Wide gaps in provincial health spending could result in care gap as well: report

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Canadians have universal health care, but a new study shows big differences in health spending across the country, suggesting there may also be inequalities in the quality and quantity of medical care people receive.
The analysis of health-care spending by Toronto-based Dale Orr Economic Insight shows that some provinces spend hundreds of dollars more per capita than others.
The breakdown in medicare expenditures shows Newfoundland spends $1,000 more per person - or about 30 per cent more - than Quebec, which has been consistently near the bottom on spending on health care over the last decade.
Ontario, Canada's most populous and second most prosperous province in terms of per capita income, is surprisingly near the bottom on health-care spending at $3,712, higher only than Quebec's $3,419.
The highest per capita health-care spenders are Newfoundland at $4,490 and Saskatchewan and Alberta at just over $4,400 each. The amounts are forecasts for the year 2009 from the Canadian Institute of Health Information.
The findings may surprise many, says economist Dale Orr, and should cause residents to demand more accountability from their provincial governments.
"Most Canadians think the quality and quantity of health care across Canada is reasonably uniform, but (with) these enormous differences in per capita spending... there's a lot of explaining to do," he said.
"This represents 46 per cent of provincial budgets. You would think people would want to know more about this than whether Helena Guergis and (Rahim) Jaffer did whatever they may or may not have done," he said in a reference to the latest scandal embroiling Ottawa.
Although Quebec spends less than any other province on health care, it has proposed a $25 user fee, the first in the country, in an effort to take pressure off government coffers.
Orr said there is no reliable data available to determine whether the large gaps in spending are also creating gaps in the quality of health care between provinces.
But he says discrepancies in demographics and economies of scale due to higher and more dense populations would not account for such large cost differences.
"Albertans are probably getting the best health care in Canada," he says, noting that the province's younger population likely makes health-care delivery cheaper than in other provinces.
The other surprising finding for most Canadians, although not politicians from Ontario who have complained about the system, is that so-called "have-not" provinces appear to have more resources to spend on health care.
That's because of Ottawa's social transfers designed to give each province an equal ability to pay for such things as health care and education.
Orr notes than in 2008, the last year actual numbers were available, Prince Edward Island received $3,960 per capita in federal transfers, which was more than it spent on health care at the time. Newfoundland received $5,110 per person if energy royalties are included, again more than the province's total health-care bill.
By comparison, federal cash transfers to all Canadians averaged $1,717 and Ontario only received $1,297.

Organizations: Dale Orr Economic Insight, Canadian Institute of Health Information

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario Canada Ottawa Saskatchewan Alberta Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • R
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    First of all, Albertans are probably getting the best health care in Canada , my uncle has been trying to be treated for a hernia for a year or more in Alberta, and like NL, he has long waiting times for MRI's, and specialists, etc. So if Albertans are getting the best health care, I would hate to see who is getting the worse.

    Secondly $4,490 per capita, blame it on the patients why dont you? Maybe it is the doctors who are overbilling, is there a practice in place to monitor the doctors and their billing habits. I worked in a Dr's office and know the doctors will have patients back 2/3 times a week for recheck, for no probable reason. So to put the onus on the patients and not look at the habits of the doctors is a little bit premature.

  • Nasty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Well when they pay the CEO of Eastern Health over $400,000 a year no wonder we are in the top. Cut her pay, she has no direct impact on patient health now does she? Just a mouth piece for Dippy Jerry and Loud Mouth Danny.

  • R
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    First of all, Albertans are probably getting the best health care in Canada , my uncle has been trying to be treated for a hernia for a year or more in Alberta, and like NL, he has long waiting times for MRI's, and specialists, etc. So if Albertans are getting the best health care, I would hate to see who is getting the worse.

    Secondly $4,490 per capita, blame it on the patients why dont you? Maybe it is the doctors who are overbilling, is there a practice in place to monitor the doctors and their billing habits. I worked in a Dr's office and know the doctors will have patients back 2/3 times a week for recheck, for no probable reason. So to put the onus on the patients and not look at the habits of the doctors is a little bit premature.

  • Nasty
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Well when they pay the CEO of Eastern Health over $400,000 a year no wonder we are in the top. Cut her pay, she has no direct impact on patient health now does she? Just a mouth piece for Dippy Jerry and Loud Mouth Danny.