This article originally appeared in the Financial Post.
By Jack Mintz, February 15, 2023
While federal and provincial leaders are sorting out the mess in our under-performing Medicare system this week, another health funding issue is getting much less attention. In Canada, roughly 30 per cent of health care expenditures are not covered by governments. The NDP has been proposing further socializations, as with Pharmacare. But an alternative approach is to provide grants or tax credits to cover out-of-pocket costs of qualifying non-Medicare health services. Leaving aside the critical question of who pays, options to relieve Canadians from non-Medicare costs deserve careful consideration.
Greater support for non-Medicare services could help relieve the stresses from long waiting lists and labour shortages. We use hospitals too much and community facilities or home care, which are only partly publicly funded, too little. Some Canadians experiencing pain and suffering pay for operations in other provinces or out of the country. Many more spend too little on preventive health services, which are often not covered by Medicare. If the out-of-pocket costs of using such services were lower, that could reduce the demand for more expensive medical services provided by hospitals.
The federal Liberals are moving ahead with the Canada Dental Benefit for children between the ages of two and 12, providing $650 a year for families with income up to $70,000 (with $390 for families with income between $70,000 and $79,999 and $260 between $80,000 and $89,999). It’s like a refundable tax credit with the CRA responsible for administrating the system. But it provides income support for just one type of service — dental care — and not all the other out-of-pocket medical expenses Canadians incur.