Are British Columbians ready for the concept of prefunding the treatment of their own sickness in old age?
It's a radical idea; one put forward by the C.D. Howe Institute in its recent report, Managing the Cost of Healthcare for an Aging Population: British Columbia Confronts its Glacier.
It is a monumental problem, alright.
According to the report's authors, B.C. faces a $415 billion burden - that being the higher tax bill needed for increased health-care costs over the next half-century.
The demographic squeeze of retiring baby boomers has already begun, and will only accelerate over the next couple of decades. And, as we all march toward retirement, health-care costs are forecast to skyrocket. Already, health care accounts for half of every tax dollar collected.
So, the report suggests, we need to consider our options. The authors predict taxes will have to increase by 50 per cent if we stay on our current path.
They recommend we move to selective prefunding of health-care services, similar in fashion to the Canada Pension Plan.
CPP converted from pay-as-you-go to a model in which a portion of premiums collected from participants today prefunds their own benefits in the future.
That sounds fine in theory, but what about those who don't make much money and whose contributions would be much smaller? The poorest would no doubt be funded by government, but what about the average Joe?
Statistics show the wealthy can afford to keep themselves in the best health, so, once again, the working class gets the short end of the stick.
The authors did have praise for the way B.C. has so far mitigated the impact of an aging population, but it's obvious much more must be done.
- Managing Editor