Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston called Tuesday’s federal-provincial meeting on health care funding “productive.”
Although many details remain to be discussed — and no final agreement has been signed between Ottawa and the provinces — Houston said proposed agreements will see $154 million in new money put into the Nova Scotia health care system this year, 2023-2024.
“It’s new money, it’s significant money that is necessary for the funding of health care,” Houston said during a 15-minute call with reporters. “Our costs will go up faster than that and that money will be absorbed very quickly but I think it was a productive meeting.”
Houston indicated the province expects to receive an additional $102 million a year for the next few years through a new bilateral agreement between Nova Scotia and Ottawa that is separate from the core Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) annual funding.
That $52 million would flow to Nova Scotia as a one-time top up to the CHST for this year only.
Some provinces at a disadvantage with CHST formula
On Tuesday, the federal government announced a 5% a year increase in that health transfer payment (CHST) to all the provinces during the next five years. This increase is part and parcel of a 10-year investment revealed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that will allocate $196 billion to health care over the next 10 years; $46 billion of that is new money.
The CHST is based on per capita funding, which disadvantages provinces like Nova Scotia that have a larger percentage of elderly people who generally require more expensive medical care at the end of life.
For years, Nova Scotia premiers have urged prime ministers to change the formula to take into account the “higher needs” of an aging population.
Houston told reporters that while the needle hasn’t moved on the per capita formula used to calculate annual CHST payments, Ottawa has indicated a willingness to recognize demographics when it comes to negotiating separate agreements with each province — “bilateral” agreements apart from the CHST.
“The bilateral calculation includes a fixed portion and a per capita — so there is still even per capita in this agreement,” Houston said. “But there is a fixed portion, which is a little sliver towards recognizing the funding can’t all be on per capita…so I’m pleased with that recognition in today’s proposal.”
Conditions on where money can be spent
New bilateral agreements between each province and the federal government are likely to contain “strings attached” or conditions as to where the money can be spent.
Published reports suggest Ottawa will insist provinces also carefully track the results or “health outcomes” associated with additional funding negotiated in these agreements. Improving access to primary care and reducing surgical backlogs are two areas of focus.
The two-day meeting between the premiers, prime minister, and federal officials continues Wednesday.