Trudeau must speak out against for-profit health care delivery: Health Coalition
It was only the second day of Parliament’s return when representatives of the Canadian Health Coalition were invited to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee Finance. National Director of Policy Steven Staples and CHC Board Keith Newman urged the all-party committee to work with the provinces and territories to establish a “grand bargain” on health care, and end the crisis faced by patients, families, and frontline workers.
House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance – FINA
September 21, 2022 “Current State of Fiscal Federalism in Canada”
Opening statement by Steven Staples, National Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition. With Keith Newman, economist, and Board member of the Canadian Health Coalition.
Thank you, Chairperson and members of the Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance.
My name is Steven Staples, and I am the National Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition. I am joined by our Board member and economist, Keith Newman.
The Canadian Health Coalition was founded in 1979 to defend and expand public Medicare in Canada. We are comprised of frontline health care workers unions, community groups, and experts.
I am delighted to speak to you on the topic of the “Current State of Fiscal Federalism in Canada.” The aspect that we would like to address today is public health care spending.
Today we would like to make three recommendations to the government through this committee:
First: The federal government must oppose the increased reliance upon for-profit delivery of health care services.
Second: The federal government should increase its funding to provinces and territories while ensuring accountability and outcomes from health care dollars.
Third: The federal government should deliver on its long-promised health care programs, especially a national universal pharmcare program.
Now, lets take these step-by-step.
The Canadian Health Coalition is very concerned by statements and actions made by some Premiers that they intend to devote more public dollars to private, for-profit health care providers. While these measures are occurring within their respective jurisdictions, the federal government is not a bystander.
The federal government must state its opposition to this for-profit direction clearly and strongly, and take action by using the tools at its disposal to defend public Medicare. This starts by increasing its enforcement of the Canada Health Act’s principles and conditions which governs funding to the provinces through the Canada Health Transfer, or CHT.
The impasse between the federal government and the provinces and territories, over funding formulas is preventing urgently needed action to address the crisis faced by patients and families, and health care workers. We support the call for more funding for health care by all levels of government.
The federal government should increase its funding to provinces and territories. At same time, federal dollars should not come without strings, and we expect accountability from provinces and territories. Premiers should not use federal health care dollars for non-health care spending, such as tax cuts or rebates, and certainly, they should not decrease their health care spending after receiving more federal dollars.
Along with increased funding through the CHT, the federal government must work with provinces to ensure improved outcomes for people in Canada– and this can be accomplished by establishing new, long-promised universal programs such as pharmacare. Pharmacare, in particular, will create savings through reduced drug costs – which now account for as much health care spending as doctors. Even more, public universal pharmacare will reduce the strain on our system – full prescriptions mean empty emergency rooms.
Finally, we would like to suggest that the path through the crisis can be found in the commitments made by the government in its accord with the NDP. The confidence and supply agreement, or the CASA, has four important health care commitments: public dental care, universal pharmacare, health care investments, and safe long-term care. Most, if not all of these will require cooperation between the federal and provincial governments.
Negotiated alongside a commitment for increased CHT funding, which the provinces have been requesting, we can see the potential for a “grand bargain” on health care. The federal government provides more health care funding, in exchange for provinces and territories cooperating on new programs, such as pharmacare. Part of this bargain must include a focus on building the public health care system, not increasing the corrosive effects of for-profit delivery.
Thank you for inviting the Canadian Health Coalition to present today. We look forward to your questions.
Watch video of Steven Staples and Keith Newman of the Canadian Health Coalition and Angella MacEwen of CUPE, a CHC member organization, present to the Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA), September 21, 2022.