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Showing posts from May, 2013

Are employer paid drug plans sustainable?

A Great West Life Assurance executive recently claimed that private insurance for drug plans was becoming unsustainable -- unless changes are made.

Almost all private drug insurance plans are paid through employer paid  insured benefit plans (often bargained with trade unions).

In fact, although there were significant increases during the 90s and the first decade of this century, drug costs for insured benefit plans have leveled off.

For 2010, 2011, and 2012 private drug insurance costs have risen just less than 3.1% per year on average, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (Table A). This is a small fraction of the increases in the 1990s (where the average annual increase was 10.5%) or the first decade of this century (10.3% average annual increase).

Part of the slowdown in costs is that some high priced blockbuster patented drugs are coming to the end of their patent protection and are now facing competition from lower priced generic versions.

So, why is this t…

Government: "collective bargaining is achieving results & protecting services"

Yesterday I noted that the Liberal Budget plainly states that they are planning many more years of austerity.  So how does it see collective bargaining with public employees? And, moreover, public sector pensions?  
Collective Bargaining: The government claims that provincial public sector agreements are much lower than other sectors –i.e. private sector settlements, municipal settlements, and federal public sector settlements:

Indeed, the government headlines the claim “Bargaining Is Achieving Results and Protecting Services”. The government does not say it will try to dictate results in collective bargaining (as the previous McGuinty/Duncan government tried to do), but proposes that compensation settlements should fit "within Ontario's existing fiscal framework" and suggests that productivity improvements could be one way to achieve fiscal and service delivery goals: Going forward, compensation costs must be addressed within Ontario's existing fiscal framework, which i…

Health care spending continues decline

Contrary to the hysteria from conservatives, health care spending continues to decline as a percentage of the provincial budget.   Last year, health care accounted for 38.5% of total expenditures, this year the government plans to bring it down to 38.3%.  This continues the trend downwards since 2003/4 when health care accounted for 40% of total expenditures.
Austerity Redux The provincial Budget reports that program spending is going up an impressive sounding 2.99% and health care spending is going up 2.3%.  Although that sounds like a larger than expected increase in these days of austerity, these figures are, unfortunately, misleading. The reason is that last year funding fell well short of the Budget plan and the government is now playing catch-up.
The 2013 Budget indicates that the government spent considerably less than it budgeted in the 2012 Budget.  For example, the Ontario government spent $595 million less on health in 2012-13 than it budgeted, a 1.2% reduction.
Overall, tota…

Now the doctors speak out about hospital cuts

While physicians and surgeons have not usually been at the forefront of campaigns against cutbacks, more of them have begun to express concerns about hospital cuts in Ontario. Here are three recent examples. with a different emphasis from each.

At a Rotary Club meeting May 3, Dr. Robert Ting, president of the Medical Staff Association at the Scarborough Hospital, noted the issue isn't management, it's a lack of funding, and it's getting worse.
"The politicians, they can criticize the management and everything, but even if they had the best management in the world, they wouldn't be able to keep the hospitals open under this kind of scenario...This is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr Ting warned.   The hospital is facing $19.6 million in cuts and more than 300 doctors have signed a petition decrying the cuts.

In Perth-Smith Falls, the Lanark County Medical Society organized a well attended public meeting about the local hospital cuts.  Following the meeting the pr…