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Health-care spending likely to hit record, report says Add to ...

Canada's health-care spending is expected to climb to a record $183.1-billion this year, or $5,452 per person - even as the economy slowed down.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information annual study, released today, found health spending is expected to reach an estimated 11.9 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Spending will likely increase to $183-billion this year from $174-billion in 2008, a five per cent increase. GDP, meanwhile, shrank at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent over the second quarter.

"Continuing spending on health care during a recession is not surprising. People still need care, even when the economy slows down," said Graham Scott, chairman of the CIHI's board of directors.

Per capita, residents in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador are expected to spend the most, reaching an estimated $6,072 and $5,970, respectively. Quebec and British Columbia are forecast to have the lowest expenditure per person at $4,861 and $5,234, respectively.

Health-care spending, as reflected by a percentage of the GDP, has had year over year double-digit gains of late. But it's not always been that way. Provinces went into belt-tightening mode in the 1990s, and nurses were laid off and some medical schools and hospitals were closed. Health-care spending reached 8.9 per cent in 1997. Those measures came at a cost: Wait times increases, and the system struggled to survive.

Though many Canadians may be concerned about the increases in health spending, consider the United States: its price tag is expected to soar to 17.6 per cent of that country's GDP. No one pays more for health-care than the United States, which spends $7,290 (U.S.) per person, according to 2007 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development figures, the latest ones available. Canada was in the top fifth of countries in terms of per capita spending on health, and similar to several other OECD countries, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.

In Canada, spending can be divided into three categories: hospitals, drugs and physicians.

Hospitals make up the largest share, accounting for an estimated 27.8 per cent or $51-billion of the total. Spending on drugs, both prescribed and non-prescribed medication, make up the second largest share at 16.4 per cent or $30-billion. This has remained largely stable since 2007. Physicians, meanwhile, account for an estimated 14 per cent of total spending this year, or $25.6-billion.

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