Saskatchewan

Sask. faces $82B health liability to 2062: report

Health care spending will take up a larger and larger share of Saskatchewan's gross domestic product in the decades ahead — and that's a problem that might take $82 billion to fix, the C.D. Howe Institute says.

Health care spending will take up a larger and larger share of Saskatchewan's gross domestic product in the decades ahead — and that's a problem that might take $82 billion to fix, the C.D. Howe Institute says.

In a report released Wednesday, the Toronto-based economic think tank says $82 billion is the amount Saskatchewan would have to put in the bank today if it wanted to use the interest to solve its future health-care funding problems.

Colin Busby, co-author of the report (along with William Robson), says that number might seem ludicrously high — it's more than the provincial GDP — but it demonstrates the magnitude of the challenges Saskatchewan faces from now to 2062.

The report encourages Saskatchewan to start putting money away now to pay for health care in the future.

If not, the CD Howe Institute says, big tax hikes may be coming instead.

"In spite of its current budget surplus, Saskatchewan faces an implicit liability related to demographically sensitive programs," the report says.

The demographic situation refers to an aging population, but also to the many young aboriginal people who are having trouble plugging into the surging economy.

Saving now and delivering health care in different ways are two possible solutions, it says.

"Selective prefunding and benchmarking against other provinces that get better bang for their bucks in some areas can help Saskatchewan deliver high-quality health care in a sustainable fiscal framework for years to come," the report says.

Deficit-free Saskatchewan is in good shape fiscally, compared to the rest of the province, the bad news is that health care spending does appear likely to rise.

Unfortunately, because the rest of Canada will likely have worse problems, Saskatchewan probably shouldn't count on getting more money from Ottawa, the report says.

According to the C.D Howe report, health care spending represents about 6.6 per cent of Saskatchewan GDP today, but that portion will rise to 8.9 per cent in 2035 and 11.1 per cent in 2062.

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