OTTAWA--If health-care activists don't scrutinize where the recently announced over $41 billion in health-care spending is going, it could make the money squandered in the federal sponsorship scandal look like loot bags at a one-year-old's birthday party, says the author of a new report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
Sheila Block, author of What Does the Increased Federal Funding for Health Care Mean for Medicare Advocates?, says the increased flow of funds announced at last month's Health Summit will require a shift in approach for health-care advocates - toward following the money rather than demanding it.
"As health-care funding grows, so too does the opportunity for private gain - opportunities that will be wide open given the lack of conditionality and limited accountability placed on the provinces and territories," says Block director of health and nursing policy at the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO). "There is no guardian at the gate. That means large amounts of public resources might be used for private profit rather than the public good."
Block says the ten-year agreement, which brings the federal share of provincial health care funding to approximately 25%, does provide adequate funding to sustain and protect our publicly funded, not-for-profit health-care system. She says it is woefully weak, however, in the areas of conditionality, accountability and enforcement. There is no reference to for-profit delivery of health care and no commitment to limit further privatization. And while the preamble to the plan refers to the Canada Health Act's five principles, she says, the agreement is silent on the Act and its two key conditions: the prohibition of user fees and extra-billing.
Block says because there are no conditions on how the federal transfers are spent, there are no requirements that provinces spend the new funds on incremental health-care spending. These funds could be used by governments to balance budgets to maintain unsustainable tax cuts. And even if the increase in funding is spent on health care, there are also no requirements on how the funds are used.
"The weak accountability, conditionality and enforcement in the agreement, in combination with the large increases in funding will make it increasingly important to monitor the spending flowing out of this agreement. Now that the funding recommendations of the Romanow Commission have been exceeded, health-care advocates must shift their focus to following the money," concludes Block.
What Does the Increased Federal Funding for Health Care Mean for Medicare Advocates? is available on the CCPA web site at http://www.policyalternatives.ca
For more information or to arrange an interview contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, 613-563-1341 x306.