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B.C. to push Ottawa for changes to health funding allocation

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the current system ignores provinces with large older populations that have more expensive healthcare needs.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake speaks to reporters in this file photo.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake speaks to reporters in this file photo.

British Columbia’s health minister says he will urge the Trudeau government to change the way they fund healthcare to better meet the needs of the province’s aging population.

Health Minister Terry Lake said B.C. has long been unhappy with changes made by the previous government to the Canada Health Transfer, which allocates federal health-care funds on a per capita basis and does not recognize that some provinces have larger populations of senior citizens with more expensive healthcare needs.

“As you age, healthcare costs become higher and higher and higher,” Lake told reporters Tuesday. “So to have a pure per capita transfer actually was a disadvantage for populations that were older, such as in British Columbia, and much more of an advantage for populations like Alberta that are younger.”

The minister said he plans on pushing for changes to the system next week when provincial and territorial health ministers meet with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott in Vancouver.

Premier Christy Clark, speaking at the same news conference, added: “Canada is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t recognize the need to spend more money per capita at a national level on senior citizens than younger people.”

“We need to go back to that because that is the fundamental building block for being able to provide good seniors care,” she said.

Kim McGrail, associate professor in the UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, said recognizing age demographics as part of the Canada Health Transfer payments would be a “significant change because it never has been a part of the transfer formula.”

With 17 per cent of B.C.’s population being over the age of 65, compared to 12 per cent in Alberta, that could mean significantly more cash for this province, she said.

However, McGrail anticipates that the negotiations could be "somewhat difficult."

“Anytime you make a change in a transfer formula with a fixed budget, clearly there will be winners and there will be losers," she said.

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