POLITICS
04/12/2019 15:53 EDT | Updated 04/15/2019 13:25 EDT

Ontario Budget 2019 Will Leave Health-Care System Billions Of Dollars Short

Under Premier Doug Ford, the health-care system won't get the investment that experts say it needs.

Frank Gunn/CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli presents the 2019 budget as Premier Doug Ford looks on at the legislature in Toronto on April 11, 2019.

TORONTO — Ontario needs to inject about $7 billion more into health care in the next three years just to maintain the services it currently provides, but the Ford government's budget will leave the system billions of dollars short.

The province's financial watchdog projects that the government needs to spend at least $70.3 billion on health care by the 2021/22 fiscal year to keep up with inflation, the growing population and the aging baby boomer generation. But projections in the Progressive Conservatives' first budget, released Thursday, show that they only intend to raise health-care spending to $65.3 billion in that time, leaving the system $5 billion short.

Health care is the largest expense for Ontario, taking up nearly 40 per cent of its roughly $163-billion budget.

Premier Doug Ford's government has already unveiled its plan to overhaul the system by merging Local Health Integration Networks into one centralized agency. That move will save $350 million a year when it's complete, according to the budget document.

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The government does plan to increase health-care spending in its term, by an average of 1.6 per cent every year.

That won't be nearly enough, according to the projections by the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) released on March 6.

As Ontario's large cohort of baby boomers become seniors, the system will come under more strain, the FAO report said. The average 50-year-old in Ontario needs about $3,100 of health-care services annually, while a 65-year-old needs $6,400 worth of care and an 85-year-old needs more than $22,000 in care.

Number of seniors to double

In coming decades, it's expected that the number of seniors in Ontario is going to double. There were 2.4 million seniors who made up 16.7 per cent of the province's population in 2017, according to the Ministry of Finance. In 2041, there will be 4.6 million seniors, making up a quarter of the entire population.

The FAO report warned residents that Ford's goal to eliminate deficit spending could hit the health-care system hard.

Ontarians need to have an informed debate about this government's goal to balance the budget and the "trade-offs necessary" to achieve that goal, it said.

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