British Columbians need to take a closer look at impact of Liberal’s health funding commitment

News release

Almost $10 billion less would have been spent on health care since 1991 if Campbell funding model had been in place

With an election victory all but a formality for Gordon Campbell, the Hospital Employees’ Union says it’s important in the coming months for British Columbians to take a close look at the Liberal’s health care platform, particularly at how a new Campbell government would increase health care spending.

“We’d be the first to point out that the Liberal’s plan incorporates a number of progressive solutions that our union and other groups have been pushing for,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “But his commitment to freeze health care spending and only increase it in the future as the economy grows will have a significant impact on the urgent need to improve Medicare and provide better health care services for British Columbians.”

Allnutt says that in order to make sense of what could happen in the future, HEU compared actual annual health care expenditures for the last decade with what funding levels would be under the Liberal plan.

Using 1991 funding levels as the base line and real gross domestic product increases as the logical measure of economic growth, Allnutt says the HEU snapshot shows startling differences. Under Campbell’s model, in 2001/02 the health care budget would be $7.2 billion rather than the $9.1 billion approved by the Legislature in March. That’s a difference of $1.9 billion. And overall, for the last 10 years, B.C. would have spent $9.9 billion less on health care if Campbell’s funding model had been in place starting in 1992.

Charts outlining annual and cumulative 10 year comparisons are attached.

“The figures represent a considerably different picture, and will create a lot of uncertainty for the health care system in the future” says Allnutt. “Yet there’s been little public debate about the consequences. Surely, this has been the sleeper issue in the entire election.”

“Funding increases are not a magic pill that will automatically solve the pressing problems of our public health care system,” said Allnutt. “But having the certainty and commitment that the required funding will be put in place to support progressive changes — like expanded home support and seniors care services, and community health clinics — is crucial to modernize Medicare and take pressure off of our acute care hospitals.

“Campbell has outlined a number of elements for a positive agenda for change. But the funding commitment is not one of them,” says Allnutt. “In fact, it may straightjacket his stated commitment to improve services for British Columbians.”

Allnutt also points out that there are still many unanswered questions about the Liberal’s health care plans. “For example, what happens when there’s a downturn in the economy? These cyclical periods of economic decline usually put added pressure on our health system. But, under Campbell’s funding plan, a downturn would mean there wouldn’t be any funding increase to meet increased demand.

“These are questions that will need to be answered in the coming months.”