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CIHI figures must be treated with caution: CMA President

Canadian Medical Association President Chris Simpson has urged Canadians not to be lulled into “a false sense of security” by recently released health care spending figures indicating growth in health spending is at a 17-year low in Canada.

The figures were released last week by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

“This is not good news and I would strongly urge Canadians to look hard behind CIHI’s headline numbers,” said Simpson in a prepared statement.

Simpson focused on the CIHI finding that the aging population is only increasing health care spending by 0.9% annually. “That is because many of the services that should be available to seniors just aren’t.” Simpson said.

“Long-term care (LTC) facilities aren’t being built, adequate home and community support isn’t being funded and hospitals are filled with older Canadians who should be elsewhere but have no place to go.”

The Canadian Medical Association estimates more than $2 billion a year could re-allocated and spent elsewhere in health care if seniors were not being “warehoused” in hospital beds while waiting for placement elsewhere.

“CIHI does not take into account inefficient spending like this. Nor does it account for a serious deficit in LTC or home and community care,” Simpson said.

CIHI estimates seniors health care will increase incrementally over the next 20 years. But Simpson said CIHI’s own figures also show per-capita health spending increases dramatically as people age – rising from $6,368 in the 65-69 age group in 2012 to a staggering $21,054 for those 80 and older.

Simpson notes that an assessment earlier this year by the Commonwealth Fund on everything from the cost of health care to the quality care among 11 countries put Canada second from the bottom.

“I would urge Canadians not to take CIHI’s numbers out of context,” Simpson said.

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