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Alberta spends the most per person on health care

Last Updated Nov 20, 2018 at 1:37 pm MST


Total health spending forecast to reach $6,839 per Canadian in 2018

Canada’s health spending per person in 2017 similar to spending in France, Australia and UK

Hospitals, drugs and physician services expected to continue to use largest share of health dollars in 2018

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Due to rising drug costs and hospital expenditures, health care spending per person is rising around Canada.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports a 3.2 per cent growth in health spending in the country to $6,839 per person.

But in Alberta, the costs are the highest among all provinces at $7,552 per person — a 2.2 per cent increase from the previous report.


“We’re seeing a movement to higher cost drugs, for sure,” said Michael Hunt, Director of Health Spending with CIHI. “I think as we move towards the biologicals — new treatments for diseases that we actually haven’t been able to treat in the way we can now — I think we’re actually going to have to keep an eye on what portions of health spending those begin to consume.”

The numbers are mostly on track with past trends, as health spending accounts for 10.4 per cent of the Canadian GDP. 70 per cent of that spending is in the public sector, while the remaining portion is in private care.

Along with drugs, there are growing hospital costs driven by increases in ambulatory or outpatient care.

RELATED: One in four Canadian seniors taking 10 or more drugs

“As you begin to change the delivery of care — part of that is technology-driven, part of that is also driven to ensure that you deliver the maximum amount of care for the dollars you have — you do see shifts in complexity in terms of inpatients, outpatients, and then those less complex patients probably moving over to primary health care,” said Hunt.

It’s not exactly easy to pinpoint why Alberta is on top of the list of provinces in spending, just ahead of Newfoundland at $7,443 per person.

“We generally look at what we are in terms of remuneration for human resources; it has an impact. Also, how we deliver care in this country because we sort of do it in 13 different ways. The decisions on how you deliver care also has an impact on costs overall.”

It’s expected these costs will continue rising, with CIHI forecasting a further 4.2 per cent growth in spending for 2018. At the moment there’s still not a ton of money being spent on the ageing population, although that may change.

“If you really push it out to those 80-plus years, it costs us about $20,000 a year in overall average health care costs,” added Hunt. “The baby boomers are beginning to move through there, so there’s a sector of the population that’s beginning to sort of get into those times when you actually need more services, and it costs more.”

It’s not necessarily a point of concern, with this growth being largely on par with past reports.

“Sometimes I guess you’d need a crystal ball to know about sustainability,” said Hunt. “But we’ve been fairly consistent in terms of looking at the economy.”