Canada is a developed country located in the northern part of North America. In 1867, it became a self-governing state while retaining its tie with the British crown. When it comes to economic and technology, Canada is developing in parallel to its neighbour to the south, which is the United State of America. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with a democratic constitutional monarchy as their form of government. In the past years, Canada’s politics faces the challenges of reaching the population’s demands for quality improvement in education, social services, economic competitiveness and health care.
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The health care system in Canada is funded publicly and delivered on a provincial or territorial basis, within a guidelines set by the federal government (Canadian Health Care, 2007). Every Canadian citizens are provided with preventative services and medical treatments from general practitioners at the same time having access to hospitalisation, dental surgery and other medical services. However, in the past few years Canada’s Healthcare System is facing controversy because of it’s soaring costs.
INCREASING COST OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN CANADA
According to a latest study (Esmail N., Palacios M., 2013), conducted by the Fraser Institute with the title “The Price of Public Health Care Insurance: 2013 Edition”, the average Canadian household now pays approximately $7,860 in taxes for ‘health care insurance.’, which is 53.3% higher than of in 2003. Over the past decade the cost of healthcare in Canada doubled and is believe to exceed the $200 billion budget mark.
Canada’s health care costs continue to grow at a faster rate than the government’s revenue, largely driven by spending on prescription drugs. In the last five years, however, growth rates in pharmaceutical spending have been matched by hospital spending and overtaken by physician spending, mainly due to increased provider remuneration (Marchildon G., 2013).
In addition, this trend is also caused by what the health system spends on doctors, which rose by an average of 6.8 % every year. Of that value, 3.6% was caused by the increase in physician’s fees. Other driving factors for the increase in healthcare costs are population growth, aging population and increased health care demand.
Consequently, this rise in Canada’s universal health care costs is said to be the reason why the government has limited ability to provide other services such as education, transportation and pension benefits. Increased health care costs will results into higher labor costs, which might cause companies to hire lesser workers, produce less output, or raise their prices. The high expenditure for health causes the budget for other government programs and priorities be restricted.
EFFECT ON CANADA’S ECONOMY
The abrupt rise in health care costs and insurance can affect several parts of the economy. The rise in health care costs can cause job growth to slow down because it costs companies more money to add new employees. Wage increases have also slowed for current employees, since companies must spend more money on health care premiums. The public sector includes the federal, state and municipal governments. The public sector is dealing with costs rising more than revenues. This places a high degree of examination on discretionary health care spending. Companies are faced with rising health care spending often cut other expenses, such as reducing health care benefits, requiring employees to pay a larger share of their health care benefits, or reducing wage increases.
Furthermore, increasing health care costs can cause Canada’s goods and services to be less competitive in the international markets. If all other factors remain constant, the increasing health care costs will most likely be reflected in final product costs and depending on how rapidly costs rise in other countries; this may result in more expensive goods and services.
IMPACT ON NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL HEALTH CARE POLICY
The soaring cost of healthcare is a burden to a country in so many ways. For the community, this increase means that there is less money in their savings and triggering hard choices in balancing food, rent and needed care. For small companies, it will make it harder for them to add new employees, more difficult to maintain coverage for retiree and makes them not competitive globally. The effect of it in the local government is it will lead to higher medicare cost thus reducing funding on other priorities such as infrastructure, public safety and education.
The government’s activities to lessen the burden of high health care cost includes funding and facilitating data gathering and research to regulating prescription drugs and public health while continuing to support the national dimensions of medicare through large funding transfers to the provinces and territories. The governments collaborate through conferences, councils and working groups comprised of ministers and deputy ministers of health. Nongovernmental organizations at both federal and provincial levels influence policy direction and the management of public health care in Canada.
One of the policy is that only physicians are legally allowed to prescribe a full range of pharmaceutical therapies. However, in recent years, a number of provincial governments have changed their laws and regulations in order to permit some providers, including nurse practitioners, pharmacists and dentists, to have limited authority to prescribe pharmaceutical therapies within their respective scopes of practice.
Policy makers should develop funding strategies that will contain the cost of delivering health care and providing economic stimulus to increase provincial and territorial revenues or income, while maintaining the delivery of quality healthcare services to all Canadians.
POLICY INTERVENTION SOLUTIONS
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
In addressing the issue of expensive cost of healthcare, one of the possible solution is the population-wide health education about prevention and any other relevant information about health. The government can launch self-care programmes that would lessen the demand for consultation and hospitalisation. Self -care programmes includes the “patient as the expert” approach, home self-monitoring techniques and the use of latest gadgets and technology such as mobile phones, computers and telemedicines.
In general, these self-care programmes trains and empowers the people to be involved in their own care and be able to manage their own condition. It also includes interventions that imparts knowledge and skills to the people to participate in decision making, to monitor and control the disease and the change in behaviour thus decreasing the chance of seeking expensive medical services.
TAX BENEFITS AND PAYMENT TO CAREGIVER
In Canada’s Economic Action Plan (CEAC, nd), the government is committed to recognised the sacrifies that many citizens exerts to take care of their children, spouses, parents and other family members with health issue. In support of this objective, Budget 2011 introduced a new Family Caregiver Tax Credit to provide tax relief to those who care for an infirm dependent relative .This initiative provides tax relief to those who care for an infirm dependent relative, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children.
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Same with direct payments from government, such as agriculture subsidies or social security benefits, tax benefits and payment are given directly to the citizen in exchange of accomplishing a desired behavior. As a result, tax credits permit individual discretion on spending rather than the government dictating spending priorities for each person.
The availability of tax credits is probably most beneficial to people with lower incomes,because low income families often cannot give up a salary to provide full-time care, nor do their jobs offer flexibility that would allow them to mix caretaking and working.
A tax credit for individuals is a simple concentration of funds from the whole economy onto a specific population segment, assuming the tax credit is paid for with general revenues. In this manner the government’s expenditure on universal healthcare is somewhat reduced. In addition to that, there is a lesser need for aged care facility, disability care or hospital care since caregiver can perform home care.
Caring for a disabled or old family member can be challenging, potentially impacting caregivers’ health, mental health, work, social relationships, and quality of life. To alleviate caregiver stress, enable caregivers to better cope with the demands of caring for a loved one, and improve caregiver and care recipient outcomes, many interventions have been developed.
A short-term break for people and their carer/support person is called Respite Support. This short-term break is usually done away from home and overnight. Respite services are equipped to meet the needs of a disabled person while away from home and their usual support, and aim to create a positive experience for the person. Carer Support enables a usual caregiver to take a break from supporting a person by providing an alternative carer.
Moreover, respite care is a vital part of the overall support that families need to keep their family members with a disability or chronic illness at home. Respite care is temporary care to persons with disabilities or special health care needs, including individuals at risk of abuse or neglect, or in crisis situations.
Respite care can be an effective cost-saving measure that Canada’s government can venture more. In US, there is an estimated 50 million family caregivers nationwide that provide at least $375 billion in uncompensated services —an amount almost as high as Medicare spending and more than total spending for Medicaid, including both federal and state contributions and both medical and long-term care ($311 billion in 2005) (Gibson and Hauser, 2008).
BUSINESS REGULATIONS COMBINING WORK AND CAREGIVING
Caregiver can be defined as a person or individual who provides care or assistance to a member of the family in their home or the care recipient’s home who has a mental or physical disability, is chronically ill, old or who is on a palliative care. Caregiving is a difficult task but family members tend to naturally take care of their love ones and resort to medical institutions when the burden is too much. These caregivers might find it hard to balance their work and their family obligation.
The government can addressed this issue by mandating businesses to allow employees to take medical leave to take care of a disabled or sick relatives. After the medical leave, the employee should be restored of the original job or to an equivalent job. By doing this business regulations, there is less demand for health services, nursing homes, disability services thus helping the government saved the cost for healthcare.
Canadian Health Care (2007), Introduction. Retrieved from: http://www.canadian-healthcare.org/
Esmail N., Palacios M., (2013), The Price of Public Health Care Insurance: 2013 Edition, Fraser Institute.
Marchildon G. (2013), Health Systems in Transition: Canada Health System Review, University of Regina, Canada.
CEAC, (n.d.), Family Caregiver Tax Credit: Canada’s Economic Action Plan, Retrieved from: http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/initiative/family-caregiver-tax-credit
Gibson, Hauser (2008), Valuing the Invaluable: A new look at the economic value of family-caregiving, Public Policy Institute, Washington.
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