$6 billion cut to Ontario health care budget predicted

Ted Ball, a well known and 'well connected' Ontario health care consultant, recently predicted major cuts for health care in Ontario:

"Here is my take on the future: I believe that by the Spring Budget of 2012 – five months after the election in October 2011 – whoever forms the Government (Liberals or Tories) – will be required to reduce public sector expenditures by $10 billion to $12 billion overall. Healthcare sector expenditures would be reduced in this scenario by $6 billion over 2012-2015. 

"Call it a $2 billion a year reduction in net health sector spending for each of three years. Reallocations within the health spending envelope would also be significant as we shrink institutional care and expand community care and home care. But overall I believe it would be prudent to expect spending reductions of at least $6 billion of our $46 billion budget. That’s 13% -- just over 4% per year for three years. 

"How is that possible? How can we cut that much money out of our healthcare system? 

"There is a great deal of evidence that 30% of all of our current spending in healthcare has no value-- so some of us believe that we can easily take out $6 billion in inefficiencies and unleveraged spending, without causing any harm."

"Institutional care" (presumably meaning hospitals and long term care facilities) should bear the main brunt of the cuts according to Ball.

Ball was quite cocky, noting "For the most part, I’ve been fairly accurate on my 'informed guesses' over the years."

However, Ball did say in 2008 that “Health system leaders who believe there will be another bailout need a reality check." Yet, we see in the 2011 Budget that the provincial government agreed to set aside $600-$800 million over the next three years to bail out hospitals with debts (thanks, in part, to spirited community campaigns, no doubt).

Ball's latest prediction may prove overblown as well. Nevertheless, there is tremendous pressure from the corporate world to cut public spending and the security working people get from it. And if their is a majority government after the election, the influence of working people will be greatly reduced.

So, once the election is disposed of, the pressure to squeeze health care (and other public services that benefit working people) may well intensify.

To that extent, at least, I think Ball's remarks are worth considering.

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