Ontario health spending not out of control

TheStar.com – Opinion/letter – Ontario health spending not out of control
April 17, 2009

Re: Insatiable health sector always wants more money, Opinion April 14

Economist Livio di Matteo purports to show how health spending in Ontario is running amok and that the system is unsustainable.

Given that Ontario didn’t have a comprehensive health plan until July 1966, I question why di Matteo would use 1965 as his baseline year for cost comparisons. Some part of the escalating health budget relative to 1965 must simply reflect the expansion of services the province has chosen to cover since then.

Secondly, while health care costs are clearly growing relative to available revenue, the growth would be considerably more modest had there been no sharp tax cuts in the late 1990s. And since these cuts have been disproportionately applied to non-health related programming, the rise in health spending as a percentage of the provincial budget (from 31 to 42 per cent since 1965) exaggerates the impact expanding health costs have had.

Finally, as di Matteo suggests, spending on hospital and physician services under Medicare has been pretty stable relative to GDP. It is other health costs, such as the provincial drug plan, that largely account for the current problem. For me this is an argument not to dismantle Medicare but to expand its scope to include pharmaceutical coverage, long-term care and other sectors that predictably will continue to stress the system.

Michael J. Gaspar. MD, Barrie

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