Unsustainable Healthcare System Needs Better Value for Money

Last year Canadians spent $172 billion a year on health care, up from $79 billion in 1997. What accounts for these increases in spending and how can Canadians receive better value for their Healthcare dollars? That’s a question the Health Council of Canada will be asking Canadians as it launches its Value for Money consultation. The new website, http://www.CanadaValuesHealth.ca
allows Canadians to engage in discussions via blogs, comments and surveys. The Council has published a background paper entitled Value for Money: Making Canadian Health Care Stronger
It’s clear that maintaining the status quo is not an option. Recent reports indicate that we can’t keep allocating a larger and larger share of our budget to health care in order to buy marginal improvements in the system. Those dollars are diverted from other budgets that also contribute to health outcomes. In other words, we run the risk of making society sicker by draining other public spending budgets. And what’s worse, in a recent Frontier Centre for Public Policy/Health Consumer Powerhouse report
that evaluated countries from a patient perspective, Canada was ranked last in return on investment. When compared to 29 European countries, we got the least bang for our buck.

“The proposal to assess Value for Money in the Canadian health care system could not have come at a better time. During an economic downturn, escalating health care costs can exert the wrong kind of political pressure – cutbacks or privatization.” Said Susan Eng, CARP VP, Advocacy.

Whereas part of the solution will be to tap into the estimated 30% waste in the system, the discussion will also involve values, and maybe even challenge our assumptions. As Canadians, we are generally very proud of our universal healthcare system, which we consider to be vastly superior to the American for-profit model. But are these really the only terms of the debate? We might perhaps look to some of the more successful European models and see where they have produced better health outcomes. We might also highlight the importance of accountability: when setting benchmarks we also need to consider indicators, measures, and consequences if healthcare goals are not met.

What the Health Council’s report clarifies is that the aging population is not the main cause of ballooning health care costs. Let us dispel this myth once and for all with a breakdown of the numbers: a rise in the use of procedures and services accounts for 48% of spending increases, inflation places second at 27%, population growth accounts for 14% and longer life spans only 11%.

The Health Council is set to report on the results of its facilitated discussion in a few months. “The objective of this consultation isn’t to tell health professionals how to do their job: it’s to design a more coordinated and efficient health care system that embraces what we will collectively define as being of value in health care,” said Eng. Don’t forget to have your say by filling out the CARP E-healthVFM/ Survey
and by visiting the Health Council website at http://www.CanadaValuesHealth.ca