The budget does good for dental care, but little for new health spending

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Laura Osman, The Canadian Press



Posted Thursday, April 7, 2022 4:29 PM EDT





Last updated Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 6:26 p.m. EDT

OTTAWA – The Liberals delivered on their promises to the NDP on health care spending in their new budget, but offered little new spending to reinvigorate Canada’s ailing health care system.

The government plans to launch a new dental program in 2022, starting with children under 12, at an initial cost of $300 million.

The plan outlined in the budget is a major tenet of the Liberals’ confidence and supply agreement with the NDP to keep the government in power until 2025. The budget closely mirrors the party’s costed platform proposal for opposition for the 2021 elections, although details on how it will work are still scarce.

The new program will be limited to families earning less than $90,000, with no copayment for those earning less than $70,000 a year.

The plan aims to expand eligibility to children under 18, seniors and people with disabilities in 2023. The government plans full implementation by 2025, at an annual cost of $1.7 billion. .

In total, the government plans to spend $5.3 billion over five years on dental care.

The Liberals also pledged to pass a legislative framework for national pharmacare by the end of 2023 as part of their deal with the NDP, but did not set aside funding for the program in the budget.

As the government plans to increase public health care, provinces and health care workers have warned that the existing system is crumbling and in desperate need of help.

The provinces have demanded that the federal government increase its share of health care spending, with an immediate increase of about $28 billion, to shore up their ailing systems.

Transfers to the provinces for health will increase in 2022, but not as much as the provinces have requested.

They want minimum funding increases of five percent a year, arguing that the current plan of three percent spending jumps means transfers are not keeping pace with annual cost increases.

Currently, federal contributions to provincial health care systems increase in accordance with a three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product. Thanks to a more favorable than expected economic outlook, transfers will increase by approximately 4.8%.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos previously announced a one-time $2 billion increase for provincial health systems to address huge surgical backlogs that have built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the budget, the government hints at the possibility of new negotiations on health transfers, but says the money should be tied to government priorities, such as improving access to primary health care and of mental health.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada already spends a lot on health care compared to peer countries, but isn’t getting better results, so the government wants to take the time to “get it right.” things “.

The budget does not appear to respond to near-frenzied calls from healthcare workers for a plan to address a severe staffing shortage, as exhausted employees cut their hours and quit the industry in droves.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions said this budget was meant to be the light at the end of a dark tunnel, when they finally get a sign that things are about to change. But President Linda Silas says they were disappointed.

“We have told all levels of government that we are in a crisis situation, and we needed strong words today,” Silas said.

Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Katharine Smart said the budget identified some key areas of concern, but given the state of the system, action was needed.

“We’re still in this pandemic, it’s not over. In fact, it’s potentially getting worse right now. Healthcare staff are struggling and we’d like to see more tangible investments for healthcare staff and the system. health,” Smart said.

The only new measures are to expand loan relief for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in rural and remote communities, as well as to make it easier to certify foreign-trained professionals in Canada.

The budget also included funds to “finish the fight” against COVID-19, with $50 million in 2022 to fund the purchase of vaccines, tests and therapies; $50 million to maintain Canada’s emergency reserve of essential medical supplies; $18 million to keep vaccine passports for another year; and $25 million to maintain the ArriveCan app to track public health information for travelers.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will also receive a $436 million boost over the next five years to track and assess the risk of viruses, flu and respiratory infections.

The government appears keen to reduce COVID-19 health spending beyond 2022, but has earmarked $20 million to study the long-term impact of the virus on infected Canadians and Canada’s health systems .

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 7, 2022.

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