Home care money still to come, Health Minister Jane Philpott promises

The federal health minister says she's working on keeping a campaign promise to improve home care, but needs to work out the details with the provinces first.

Money for Liberal campaign promise conspicuously absent from Tuesday's budget, NDP says

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says the government has not abandoned a commitment to increased funding of home care, but the issue must be addressed as part talks on a new health accord with the provinces that are already underway. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The federal health minister says she's working on keeping a campaign promise to improve home care, but needs to work out the details with the provinces first.

This week's federal budget made no mention of the Liberal pledge to put $3 billion into home care.

But Jane Philpott said changes to home care are part of larger negotiations around a new health accord she's conducting with provincial and territorial health ministers. Those talks began in January, and part of the discussion is how to give the provinces the money.

"The decision as to whether [home care] will be part of the [Canada health] transfer or not has not been made. There's certainly been some good discussions around the possibility of having it as a separate package," Philpott said.

But that's not all that has to be decided, Philpott said.

"We feel a responsibility as a government to make sure [with] those additional investments in home care, that there are some agreements as to how those investments will be used — and what we should expect to see as a result, and what Canadians should expect to see as a result.

"And so it's premature at this point to make a commitment on that investment until I've been able to come to an agreement with the provincial and territorial counterparts," she said.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau talks about the work ahead for health Minister Jane Philpott and Premiers to come up with a solution for healthcare. 1:03

Annual increase set to drop next year

The current health care accord was reached by the last Liberal prime minister, Paul Martin. It gave provinces an increase in funding of 6 per cent a year for a decade.

Before the 10-year deal expired, the Conservatives extended the so-called 6 per cent escalator until 2016-17, but said after that funding increases would be based on nominal GDP growth or 3 per cent, whichever was higher.

In this week's budget, there was no mention of any change to that formula.

New Democrat health critic Don Davies said the budget should have earmarked money for both a new health accord and home care, if not for this year, then for 2017.

"The minister can't fabricate money out of thin air. If it's not budgeted for then, that money is not there," Davies told reporters this week.

Davies said the health-care section of the budget over all was thin.

"I didn't see any significant increases in mental health [funding]. I didn't see any significant increases in home care and community care, nothing in pharmacare," Davies said.

"There is simply very, very little in this budget in terms of expanding the health care system in Canada. It's black and white."

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