Canadians say rising health costs unsustainable
Published Monday, March 8, 2010 6:55PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:08AM EDT
The majority of Canadians feel that the soaring costs of health care in Canada will hamper the ability of governments to provide other services, such as education and pension benefits, a new poll finds.
The survey, conducted for the Canadian Medical Association by Ipsos Reid, found 59 per cent of Canadians agree that governments will not be able to continue to afford the current health care system while continuing to provide other services.
When pressed as to how the sustainability crunch should be addressed, 91 per cent said making the health system more efficient was the best way to slow growing costs.
Yet, only 35 per cent said they were either very or somewhat confident in the ability of governments and administrators to find efficiencies in the system.
Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said it's clear the solution to the growing crisis is not an easy one.
"Canadians recognize that, while important, finding efficiencies is not a panacea for the problem of skyrocketing health care costs," Doig said in news release announcing the survey findings.
"Our system continues to provide more care and more services to more Canadians with more health care needs. Efficiencies can only offset growing demand so much."
As for other ways to trim costs, 66 per cent of survey respondents said a system of rewards and penalties to encourage healthy living could help slow down growing health costs. Yet, less than half (47 per cent) were confident such a system would keep people healthier and out of the health care system.
Many also said they would be willing to pay more taxes to help fix the system. Half of respondents said they would spend 10 per cent more in taxes if they knew all of the money would go to health care.
But only one in three (35 per cent) believed it a "good idea" to tax Canadians based on how much health care a person has required over the year, up to a maximum amount.
Respondents also showed some interest in a user-pay system. Nearly half (46 per cent) said "patients should be responsible for paying a portion of the cost of the health care they receive."
As for other innovative ideas to pay for rising health care costs, seven in 10 said they supported a contribution-based "Canada Health Plan" to set aside finances for health care, the same way the Canada Pension Plan works for people who want to retire.
And 65 per cent believed it a "good idea" to develop a Registered Health Savings Plan, similar to RRSPs (Registered Retirement Saving Plans), to allow Canadians to save money on a tax-free basis to pay for health services or prescription drugs not included in the public health plan coverage.
"Canadians see that health spending is unsustainable and they are ready to look at all solutions to protect our system of universal health care," said Doig.
"To support that effort, the CMA has launched a multi-year effort to develop a health care system that is efficient, modern and sustainable that puts improving quality for patients at its heart and must put patient needs ahead of all other considerations."
The online poll contacted a national sample of more than 2,000 Canadians between Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, 2010. Results are considered accurate to within a margin of error of +/-2.2 percentage points.