Thursday, November 24, 2011

Advocates call for higher taxes to pay for health care
Thu Nov. 24 2011

The federal government needs to increase its funding to the provinces to pay for health care programs, and they should raise taxes to do it, a group of medicare advocates is telling the country's health ministers meeting in Halifax.

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians says the federal government should commit to a 10-year health transfer plan with the provinces that would see a six per cent increase in funding annually.

"At the moment, the Harper government is only committed to 2016, so we are very concerned that they have no intention of carrying it beyond that," Barlow told a news conference Thursday.

Barlow added that the Canada Health Act must be better enforced so that it's used to stop private health care services from eroding the system.

Barlow also wants to see health care coverage include dental care, pharmacare and continuing care.

The ministers are meeting in Halifax to discuss how to reform and pay for health care after the current health care accord expires in 2014. Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq will join the ministers on Friday evening.

The federal government is currently providing $27 billion to the provinces this fiscal year for health care. That amount is slated to rise six per cent a year for the next four years. But the provinces provide the bulk of the funding -- often at the expense of other programs and their general fiscal health.

This week's meeting is considered an early step in the health care spending decision-making process. Talks will continue next month among provincial and territorial finance ministers and culminate with a gathering of premiers in January.

The talks come as the federal government looks to cut spending across a number of ministries -- and at time of growing concern about the rapidly rising costs of health care.

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