Restrained Spending in Budget 2018 Sets Unwelcome Precedent

MARCH 22, 2018



In the past three budgets, this government has managed to maintain the line of health care spending, staying slightly above population and inflation growth. Budget 2018 represents a concerning trend of spending restraints by only increasing health care spending by 3%, not even meeting population and inflation growth of 3.5%.

"The approximately $10 million which has been cut from health care may seem like a drop in the bucket when one is talking about a $22 billion budget, however it begets the question of what $10 million could do for a provincial pharmacare program, or for Red Deer Hospital which is only getting $1 million for 'capital planning'" said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "What we are seeing is a continuation of the status quo within health care, rather than the political will to implement sufficient systemic changes."

If this is the path that this government has taken, then it becomes urgent - now more than ever - that this spending restraint be accompanied by reforms (legislative, policy, or regulatory) to improve efficiency and effectiveness in order to avoid future pressures for increased spending, such as the ones we saw in the late 90's following the Klein years.

"For decades now, we have seen an ongoing deferral of capital spending," said Azocar. "The issues of continuing care and Alternative Levels of Care have to be addressed. The levels and structure of physician compensation must be resolved. Electronic health and medical records have to become a matter of normal course. Co-ordination among the silos and integration of care within our health care system needs to be a goal."