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There, in black and white
NB Bulletin Vol. 6 N. 2, Febuary 2003
For the past few years¸ Canada´s health care system has been at the center of ministerial discussions. Among other things¸ it was the subject of various documents (the Romanow and Kirby Reports) and agreements¸ such that the 2003 federal budget includes provisions creating considerable additional investments in the health care sector.
Although the Romanow Report was not the first to deal with this topic¸ it seems to have triggered the agreement concluded between Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and the provincial premiers. The massive investment announced by the federal government in its last budget was a result of this agreement.
THE ROMANOW REPORT
The report of The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada¸ which was tabled in November 2002 by Roy J. Romanow¸ made 47 recommendations dealing with the improvement of Canada´s health care system. Its main recommendations were the following:
Following the recommendation of the Romanow Report¸ the Prime Minister of Canada and the provincial premiers met and concluded an accord.
THE HEALTH ACCORD 2003
The Accord 2003 is the name given to the agreement concluded between the federal government and the provincial premiers on the renewal of health care in Canada. This agreement provides for long-term financing and specifies that federal health assistance will increase by $17.3 billion during the next three years and by $34.8 billion over five years.
The themes of the reform concluded in Accord 2003 concur with the recommendations of the Romanow Commission¸ the Kirby Committee and those of various provincial health reform commissions.
THE FEDERAL BUDGET
On February 18th of this year¸ the Minister of Finance of Canada tabled the federal budget for fiscal year 2003. Concerning the health care sector¸ the budget confirms the Health Accord 2003.
The budget approves the following expenditures in the health care area:
Impact of the Budget on Private Insurance Plans
Government coverage of home care will not have much global impact on private plans¸ since such types of claims only represent a tiny portion of total medical care claims for the time being.
As for catastrophic drug coverage¸ since the measures contemplated have not yet been clearly defined¸ it is difficult at the present time to foresee the impact on private insurance plans.
Concerning the investment in health care initiatives to improve access to public diagnostic services (an extra $1.5 billion over three years¸ specifically for this service)¸ a minor impact could be felt on private plans¸ if the investment announced proves sufficient to decrease waiting periods in the public network relative to this type of service. These waiting periods presently mean that patients tend to look for services provided by the private network that are generally reimbursed by private insurance plans.
The investment in health care information technology sector will have the effect of expanding the use of technologies¸ more specifically¸ concerning the adoption of long-distance health records. This communication and information factor will accelerate diagnostic services and treatment. It will also enhance the quality and safety of health care¸ by reducing the risk of incidents involving medication (errors in manual transcription¸ allergic reactions¸ risk of dangerous interactions between two different medications¸ etc.) and will reduce the repetition of unnecessary medical tests. It is obvious this technological tool will have a beneficial effect on the costs of health care for Canadians. However¸ its repercussions on private plan costs will only be felt on the long-term and will be difficult to measure.
The employment insurance Compassionate family care leave benefit paid will affect individuals who meet eligibility criteria for special employment insurance benefits and who will have spent the two-week waiting period. They will be entitled to six weeks of benefits in order to take care of children¸ parents or spouses who are seriously ill or dying¸ while knowing their job security is guaranteed during their absence. The details concerning the application of these benefits remain to be determined. No specifics are provided concerning the employer´s obligation to maintain employees´ fringe benefits while collecting these employment insurance benefits.
It is fairly difficult for now to foresee precisely the effect of these investments on private group insurance plans. However¸ these additional investments suggest that medical services provided by the public health care network will improve or at least be maintained¸ which could have a favourable effect on the cost of private plans or at least¸ reduce the rise of future costs.
Please feel free to contact us for additional information.
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