sector.