Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Health transfers: One size doesn't fit all

  • Print

Imagine a health system in which everyone was allocated the same number of doctor, hospital and diagnostic appointments and hours -- regardless of their health or need.

It wouldn't take many seconds to dismiss this as an absurdity. Yet when it comes to federal funding for health care, one size fits all is exactly Ottawa's position.

Starting in 2014-15, the cash portion of Ottawa's Canada Health Transfer (CHT) will be distributed to the provinces on an equal per-capita basis. There will be no regard to the relative strength of provincial tax bases (a new development) nor any allowance for the relative health or demographic age of provincial populations (a longstanding problem).

You may say there's a difference between allocating medical dollars and medical appointments. But the dollars pay for the appointments. If there aren't enough federal bucks to make up for differences in provincial wealth or health, care will be rationed more severely in provinces with weaker finances, older populations and more illness.

Until the Harper government changed the rules a year ago, the health cash each province received was balanced with a second part of the CHT -- a share of taxation Ottawa ceded in the 1970s, when it reduced its share of the total tax base by 13.6 per cent for personal income tax and by one per cent for corporate tax, leaving the provinces to assume this share.

These transferred "tax points" were worth more, on a per-capita basis, in provinces with higher incomes. So Ottawa used the cash portion of CHT to provide some balance. Provinces with lower per-capita tax transfers got more per-capita cash (and vice versa). When CHT tax points and cash were added together, each province got the same total per-capita value.

Now, Ottawa is treating the tax transfer windfall as ancient history and redefining fairness so only the cash will be distributed on an equal per-capita basis. Next year that will mean $1 billion more for Alberta, which already has the lowest health burden as a share of GDP.

This will come out of growth in health cash for other provinces, falling hardest on those such as the Maritimes, with the lowest-value tax transfers and the highest health-cost burdens.

In the end, that's not a viable way to fund universal health insurance. Provinces do need to be more efficient and innovative in health-care delivery. But only Ottawa can provide the key element of financial stability that bridges the inevitable unequal distribution of health and wealth in the real world.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Jets Bogosian-Little-Ladd

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think food-security issues are an important topic to address during this mayoral campaign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google