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Health Accord

Research has shown women with disabilities and deaf women face multiple barriers to accessing health care, including cancer screening and treatment. In some cases, health care practitioners focus on the disability itself as a health problem, and ignore the overall health of the patient.
The health of Canada's indigenous people lags substantially behind other Canadians -- and the tragic reality is well documented. Sadly, the data regarding poor health status for indigenous populations shows us this is true across all major illnesses and across all age groups. In other words, being an indigenous person in Canada is too often a dangerous reality. But it doesn't have to be this way. These phenomena are not new, and while Canada has been good at documenting health crises, and collecting evidence, we've been poor at doing anything about it.
This week the country's 14 health ministers have been gathering in Vancouver for a pan-Canadian summit to begin negotiating a new health accord. The previous accord saw $41 billion transferred to the provinces over the last decade. This next one may be even bigger.
In his letter to the minister, Prime Minister Trudeau tasked Health Minister Philpott with "engaging provinces and territories in the development of a new, multi-year Health Accord with long-term funding agreement." As the health ministers meet in Vancouver, how can they bend the curve toward a less costly and more effective health care system? How can they ensure the funds invested this time around will buy real improvements in health?
The health care problems we face are not the result of insufficient spending. In fact, more money may be counterproductive. The primary focus of any new accord needs to be on the structure of the federal-provincial arrangements. The most commonly visualized instrument seems to be a return to something like the Health Accords of 2003 and 2004.
The Liberal government's Health Accord recognized that‎; the Council of the Federation recognizes that; health care advocates and health professions recognize that. This is the mandate of the federal government and it is time to stop passing the buck to provinces.
Unfortunately, given the current government monopoly on healthcare insurance, the lack of appropriate incentives, and unwillingness to consider policies to reduce wait times that seem to have been successful in European countries with universal health care, it is entirely possible that Canadians may continue to experience some of the longest wait times in the developed world.
Expenditures on public health care in Canada appear to be slowing, raising the possibility that the health care cost curve is finally being bent and the system transformed. What does this mean? The economy will eventually recover and relax provincial health expenditure constraints, but federal health transfer growth will be reduced starting in 2017.
The elimination of the Health Council only further underlines this movement away from national planning for better outcomes. That the Council's disappearance is part and parcel of a larger strategy of the elimination of the dissenting and unbiased voice -- something that is so needed in a democracy -- is downright disturbing.
Our country needs a pharmaceuticals strategy that's more than just low-cost drug coverage. Unfortunately, when the Harper government -- which has consistently treated collaboration with the provinces and territories as both obscene and objectionable -- came to power, it walked away from a national pharmaceuticals strategy. As a result, instead of being eight years in on making prescription drugs more accessible, and safer, millions in our country -- as many as one-in-ten Canadians -- cannot afford the medication they need.