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Budget targets seniors but fails to deliver comprehensive strategy: CMA

The 2015 federal budget took aim at measures to support seniors, but the focus on income security and other measures falls far short of the national strategy on seniors health and social care called for by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

In his response to the promised ‘balanced budget’ delivered by Finance Minister Joe Oliver, CMA President Chris Simpson said the initiatives announced “just nibble around the edges of the monumental challenge of how we are going to address the health care needs of our aging population.

“The measures unveiled today are a good start, but Canada’s seniors need a comprehensive plan,” he said in a release. “We need a strategic approach, directing concrete action, to bring Canada’s health care system into the 21st century.”

Highlights of seniors’ initiatives include:

  • increasing the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) limit to $10,000 per year “complementing existing retirement savings plans”
  • reducing the mandatory drawdown rates for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF)
  • a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities to help with the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible
  • extending Employment Insurance compassionate care benefits from six weeks to six months to better support Canadians caring for gravely ill family members
  • investment in seniors health innovation: delivering up to $42 million over five years to Baycrest Health Sciences, based in Toronto, to support the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation to co-develop education assets, translate knowledge and disseminate expertise

In addition, the federal government made other health-related announcements in the budget:

  • a commitment to renew the mandate of the Mental Health Commission of Canada by 10 years, beginning in 2017-18
  • $14 million over two years for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to support applied health services research and the foundation’s work to identify savings and efficiencies in the health system; among the priorities for this funding will be disseminating best practices on palliative care services

Also put forward in the budget were new family benefit and tax measures, infrastructure commitments and reductions in the small business tax rate.

Simpson said nothing in the budget will cause the CMA to be diverted from its major focus in the upcoming federal election on the need for a national seniors strategy.

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