LHINs get stuck with even less funding

The Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) are getting stuck again.  

According to the newly released Budget Estimates, the government is cutting their funding.  The cut is, at least, small ($3.25 million out of a total LHIN funding of $23 billion). LHINs are the primary funders of hospitals, long term care homes, and home care. 

Last year, at least they got a little bit of an increase -- 0.9% (based on the scope of services the LHINs are currently supposed to cover).  That gives the LHINs a whopping $64 million extra to play with compared with two years ago.  That might sound like something until you consider they provide $23 billion in services.  

In effect, the government is making the LHINs the bad news bearers.  With no new money, they are going to have to squeeze the providers.  Health care consultants who dreamed that LHINs would become powerful agents for change will be disappointed.  At most, the LHINs will have to suffice with encouraging change through a lack of money. 

The government, in contrast, is allowing itself the right to make new funding announcements via new Provincial Program  funding. 

As in recent years, almost all the new health care funding is going not to the LHINs but to the line item described as  “Provincial Programs and Stewardship”.   The Provincial Programs and Stewardship  line will get $0.932 billion in new funding (out of a total of $1.012 billion new health care funding).  That’s 92% of the new health care operating funding.  

This isn't new -- the government has been starving the LHINs for years while increasing their own "Provincial Program" funding, especially the vaguely named "Community and Priority Program" sub-line item.  (Although there is at least one part of the new Provincial Programs funding that is fairly specific – the promised $125 million for home renovation tax credits.)   

The total health care operating expense increase for 2012-13 is 2.17%.  The total capital and operating expense increase is 1.9% (notably less than the 2.3% suggested in the Budget at table 2.29) .

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