Canadian seniors worst off in health care

A new study by the Commonwealth Fund,  the International Survey of Older Adults finds Canadian seniors at the bottom of the 11 countries studied.

For example,

1) Canada has the worst record out of all 11 countries including USA, UK, France and Sweden in terms of seniors getting a same or next day appointment with a doctor or nurse. Only 45% could do so.

2) As far as cost related issues, we were 3rd after the US and New Zealand in terms of health expenses.

3) Canadians over 65 had the highest number of seniors with at least 2 chronic conditions, second only to US seniors.

The study confirms the urgent need for a national seniors’ health strategy.

Majority of all Canadians still no workplace pension plan

John Anderson

Overall pension coverage for all Canadian workers declined from 48.4% in 1977 to 38.4% in 2011. This decline was caused by the huge decline in male workers covered. The number of male Canadians covered by pension plans (Registered Pension Plans) has declined dramatically to 37% of employed male workers in 2011 from 52% in 1977. These dramatic figures are found in a new Statcan report New facts on pension coverage in Canada by Marie Drolet and René Morissette

But the drop in overall male pension coverage is not the only bad news for men in this study. In 2012 only 24% of employed men 25-54 are now in a defined benefit plan (DBP), the best kind of pension plan. Overall the coverage for men in DBPs is 25.4% in 2011 a decline from 48.4% in 1977.

Women had better news in the report.This is because a higher percentage of women than men are now employed in very large numbers in education, health and other public sector jobs which tend to be unionized and have a pension plan.

Total pension coverage for women increased from 36% in 1977 to 40% in 2011; while defined benefit plan coverage for women reached 33% in 2012, much higher than that for men! But women’s DBP coverage also declined (though less than for men) from 34.5% in 1977  to 31.1% in 2011.

However even though women have made major progress, most women (along with most men) are still not covered by pension plans and even fewer men or women have a defined benefit plan.

This is why we need improved and expanded Canada and Quebec Pension Plans as soon as possible! These plans are universal for all workers, portable, indexed to inflation and are defined benefit plans.

Seniors poverty rate still way too high particularly for single seniors!

John Anderson

The Canadian Income Survey was released for 2012 by Statcan on Dec. 10, 2014. It shows again that overall poverty in Canada is still far too high at 13.8% of the population at the after tax Low Income Measure or including all government transfers.The highest poverty rate is for persons in female lone parent families where it reaches an astounding 44.5%!

For seniors, the news is also not nearly good enough. In spite of all the declarations of how poverty is over for seniors, 12.1% are in poverty or very near the Canadian overall rate. For two or more seniors in an economic family, the rate is 6.2% which at first hearing sounds not bad. But when we look into the figures, we see that the median income is only $56,500 before tax for married couples. This means half of senior couples are earning less than this!  The worse news in all  this data for seniors is the rate for single seniors which is an astounding 28.5%! This means almost one in 3 seniors living alone is in poverty. As we know by demographic statistics, most of these seniors living alone are female which shows how the pension system has failed seniors and particularly women.

New study calls for public universal drug plan and warns of income related plans for seniors

Are Income-Based Public Drug Benefit Programs Fit for an Aging Population?

Steven G. Morgan, Jamie R. Daw and Michael R. Law

December 3, 2014

Medications prescribed outside a hospital setting are not covered by Canada’s medicare system. They are financed through a patchwork of private and public drug insurance plans that only provide coverage for select populations, leaving many Canadians with little or no coverage.

Up until the late 1990s, people 65 and older received universal, almost first-dollar public drug coverage in most provinces. But with population aging, the public liability associated with age entitlements has become a major concern for governments. Four provinces have discontinued their age-based programs, which covered most of the cost of medications for seniors, and -replaced them with income-based programs, which protect all residents against catastrophic drug costs. Other provinces have started to move or are considering moving in this direction.

Is this sound policy? Steven Morgan, Jamie Daw and Michael Law assess the performance of -income-based public drug plans against three key policy objectives: access, equity and efficiency. They review the theory and the evidence by comparing Ontario’s age-based and British Columbia’s income-based systems. They find that income-based plans perform poorly with respect to all of these objectives.

First, replacing age-based public plans with income-based drug benefit plans reduces seniors’ access to necessary medicines. The deductibles are a financial disincentive for patients to fill -needed prescriptions and they therefore reduce their adherence to the prescribed therapy. Second, it raises important equity issues. Deductibles under income-based plans impose considerable direct costs, especially on seniors, who are more likely to be high-needs users of prescription drugs. Third, income-based programs undermine cost efficiency because a large share of the residual costs falls to employers, unions and patients. Having multiple payers increases administrative costs and fails to leverage the purchasing power of government as the single payer in the pharmaceutical market place.

Policy-makers have portrayed the adoption of income-based plans as an expansion of previous programs because income-based plans cover patients of all ages, not just seniors. The authors of this study argue that what this really represents is a retrenchment of public drug benefits in Canada.

The authors recommend moving to public plans that offer full and universal coverage of prescription drug costs, financed through personal income taxes. Such plans would ensure better access, equity and efficiency than do those built around income-based deductibles. In particular, they would provide more equitable coverage for high-needs prescription-drug users. This approach would also enable government to achieve greater cost efficiencies and improve health outcomes. As the single payer, government would be better able to lower the price of brand-name and generic drugs, promote the use of generic drugs, help improve prescribing patterns, and take advantage of administrative and other cost efficiencies.

Seniors one of threatened groups in need of housing co-op funding

Housing co-ops call for new federal rental assistance to replace expiring support for low-income households

OTTAWA, Dec. 5, 2014 /CNW/ – The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) repeated its urgent call for funding in the next federal budget to replace expiring rental assistance for low-income households in federally-funded housing co-ops.  Otherwise, the health and security of co-op members who are seniors, new Canadians, aboriginal people and persons with mental and physical disabilities will be threatened.

Echoing its August submission to the Pre-Budget Consultations of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled Living Within Our Means: Affordable Solutions for Canada’s Co-operative Housing, CHF Canada called for the government to take the steps needed to ensure that these vulnerable Canadians can remain in their homes.

“Co-ops will be faced with significant re-investment costs when their agreements expire,” said CHF Canada Executive Director Nicholas Gazzard. “They are ready to take on those costs and the new debt that will be required to restore aging infrastructure. We are asking the government to partner with the co-ops: we will take care of the buildings; governments must take care of the people.”

“The government has taken a small, short-term step towards addressing this problem, and allowed Section 95 housing co-ops with money in their subsidy surplus fund to keep the money at the end of agreements. But not many co-ops will be in that position, and it is not the lasting solution co-ops need,” said Gazzard.

CHF Canada and regional co-op housing federations are working together on a campaign called “You Hold the Key – Fix the Co-op Housing Crunch”.  The campaign asks governments to create and fund long-term, cost-shared rent supplement programs, to be delivered by provinces and territories (and municipalities in Ontario).This funding can be phased in over time, as existing agreements expire.

CHF Canada is the national voice of the Canadian co-operative housing movement. Its members include over 900 non-profit housing co-operatives and other organizations across Canada.  More than a quarter of a million Canadians live in housing co-ops, in every province and territory.


SOURCE Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

For further information: Nick Sidor, Director, Corporate Affairs, 1-800-465-2752 ext 231, or 613-230-2231; Scott Jackson, Program Manager, National Communications, 1-877-533-2667 ext 122 or 778-227-3864,