Many Canadians are worrying that the “Golden Years” might not be so golden for seniors struggling to pay for their health care.
The Canadian Medical Association points out that, according to a Conference Board of Canada survey commissioned by the CMA, most citizens have a pessimistic view of the health system’s ability to handle the country’s aging population as more of the baby boomers become seniors.
Presenting the findings this week in Prince Edward Island at a gathering of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for seniors, CMA president Dr. Gigi Osler said Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the health costs of a seniors segment that is growing larger by the year.
Many worry that seniors will wind up having to cover the costs out of their own pockets and that is prompting more seniors to delay retirement in order to pay for their retirement years.
In a Canadian Press story, Osler pointed out that the Conference Board study learned that caregivers and care receivers had to shell out more than $9 billion out-of-pocket last year.
“What we’re seeing today reflects the limitations of seniors’ care and we can, and must, do better,” Osler said in the CP story.
In an interview with CP, Osler said, “What we need is more care delivered in the community, to seniors in their homes and long-term care. It’s time to look at where we’re spending our money and are we spending it where we need to spend it.”
The CMA is calling for more federal spending on seniors care through the Canada Health Transfer, with what Osler calls a “demographic top-up” of $21 billion over 10 years.
The money would be divided among the provinces and territories based on the percentage of seniors in their population base.
The doctors’ group also recommends creating an income-based, seniors’ care tax credit that would provide direct financial support to seniors and their caregivers.
“You don’t want to get into a situation where it’s just Band-Aid over Band-Aid over Band-Aid,” Osler noted.
“We think it’s time to really show some dedication and commitment to meaningful changes in the health-care system to look after our seniors now and protect our system in the future.”
The CMA has been urging federal action to deal with the so-called “grey tsunami” for years, and we’re now at the point where the proverbial rubber is hitting the road.
The advance wave of baby boomers have already become senior citizens and millions more will follow. According to Statistics Canada, there are about nine million boomers in Canada, accounting for just under one-third of the national population.
By 2021, the number of seniors in Canada is expected to exceed the number of children aged 14 and under for the first time ever.
In the Conference Board survey, close to 60 per cent of the more than 3,300 people surveyed believe many Canadians will have to delay their retirement date to afford health care.
Baby boomers believe a failure to improve the health system will result in them having to pay more out-of-pocket costs for health care and more in taxes.
The harsh reality is that for many seniors, affording quality health care could be a challenge.
That’s where government needs to take steps to ensure all Canadian seniors will have access to the health care they need, regardless of their financial resources.
This editorial originated in the Lethbridge Herald.