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Conference Board report shows federal action on seniors care achievable: CMA

Real support for seniors care is affordable and can be achieved in the next budget cycle, according to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

The CMA was responding to Federal Policy Action to Support the Health Care Needs of Canada’s Aging Population, a new report by the Conference Board of Canada assessing the economic impact of three policy changes to improve seniors care in Canada, including a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to the provinces, which the CMA has been advocating for.

In the report commissioned by the CMA, the Conference Board notes that unlike other developed nations, Canada currently does not explicitly consider age in the allocation formula for its largest federal transfer, designed specifically for the purposes of providing health care.

If the Canadian federal government were to compensate provinces on an annual basis for the additional health care costs attributable to population aging, the Conference Board estimates the total cost to the Canadian government would be about $1.6 billion in 2016.

The Conference Board notes that every province is expected to incur extra costs in each of the next five years related to health care, with Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia expected to be responsible for the majority of Canada’s additional aging-related health care costs.

“The demographic-based top-up to the CHT is critical for the provinces to meet the health care needs of an aging population,” CMA President Cindy Forbes said in a release. Her comment echoed those of the Conference Board, which noted “health care costs due to population aging are not only growing each year, they are growing at an increasing rate.”

In the report, the Conference Board also assessed two other initiatives proposed by the CMA: providing catastrophic coverage for prescription drugs and making caregiving tax credits refundable.

Providing out-of-pocket prescription medication coverage to households spending over $1,500 or more than 3% of their income annually on prescription medication would cost at least $1.6 billion in 2016. Out-of-pocket expenditures by 55 to 64 year-olds would be responsible for the largest portion of these costs.

Forbes said providing such coverage would be a positive step in moving towards comprehensive, universal prescription drug coverage, “long recognized as the unfinished business of medicare in Canada.”

The third move assessed by the Conference Board, changing the Canada Caregiver and Canada Family Caregiver tax credits from non-refundable to refundable credits, is projected to cost about $91 million in 2016.

“We must do more to recognize the important contribution of informal caregivers,” said Forbes, noting changing the status of the tax credits would ensure more caregivers receive the necessary support.

In the conclusion of the report, the Conference Board stated its findings “underscore” the impact of the aging population on Canada’s economy.

“This report presents compelling evidence on the negative impact that aging will have on provincial health care budgets (and) presents information on the magnitude of the investments required to help provinces, as well as Canadians and their families, to properly address this demographic challenge. Other countries have started to adopt measures; their actions can inform policy-makers in Canada.”

“We wholeheartedly support these conclusions,” said Forbes.

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