Health service delisting coming, Ontario minister says

When government takes the role of regulating our health, they eventually start running out of our money. Then they start to ration. Using control or people’s health to stay in power represents a low point in politics. Many Canadians seeking timely medical care because they are on a medical waiting list, or because they want affordable knee replacement surgery come to MediBid.

Health service delisting coming, Ontario minister says

Matthews won’t reveal what’s on the chopping block

By Lee Greenberg, Ottawa Citizen January 26, 2012
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews will lay out the province's action plan on health funding, which will include service delisting, on Monday.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews will lay out the province’s action plan on health funding, which will include service delisting, on Monday.

Photograph by: Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen

Ontarians should brace for fewer publicly funded health services as the province trims its $16-billion deficit.

Health Minister Deb Matthews issued the warning Wednesday that she is considering delisting an unknown number of services from OHIP.

“If there is not evidence to support a procedure or a test, we don’t want to pay for it,” Matthews told reporters.

She would not reveal what is on the chopping block, but she added that while some services will be delisted, other new ones will also be funded.

For example, the government now covers new childhood vaccines, because evidence shows they are effective. Other services, such as Vitamin D testing, have been delisted.

“The evidence doesn’t support universal Vitamin D testing,” Matthews said. “It does support testing people with specific health concerns.”

The minister will lay out the province’s “action plan” on health funding on Monday.

Ontario spends $47.1 billion on health and long-term care – roughly 38 per cent of its budget. Without serious reform, health spending is predicted to take up as much as 80 per cent of the budget by 2030, crowding out almost every other service.

A report recommending spending cuts and other reforms is in government hands and will be released in the coming weeks.

Its lead author, former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond, wrote a report in November telegraphing some of his health recommendations.

Drummond says Ontario performs more caesarean sections per capita than most other jurisdictions, for example.

Asked about C-sections Wednesday, Matthews said data shows large geographic swings in the number of procedures being performed.

“What that tells me is that we’ve got some work to do to make sure everyone is practicing the highest quality medicine,” she said.

She did not comment when asked if the government would stop paying for planned caesarean sections.

Drummond has also cast aspersions on arthroscopic knee surgery, which, he has indicated, simply delays knee replacement for one year.

He has also said physicians are being paid too much to perform procedures that have become much simpler in recent years, such as cataract surgery and radiology.

Ontario’s Liberal government is no stranger to delisting.

In 2004, the province stopped funding biannual eye exams for all but children and seniors. The government also pulled funding for chiropractic and physical therapy services.

The government has forbidden Drummond from recommending any form of privatization.

Nevertheless, Drummond made it clear in a November report for the C.D. Howe Institute that universal public care is a fallacy in Ontario.

The public system covers medically necessary hospital and physician services and little else, he says.

Among the long list of services not covered are: out-of-hospital drugs, psychological counselling, community mental health services, nutrition advice, fertility treatment, ambulance services, addiction treatment, long-term care, eye care and dental care.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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