With a 21.3 billion dollar deficit facing the Ontario government, health care remains the elephant in the room when it comes to balancing the provincial books. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan underscored this point during his budget speech when he highlighted the fact that 46 cents of every dollar spent on government programs is allocated to health care.
With the health care system eating up a gargantuan share of provincial dollars, it is surprising that the government missed a golden opportunity to start the process of fundamentally restructuring health care services to divert demand from the formal health care system.
Such reform was at the heart of the 2002 Romanow Health Accords, which recommended that home care service be treated as the next essential service. But while government budget projections indicate that health care spending could account for 70 cents of every program dollar spent in Ontario, the government took no action to help the 1.3 million Ontario caregivers who provide care for love ones valued at approximately 8 billion dollars per year.
The economic value of this work combined with the need for health care reform makes it all the more surprising that the Ontario government made no move to heed CARP’s call for a comprehensive Informal Caregiver Strategy in order to provide family and friends who act as caregivers with financial support, workplace protection and integration with the formal health care system. (to read CARP’s pre-budget submission click here). One can only hope that the Ontario government’s doomsday scenario projections will prompt action to aid caregivers sooner rather than later.
What the government did do was commit to lowering the price of generic drugs. Ontarians pay more for generic drugs than those in other countries. The government will also increase supports for pharmacies in rural and underserviced areas and support the expansion of clinical services provided by pharmacists. This signals a major opportunity for increasing Ontarians’ access to drugs.
A new web portal will be established to help centralize access to health program information. This will include an automated income verification process for those benefit programs whose eligibility criteria include income.
Keywords: healthcare, caregivers