EDITORIAL: Time to update health funding

New health care funding formula needed

Meetings being held this week in Vancouver between Canada’s provincial ministers of health and federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and her staff will likely take on the feel of a contract negotiation.

Especially in the case of B.C., which absorbs more retirees than any other province in the country, and along with them, their increasingly complex health-care needs.

The problem is, a portion of the federal health care money designed to provide care for such people does not transfer with them when they change residences.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake will be making that point as he and his provincial counterparts get their first audience with the new government today and tomorrow. Last week he reiterated our province’s beef with the health care funding formula adopted by the former Conservative government in 2011, that it was based on population, with no age component.

We agree with his argument that because health care costs increase as people grow older, a per-capita formula makes for a non-level playing field between provinces such as B.C., which is relatively older, and Alberta, which is younger.

Not only is B.C. finding the need to increase the number of hospice beds for terminally ill baby boomers who are native to this province, that situation is made more critical with people moving here to retire. Greater Victoria, in particular, welcomes a large number of retirees who appreciate the region’s mild climate.

The old formula for calculating federal health care transfer payments to the provinces was instituted by the previous Liberal government under former prime minister Paul Martin, a guy who knew more than the average person about what the feds could and could not afford. In 2004, they instituted a program that would see annual increase to provincial health transfers of six per cent, a solution Martin at the time called “a fix for a generation.”

The formula was changed by the Conservative government after 2011, when health care increases were tied to economic growth, with a minimum increase of three per cent per year, to begin in 2017.

In B.C. before the new Liberal government was elected last year, Justin Trudeau promised to add another $3 billion to the health care budget to start, and “sit down with the provinces immediately” to renegotiate the formula.

We hope the two sides can come up with a fair plan that works for today, not 2017 or beyond.