Goldhawk Fights Back: Healthcare in Canada costs $183 billion a year

This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at

That’s what Derek Burleton, senior economist at TD Bank told me. The facts and figures are contained in a bank report on health care costs that was requested by the Health Minister in Ontario, Deb Matthews.

But the stark message is for all Canadians. Projecting current spending to 2030, health care costs in Ontario will gobble up 80 per cent of all government program spending. “It’s an impossible situation,” says Burleton. “This is clearly unsustainable.”

Ontario won’t be the only province in trouble. On average, says the report, health care costs will rise to 70 per cent of government spending in all other provinces across Canada.

Health care spending has been rising 6 per cent a year under a 10-year, federal-provincial agreement that is delivering more than $41 billion in health care funding to provinces.

But the agreement ends in 2013. Under current budget deficits facing Ottawa, that 6 per cent funding is likely going to be drastically reduced. And it hardly seems possible that provinces, already facing their own deficits, would be willing or able to make up the shortfall.

So health spending cuts are inevitable, even though both levels of government know how politically unpopular it can be to spend less on health care.

Already, British Columbia is replacing grants to hospitals with fee-for-procedure payments.

Ontario is currently at war with pharmacies to lower the price of generic prescription drugs.

Quebec is considering a fee-for-medical payment that would violate the Canada Health Act.

Burleton and his co-author Don Drummond have offered Ontario a few recommendations to reduce health spending, conceding there is no single, winning solution here.

Burleton and Drummond would like to see more private health clinics where doctors are hired and paid a salary. In Ontario, they would think about clawing back drug benefits for those over 65, in much the same way as Old Age Security benefits are clawed back by so-called affluent zoomers.

Burleton also told me he would like our income tax forms to show how much our individual health care benefits cost the system each year. Is that a pre-cursor to clawing back more universal health care benefits for those of us with a few more bucks in our pockets?

What I do know is that the pressure is on to get health care costs down just at a time when some Zoomers need health care the most.

Photo © porcorex


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Dale GoldhawkGemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).

Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.