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Updated: Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:37:34 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Premiers seek new health-care savings with brand-name drugs



Premiers seek new health-care savings with brand-name drugs

Canada's premiers are aiming for more health-care savings in how the provinces care for seniors, use diagnostic tools and buy brand-name drugs.

The premiers are seeking out bargains and comparing stories so they can save money. Today they'll discuss the latest in a series of moves to cut costs.

Canada's premiers have been tightening their belts when it comes to health care since federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told them in December, 2011, that the government would be cutting the amount by which it increases their annual funding.

Flaherty gave the provinces a take-it-or-leave-it deal, offering ongoing but small increases in health-care funding starting in 2016. The new annual increase will be tied to nominal GDP, the monetary value of all goods and services produced within the country annually, including inflation. If nominal GDP rises four per cent and inflation is two per cent, the economy's real GDP growth is two per cent. Flaherty set a floor for the increases, promising they will be at least three per cent.

The working group on health innovation, led by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, first got the provinces to agree on six generic drugs to buy in bulk. That move is expected to save the provinces $100 million once it's fully implemented. The program started last April.

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The provinces are also looking at the best practices in health-care systems across the country to smooth operations and hopefully save time and money.

Next: brand-name drugs, diagnostics, home care

The next phase of this working group is to figure out how to buy brand-name drugs cheaper and study home-care vs long-term care options for seniors.

They'll also look at appropriateness of care, or in which cases diagnostic tools must be used.

"We're going to talk about diagnostic imaging," Ghiz said in an interview with CBC News.

"How can we make sure it's uniform across the country, make sure that we're not delivering tests that people don't actually need. One, it's not good for the patient and two, there's a cost associated with, and it leads to more waiting."

Ghiz and Wall's working group also looked at the cost of caring for the elderly.

"We know that approximately it costs for a senior to be in a hospital bed, $1000. For them to be in a long-term care bed, $100 a night, $150 a night. For them to be in their home where they're getting care, $50 a night. So that's something that we're looking to do for the long-term as well," Ghiz said.

Next phase to be discussed today

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she's interested in hearing what the working group will report today.

"And obviously it's a concern for every single one of us as premiers that we have the resources to deliver the publicly funded health-care system that we all know that our constituents need and Canadians deserve," she told reporters on Thursday.

The federal Liberal government negotiated increased funding in a 2004 deal. That agreement expires next year.

Former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow says, despite calls from health-care advocates, he doesn't think the provinces immediately need more money.

"What I am concerned about is that Ottawa has simply put the money on the table and walked away from the problems of negotiating the changes," he said in an interview with CBC News.

Romanow was the premier of Saskatchewan for 10 years, and deputy premier for 11 years before that. He also led a royal commission on the future of health care.

"They're doing the best they can, the premiers. There's no doubt about that, I think. What is required is that Ottawa should come to the table … It takes Ottawa to come in and to get into the hard slogging of negotiating with the provinces."

A spokesman for Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in an email that health transfers to the provinces will hit $40 billion by 2020.

"I have reached out to all of my provincial and territorial colleagues about their priorities in health care and shared with them my commitment to working together," Ambrose said through her spokesman, Michael Bolkenius.

"I and my provincial colleagues also recognize the opportunity to work together in areas that reduce costs and support innovation in health care."

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