New Brunswick's annual health care costs are going to jump a billion dollars by the year 2020, according to a new study.
The province's aging population is a big factor, says the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, which conducted the study in conjunction with the New Brunswick Health Council.
But high rates of obesity, smoking and drinking are also to blame, it says.
New Brunswickers weigh more, smoke more and drink more than the national average. They're also less active and eat fewer fruit and vegetables, according to the study.
And those choices have costs, says the report, which looked at future health care expenses and resource needs.
Obese people cost the health care system an extra 30 per cent over their lifetime, smokers, 20 per cent and drinkers, 10 per cent, the report found.
If New Brunswickers don't change their behaviour and don't pay significantly more taxes, health-care spending will continue to crowd out other public services, it warns.
The total cost of health care in the province will jump to $4.6 billion in 2020, from $2.8 billion in 2009, it predicts.
That represents a per capita increase of 4.4 per cent per year to $5,976 per person, compared to $3,711.
"If you look at other countries, what they've basically done is try to influence the lifestyle," said actuary John Have. "For instance, in New York City, they tried to limit the amount of Coke you can buy at the 7-Eleven.
"Perhaps the health care system itself, rather than wait until somebody gets sick, say, 'Oh, here's somebody who needs help getting their weight normal.'"
Health Minister Ted Flemming was not available for comment on Thursday and Finance Minister Blaine Higgs did not respond to a request for an interview.
Both ministers have been trying to wrestle down costs in health-care spending.
The actuarial report comes just weeks after a consultants' report called the province's health-care system unaffordable, unsustainable — and, already in need of a cut of close to a quarter billion dollars.
The latest study used data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and from the New Brunswick Health Council and developed a model to project health care expected.
The model took into account demographic projections of the province's population and developed trend factors to reflect the various health care component costs.
The impact of lifestyle factors on those costs was also correlated.
The study was delivered on June 27 to officials of the Department of Health, NBHC, Vitalité Health Network, FacilicorpNB and Ambulance New Brunswick.