Spending on health care is Canada is slowing, but is expected to reach nearly $192 billion this year — or $5,614 per person — according to a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which released the figures Thursday.
Growth has slowed to the lowest rate since 1997, with the share of spending on seniors stabilizing over the past decade, from 43.6 per cent in 1998 to 43.8 per cent in 2008, the institute said.
Taking inflation and population growth into account, actual per-capita health-care spending is expected to rise by 1.4 per cent this year, the lowest growth rate in the last 13 years.
As a percentage of Canada's gross domestic product, spending increased every year, until now.
The drop is modest at 11.9 per cent of gross domestic product for last year versus 11.7 per cent this year.
During a period of restraint in the mid-1990s, health spending was either flat or negative, said Chris Kuchciak, manager of health expenditures for CIHI. The trend was reversed in the late '90s when governments boosted allocations to health.
"So there were significant investments in health care. But now fiscal positions have changed and we see that growth rate decelerating," Kuchciak said.
Seniors' care costs
Care is more expensive for seniors, but so far the average expenditure on them has not risen faster than for younger Canadians, said Jean-Marie Berthelot, vice-president of programs at CIHI.
Once Canadians reach age 80, health spending per person tends to jump. For those 80 and older, spending averaged $18,160 per person compared to about $5,800 for each senior under 70, according to the report.
Dr. Jeff Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association, appeared before a parliamentary finance committee on Wednesday. Turnbull says governments need to do more to help people caring for aging family members, but it doesn't have to mean putting a lot of new money into the system.
Total health care spending varies by province, with spending per person expected to be highest this year in Alberta and Manitoba at $6,266 and $6,249, respectively.
British Columbia and Quebec are forecast to have the lowest health expenditure per capita at $5,355 and $5,096, respectively.
"What we need to do is look for better ways to strategically invest to make sure that we have good value for our money."
In 2010, government spending on health care is expected to reach $135.1 billion, while private-sector spending, which includes both private insurance and out-of-pocket expenses, will reach an estimated $56.6 billion.
Hospitals, pharmaceutical drugs and physician services remained the top three areas of health-care spending, the report shows.
Physician spending has grown faster than the other two categories, Kuchciak said.
The report also looked at differences in health-care spending between provinces and international comparisons with countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.