Skip to main content

Patients line up on hospital beds outside the crowded emergency room at Montreal's Sacre Coeur Hospital on Nov. 28, 2002. A new report says health-care costs in Canada doubled over the past decade and will cross the $200-billion mark this year.

PAUL CHIASSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS/PAUL CHIASSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Health-care costs in Canada doubled over the past decade and will cross the $200-billion mark this year, a report released Thursday reveals.

The report shows, though, that the growth in health-care spending has actually started to slow, after rising at an average of 7 per cent a year during the period from 1998 to 2008.

Health-care spending will increase by 4 per cent this year, the lowest percentage increase in the past 15 years, says the report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Story continues below advertisement

A key driver of the rising costs is what the system pays doctors. And with medical schools geared up to churn out substantially more physicians in coming years, the system could be heading for a perfect storm, a health consultant who studied the report predicts.

"The pig is moving through the python," says Steven Lewis, a consultant based in Saskatoon. "We're starting to see the first effects of greatly increasing enrolment in medical school, the pouring out of new graduates."

Mr. Lewis says medical schools in the country have increased enrolments by 75 per cent over the past decade.

As those doctors graduate, Canada is moving from a state of undersupply to one of oversupply – at least in the cities. Small towns and rural settings are still plagued by a shortage of physicians and the influx of new doctors is unlikely to mitigate that problem.

Currently most doctors in Canada are paid through what's called a fee-for-service model. They can charge the province and territory in which they practise a set amount for doing an annual checkup or administering a flu shot or ordering diagnostic tests.

If the fee-for-service payment model is retained, the system will be building in an incentive for doctors to overcare for patients as a way to guarantee their incomes, Mr. Lewis says.

"In a fee-for-service system of course, they need to provide services in order to make a living. So that's going to create even more pressure in the future for additional costs."

Story continues below advertisement

The CIHI report is called National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 to 2011. It was released with a companion report, entitled Health Care Cost Drivers: The Facts.

The Canadian Press

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter