Health-care ball in Liberal’s court

New formula needed to support B.C.'s aging population.

Meetings held last week in Vancouver between Canada’s provincial ministers of health and federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and her staff likely shaped up more like contract re-negotiations than get-togethers over coffee and cake.

Especially when it came to voicing the case for B.C. – which absorbs more retirees than any other province, and along with them, their increasingly complex health-care needs.

The problem is that the portion of federal health-care money designed to provide care for retirees does not transfer with them when they change residences.

No doubt B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake underlined that point as he and counterparts from across the country got their first audience with the new government. He recently 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.

His argument is a sound one. 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.

B.C. is already grappling with the need to increase the number of hospice beds for terminally ill baby boomers who are native to this province, and that situation is made more critical with people moving here to retire.

In 2004, the Liberal government of the day instituted a program that would see annual increases to provincial health transfers of six per cent. The formula was changed by the Conservatives 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.

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

Here’s hoping the two sides can come up with a fair plan that works for today – not just 2017 or beyond.

-Peace Arch News