The future of medicare — and how an aging Canadian population gets that medical care — is taking new shape as the country’s health ministers meet in Halifax. Their goal Friday amid competing provincial interests is to seek common ground on how to reform a system gobbling up an ever-larger share of budgets at an unsustainable rate.
That fact has prompted Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to warn what medicare needs is a new “survival” plan incorporating fresh cost-saving ideas when the current 10-year funding accord with the federal government expires in 2014. After that, Ottawa has promised to increase funding to the provinces for health care by six per cent in each of the next two years, but Ontario is looking for another 10-year deal to provide predictability. “We’re going to push hard,” Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said before boarding a plane to the meeting.
She’s also advocating efforts to “redesign our health-care system to best provide care for an aging population. That’s an issue right across the country.” In Ontario, for example, almost half the health-care spending goes to a tiny sliver of the population in their senior years, and Matthews is seeking more federal cash to finance community support programs to keep seniors in their homes longer. Matthews laments that talks on a new accord are scheduled for just one hour on the official agenda. “I’m looking forward to a conversation that will question in terms of ‘where do we want to innovate? How are we going to be more accountable to Canadians in the programs and services that we deliver?’ ” federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told The Canadian Press. “With technology now, there’s a lot of things we can do differently.”