01/13/2012 07:52 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. Premier Balks At Federal Health Funding Plan


B.C. Premier Christy Clark says announced changes to federal government health-care transfers to the provinces won’t work for British Columbia, where a rapidly growing senior population is dramatically increasing medical costs to the province.

The federal finance minister announced last month that after the 2016-17 fiscal year, Ottawa will institute a change in the per-capita funding system that would be tied to Canada’s gross domestic product, but is guaranteed to be at least three per cent. The annual health-care funding increases to the provinces are currently six per cent.

Clark told CBC News Friday that provinces will need “an age-adjusted per capita formula implemented” in order for the federal plan to work sufficiently.

“You cannot allocate health-care dollars on a per capita basis until you adjust it for age,” Clark said in Vancouver during an interview with Rosemary Barton on the CBC Newsnet program Power & Politics. “You just can’t run a country or look after senior citizens [unless] that’s the way you do it.”

Clark said the fastest growing demographic in B.C. is people over 85, and the province would be especially hard hit unless the per-capita formula changes.

“It costs an average $22,000 a year for health care for someone who is over 85 versus $2,000 for someone who is 29 years old,” the premier said.

B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said B.C. would lose as much as $250 million a year under the new formula as it's currently conceived.

Clark said the issue has to be resolved or economic balances in the country could be disrupted.

“We’ll be looking at a massive change, migration of money across the country from provinces where many older people live to provinces where many younger people live.”

Clark did praise the federal decision to give provinces more responsibility for health-care policies, saying it is a step in the right direction.

“They are going to vacate the policy field … which provincial premiers have been asking for for something like 30 years, [to] do the policy in health care. So I think that’s a great thing.”

Clark was speaking in advance of a meeting of Canada’s premiers this weekend.

The Council of the Federation meeting begins in Victoria Sunday.