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Feds can afford $3.3 billion for health, including seniors, CMA says

Ottawa (Sept. 21, 2015) — A new report by the Conference Board of Canada demonstrates that the federal government can deliver meaningful support for seniors care, starting in the next budget cycle, Dr. Cindy Forbes, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said today.

Commissioned by the CMA, the Conference Board report provides the economic costing for three proposed federal policy measures to support seniors care, beginning in the 2016-17 federal budget cycle.

The three federal policy measures would total a $3.3 billion federal investment to support seniors care – $1.6 billion toward a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer, $1.6 billion for catastrophic coverage for prescription drugs, and $90.8 million to make the caregiving tax credits refundable.

“Last week’s federal fiscal update reaffirms the federal government’s fiscal capacity to deliver support to the provinces and Canadians,” said Dr. Forbes.

“The demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer is critical for the provinces to meet the health care needs of an aging population,” Dr. Forbes said. “The report highlights that unlike other developed nations, federal health funding in Canada doesn’t currently account for population aging – this needs to change now.

“The report also assesses two long-overdue federal policy measures that are sorely needed to help support Canadian seniors and their families.”

The report – entitled Federal Policy Action to Support the Health Care Needs of Canada’s Aging Population – notes that almost 1 in 10 seniors are skipping their medication because they simply can’t afford them. To put this in context, Canada ranked second last in the Commonwealth Fund’s country ranking for seniors’ access to medication.

“Federal investment right now to support establishing comprehensive prescription drug coverage would be a positive step toward universal coverage for prescription medications – long recognized as the unfinished business of medicare in Canada – and go a long way to ensure Canadians seniors aren’t facing barriers to access,” Dr. Forbes added.

According to the report, more than eight million Canadians are informal caregivers. Despite their critical role and economic contribution, only five per cent of caregivers looking after parents reported receiving assistance while 28 per cent reported needing more assistance than they received.

“The current state of support for caregivers is simply unacceptable,” Dr. Forbes added.

“We must do more to recognize the important contribution of informal family caregivers. A first step is to convert the federal tax credits to refundable credits. This will ensure that more caregivers receive this critical support.”

Taken together, these measures would represent just 1.2 per cent of projected federal program spending in 2016-17 but would deliver a much needed federal investment in sustaining our health care system and delivering support directly to Canadian seniors and their families.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is helping physicians care for patients. The CMA will be the leader in engaging and serving physicians and be the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care.