Like the rest of the budget, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa did little to change the course of last year’s austerity budget with regards to health care.
One thing is certain – health care is gradually shrinking as a percentage of program spending by government contrary to the hysteria by anti-Medicare advocates. This year it’s projected to be 41.8 per cent of what the government spends on programs and services. Just two years ago the government was talking about spending 46 cents of every program dollar on health care and the media were regularly rounding it up to half the Ontario budget.
In dollar terms, health care gets $1.3 billion more over last year, moving it up to a total of $48.9 billion in spending. That’s about $300 million more than was forecast in 2012. The bad news is the government left $560 million of last year’s health budget unspent, much of it in the hospital sector where job and service cuts are becoming increasingly common.
If the government had been budgeting for inflation (1.2%) population growth (1%) and the effects of aging (1%) health care would need an absolute minimum of $1.52 billion more simply to stand still. That may even be a bit low – health care costs generally rise a bit faster than general inflation. Drug costs, for example, are expected to rise by 5.4 per cent next year.
No matter how the government shuffles the deck, that means continuing austerity for health care.