‘Health care insurance’ costs skyrocket in Canada: Is our system unsustainable?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

While no politician seems to want to touch this issue with a ten foot pole, our health care system is in trouble.

Report after report has highlighted our relatively poor performance measures, increasing costs and growing inefficiencies.

Well here's the latest one.

According to a new study by the Fraser Institute — titled The Price of Public Health Care Insurance: 2013 Edition — the average Canadian household now pays approximately $7,860 in taxes for 'health care insurance.' That's a jump of 53.3 per cent (before inflation) from 2003.

Family composition Average cash income Tax bill for public health care insurance
Unattached individuals $39,039 $3,780
2 adults, 0 children $99,226 $11,381
2 adults, 1 child $108,609 $10,989
2 adults, 2 children $113,247 $11,320
1 adult, 1 child $49,619 $3,905
1 adult, 2 children $49,372 $3,387

The study claims that the cost of health care insurance is in fact increasing at a far greater rate than other expenditures: Since 2003, the cost of clothing only jumped 32.4 per cent, the cost of food only jumped 23.4 per cent and the cost of shelter went up by 34.2 per cent.

"The large gaps between the growth rates of spending on the necessities of life and that of public health care insurance provide important insight into the increasing cost of health care for Canadian individuals and families," notes the report.

"Our hope is that these figures will enable Canadians to more clearly understand just how much they pay for public health care insurance, and how that amount is changing over time. With a more precise estimate of what they really pay, Canadians will be in a better position to decide whether they are get ting a good return on the money they spend on health care."

[ Related: Fraser Institute report suggests hospital wait times cost Canadians almost $1B a year ]

Certainly, the Fraser Institute is of the belief that we're not getting good return on our money.

The data seems to supports their theory.

Another Fraser Institute report, released last year, noted that, in 2009 — the most recent data available — Canada ranked 19th out of 28 countries for the number of practicing physicians per 1,000 people, 12th for number of nurses per 1,000 people and tied for last for the number of acute care beds per 1,000 people.

A Conference Board of Canada report from 2011, notes that, while Canada is one the highest spenders on health care, it ranks 10th (out of 17 countries reviewed) in an aggregate of leading health indicators.

According to a report cited by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, "Canada had the highest proportion (25%) of patients reporting a wait of four months or more for elective surgery" in a study of 11 countries.

The most troubling statistic of all, however, is that, by 2020, it's expected that health care costs will consume 42 per cent of total provincial and territorial government revenues.

Certainly, there are a lot of positives about our system, but the research shows that there is room for improvement and serious questions about sustainability.

[ More politics: Is new star Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland the new Ignatieff? ]

Unfortunately, any discussion of change is met with fierce resistance by those fearing the loss of universal accessibility.

But, as a recent Ottawa Citizen editorial noted, there are other options.

"Debates about health care in Canada usually involve unfavourable comparisons to the American system, but the more relevant examples are found in Australia and Europe," the editorial notes.

"Those countries have universal health care but typically have parallel public and private systems, copayments and different insurance options."

At the very least, isn't it about time our elected politicians had that debate? What are they waiting for?

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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