Canadians Fear Rising Health Care Costs Unsustainable

Innovative ideas needed to ensure future of Canada's most important social program

OTTAWA, March 8 /CNW Telbec/ - A poll of Canadians conducted for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) shows that most feel the steadily increasing cost of providing universal health care in Canada will handcuff governments' ability to provide services such as education, transportation and pension benefits.

The poll, conducted for the CMA by Ipsos Reid, asked Canadians if they agreed or disagreed that health care would eclipse other public spending priorities. Results found that 59% of respondents said they would. When pressed as to how the sustainability crunch in health care spending should be addressed, most (91%) said making the health care system more efficient and effective was the best way to slow down growing health care costs. Two-thirds (66%) said rewards and penalties to encourage healthy living could help slow down growing health costs.

"In releasing the federal budget last week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty talked of 'extraordinary times calling for extraordinary measures,'" said Dr. Anne Doig, President of the Canadian Medical Association. "Canadians see the inexorable climb of health spending as the number one issue that must be addressed if we are to get our fiscal house in order before the current health accord runs out in 2014."

Although Canadians support pursuing specific measures to slow health spending, they are also skeptical. Only 35% are either very or somewhat confident in the ability of governments and administrators to find efficiencies in the system. Further, less than half (47%) are confident that a system of rewards and penalties will keep people healthier and out of the health care system.

"Canadians recognize that, while important, finding efficiencies is not a panacea for the problem of skyrocketing health care costs," said Dr. Doig. "Our system continues to provide more care and more services to more Canadians with more health care needs. Efficiencies can only offset growing demand so much."

Even amid fears of unsustainable health care spending, half of Canadians (49%) said they would spend 10% more in taxes if they knew all of the money would go to health care. Further, nearly half (46%) said "patients should be responsible for paying a portion of the cost of the health care they receive.

The poll also asked Canadians about other ideas to fund health spending:

    -  Seven in ten (69%) believe it's a 'good idea' to 'develop a
       contribution-based Canada Health Plan to raise revenue and set aside
       financial resources for individuals who need health care the same way
       that the Canada Pension Plan works for people who want to retire;
    -  Two in three (65%) believe it's a 'good idea' to develop a Registered
       Health Savings Plan, similar to the Registered Retirement Saving Plan
       to allow individuals to save money on a tax-free basis so they could
       pay for health services or prescription drugs that are not included in
       the public health plan coverage;
    -  Just one in three (35%) think it's a 'good idea' to raise taxes over
       time to cover the increased demand for healthcare services;
    -  Only one in three (35%) believe it's a 'good idea' to tax Canadians
       based on how much health care a person has required over the year, up
       to a maximum amount.

"Canadians see that health spending is unsustainable and they are ready to look at all solutions to protect our system of universal health care," said Dr. Doig. "To support that effort, the CMA has launched a multi-year effort to develop a health care system that is efficient, modern and sustainable that puts improving quality for patients at its heart and must put patient needs ahead of all other considerations."

The online poll contacted a national sample of Canadians between Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, 2010. Results are considered accurate to within a margin of error of +/-2.2 percentage points. For the full survey report, please click on the following link:

SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: For further information: Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations, Tel.: (613) 731-8610 x1266, Cell.: (613) 447-0866,

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