More than 40,000 Canadians “Demanding a Plan” for seniors care

More than 40,000 Canadians “Demanding a Plan” for seniors care

OTTAWA, Nov. 21, 2016 /CNW/ – The number of Canadians pressing for action to improve seniors care in Canada through the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Demand a Plan campaign has surpassed 40,000 and continues to climb.”Behind every one of these supporters is someone – or someone’s loved one – who is not getting the high-quality seniors care he or she deserves,” said Dr. Granger Avery, the CMA President. “Canada needs a new national Health Accord that will help our health care system meet the needs of Canada’s growing and aging population.”

The number of supporters adding their voice to the call for action at Demand a Plan has grown by over 25,000 since last fall’s federal election, when the CMA launched the campaign to ensure the voices of Canadians would be heard on health care. The Demand a Plan site has also expanded to include real-life stories from supporters trying to navigate the health care system to get care for themselves or their loved one.

“During the election campaign last fall Demand a Plan supporters got the issue of seniors care on the election agenda, but now Canadians want action in the form of new Health Accord,” added Dr. Avery.

The CMA recently released Improving the health of all Canadians: A vision for the future, which provides six clear and actionable recommendations that should be part of the 2017 federal/provincial/territorial Health Accord:

  • targeted extra funding as a “top-up” to the Canada Health Transfer for provinces and territories with more seniors;
  • coverage for highly expensive medication so that Canadians do not experience undue financial hardship if they are sick;
  • more financial support for family caregivers by making tax credits refundable;
  • a national strategy for palliative and end-of-life care;
  • a coordinated home care plan so that healthy seniors can continue to live in their homes and get the support they need; and
  • key infrastructure investments to improve and provide more long-term care for Canadians who need it.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 83,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is helping physicians care for patients. The CMA will be the leader in engaging and serving physicians and be the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care.


SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: To schedule an interview, please contact CMA Media Relations:, 613-806-1865


Guaranteed incomes cut food insecurity in half, finds new Canadian study

A new study has found that food insecurity among Canada’s seniors is cut in half once they turn 65 and Canada’s Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs kick in. The results indicate how important a guaranteed income -even the relatively small one provided by OAS and GIS- can be in reducing poverty, say the study’s authors.

“This study demonstrates that even small amounts of guaranteed annual income can have a potentially important impact on poverty,” says study co-author Dr. Daniel Dutton of the University of Lethbridge’s Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy.

In Canada, poverty is a significant social problem. Approximately 12.9 per cent of Canadians or 4.3 million people live on incomes below the poverty threshold, according to a 2013 Statistics Canada report. And compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, Canada’s poverty rate is higher than average, even though its national income levels are within the top tier for OECD countries.

For seniors, however, Canada seems to be doing something right, as less than six per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 currently live on incomes below the poverty line, giving Canada one of the lowest elderly poverty rates among OECD nations.

A big reason for this is the income floor provided by OAS and GIS, which together give low-income seniors a minimum non-taxable yearly income of $15,949.68 (by 2015 numbers).

But how effective are the federal guaranteed income programs for seniors in alleviating real poverty? To find out, researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge looked at seven years of data from the Canadian Community Health Survey and focused on food insecurity for seniors aged 55 to 74 from low-income, single-person households (those making less than $20,000 per year).

Strongly associated with instances of poverty, food insecurity is described as having insufficient access to affordable and nutritious food. About four million Canadians face food insecurity problems, with a disproportionate amount of them living in Indigenous communities.

The researchers found that the prevalence of food insecurity for low-income seniors under the age of 65 was around 43 per cent, but once federal programs kicked in at age 65, that number dropped to as low as 16 per cent. The result was the same regardless of the senior’s sex, income level or home ownership, which shows the success of OAS and GIS in staving off poverty, says Dutton.

“Remember, the amount of money they receive is not a lot by any standard, it certainly isn’t making them rich by any means, but what it is doing is giving them a measure of stability,” says Dutton. “These people are now no longer unsure of what their future holds in terms of supplemented income from the government and that’s very important.”

The results raise the question of the arbitrariness of having OAS and GIS start at 65, rather than sometime earlier. If the programs are successful in cutting down food insecurity and poverty – both of which are known to have significant economic and health impacts – then why not start them earlier, says Dutton. “Currently, age 65 is the magic number for some reason. The question we ask ourselves, why age 65, why not at 63? What is it about 65 that makes these people more deserving of Old Age Security?”

Great debate on seniors issues, winner Susan Eng

The Debate

Globe columnist Margaret Wente squares off with lawyer and former seniors’ advocate Susan Eng over whether Canada is coddling its seniors. This is the latest entry in the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Great Canadian Debates in Ottawa on October 25, 2016.


Debate contributor
Margaret WenteGlobe and Mail columnist
Debate contributor
Susan EngLawyer and former executive vice-president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.


Debate contributor
Canada’s seniors have never had it so good

Margaret Wente : If you’ve got to grow old (and you have to admit it sure beats the alternative), there’s no better place to live than Canada today. We seniors have never had it so good. We’re the wealthiest generation in history. We’re vastly healthier and longer-lived than our great-grandparents. And please don’t call me a “senior,” because I’ll swat you with my yoga mat.

Canada has done exceptionally well by its seniors. In the 1970s, nearly 40 per cent of Canadians over 65 lived in poverty. Today, depending on how you measure, it’s around 7 per cent. More children live in poverty than seniors do. According to the Conference Board of Canada, our seniors are among the most well-off in the world. Not everyone is doing well, of course, and there are big gaps in seniors’ health care. But the transformation in the circumstances of the elderly is one of the greatest triumphs of the welfare state. Let’s face facts: most of us don’t need subsidized bus tickets any more.

Young adults today aren’t going to get the same breaks we got. They know we’re the Lucky Generation. We got good pensions and benefits. Our houses turned into gold mines. We enjoyed investment returns and, yes, a standard of living that many of our kids can only dream of.

Our biggest challenge has changed. Now that we’ve ensured our own security, we need to ensure that the system is sustainable for future generations. The triple threat of an aging population, longer lifespans and lower fertility creates a demographic challenge the likes of which we’ve never faced. Simply put, today’s level of entitlements threatens to suck the lifeblood from future generations. That’s nobody’s fault. It’s just reality. It’s just not fair to get them to pay for our cheap bus tickets any more.

We need to do two things. First, we need to update our notions of “old age” to better fit today’s realities. Second, we need to target our support to those who need it most.

The idea that 65 is the threshold of old age is obsolete. When old-age pensions were invented, most people didn’t even live that long. Today, a lot of us will spend more years in retirement than we did at work. The idea that there is some arbitrary cutoff for productive lives is a stupendous waste of human potential. We need to change our focus from retirement to unretirement– so that people can keep on contributing in some fashion well into their late 60s and even beyond.

We could also save billions every year simply by introducing some minor and gradual changes to old-age entitlements. Take Old Age Security. The last government passed a law to change the eligibility age for OAS from 65 to 67. It wouldn’t have taken full effect for many years. We could have saved $11-billion a year. But the seniors’ lobby wouldn’t hear of it, so the current government rolled back the change. Nobody wants to pick a fight with angry seniors.

Not everybody needs OAS–and nobody paid into it in advance. Yet we pay OAS to people who make over $100,000 a year. That’s just dumb. We’ve got to target more of our seniors benefits so that the money goes to people who really need it. People who drive around in fancy cars don’t need free drugs. They don’t need the younger generation to pay for every last cent of their health care.

A few strategic changes today will help us sustain the system for tomorrow. Some day our grandchildren will be seniors, too. We want to make sure there’s something left for them.

Debate contributor
Canada needs to prevent poverty and undue suffering in old age

Susan Eng : Some ask, “Must Canada stop coddling its spoiled seniors?” The answer is no, not unless we can find any who are coddled. In targeting this mythical group, we risk undermining the few public programs aimed at preventing poverty and other indignities in old age.

It’s true that Canadians are living longer, healthier lives. Poverty rates among seniors have fallen dramatically – largely due to the maturing of the Canada Pension Plan and workplace pensions. But the CPP effect is done and workplace pensions are disappearing. So poverty is creeping up again.

As recently reported, senior poverty has increased from a low of 3.9 per cent in 1995 to 11.1 per cent, or one in nine, in 2013. Fully 28 per cent of single female seniors and 24 per cent of single male seniors are living in poverty in this country. In human terms, that’s 665,000 Canadian seniors living in poverty, mostly the oldest, mostly single women. These people are not spoiled. Canada’s social welfare system keeps them out of penury, just.

These people are not coddled either. The maximum annual OAS/GIS benefits for single seniors with no other source of income is $17,311, barely enough for rent, food and medication. Yes, medication. Many drugs are covered for seniors but not all, especially not the more expensive biologics – which are not just for rare diseases, but include eye-watering costs for treating arthritis, a condition that affects over two million Canadian seniors. Those who cannot afford even the co-pays for their medication start splitting pills or skipping treatment altogether.

So it comes as no surprise that seniors are staying at or returning to work. The number of seniors in the labour force doubled in the last seven years. Half the people staying in the work force say they love their work, the other half need to keep working, or need to keep their health coverage.

Even middle-income Canadians face a substantially reduced living standard in their future so-called coddled years because they have not saved, or could not save, enough. And the studies that came to that conclusion did not factor in long-term care costs. Our hospitals are great at patching up a broken hip or saving our lives after a heart attack or stroke but don’t have much to offer after we get home.

Post-acute care or chronic-care costs are largely borne out of pocket. The patchwork of community care services barely meets the demand. Families that cannot pay the thousands a year for private home care, do without and quality of life suffers. Those without families deteriorate even more rapidly.

Boomers just entering senior-hood are revelling in new-found seniors’ discounts – whether for movies, bus rides or shampoo. And if they are not among the very poor, they are having a grand time of it. Some of them may say, “I don’t need the government to pay for my [prescription] drugs.” Home care is not even in their lexicon. Then they fall on the ski hill, or get that diagnosis, or their mom has a stroke. Sticker shock.

Plus they have no Plan B. The health-care system that Canada’s health ministers are busily negotiating has no strategy to address the chronic-care needs of our aging population.

Public policy concerns itself not with the luxuries but the basics – preventing poverty and undue suffering in old age, not just to improve the averages but to keep that promise to everyone.

Every cut in program budgets or restriction in income supports forces those “below the line” further down, even if everyone else just feels a pinch. There’s no coddling here.

6 million seniors this year, up from 4.3 m. in 2006.

In 2031, seniors will reach 23% of pop. up from 15% in 2011

Provinces push for more federal health spending as senior population grows

Provinces with older-than-average populations are pushing Ottawa to boost health transfers based on demographics as part of a new national health accord.

But provinces and territories are also expressing increased frustration with the federal Liberals over an apparent unwillingness to discuss increased federal spending on health.

Preparing for a rise in health-care costs as baby boomers retire is shaping up as a key point of contention as federal Health Minister Jane Philpott prepares for an Oct. 18 meeting with the provinces and territories on health-care reform.

Several provincial health ministers said in interviews this week that they want to see increased federal health transfers that are weighted to prioritize regions facing the most pressing demographic pressures. “I have raised it at every opportunity,” said British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake. “We haven’t seen any positive response but the dialogue will continue.”

In New Brunswick, where there were more deaths than births recorded for the first time last year, Health Minister Victor Boudreau said his province is trying to keep costs under control but needs more money from Ottawa.“The older you get, the more you require services from the health system,” he said.

Premiers are also escalating their opposition to planned changes to health transfers, asking for a first ministers meeting on health in addition to one already planned on climate change.

Writing as chair of the Council of the Federation, Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – obtained and reported on by the CBC Wednesday and confirmed by The Globe – that the provinces and territories would like to see a health meeting confirmed before a meeting is held on the environment. If that isn’t possible, the premiers want Ottawa to delay planned changes to health transfers by one year.

The pace of Canada’s demographic change was highlighted Wednesday when Statistics Canada released updated population figures. The estimates show nearly six million seniors in Canada this year, up from 4.3 million in 2006. Statistics Canada has previously estimated that all baby boomers will have reached the age of 65 by 2031, when the proportion of seniors could reach 23 per cent of the total population, up from 15 per cent in 2011.

A sense of the coming negotiations will emerge publicly Thursday when health-care experts from across Canada, as well as Dr. Philpott and her Quebec counterpart, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, speak at a conference co-sponsored by the Canadian Medical Association in Ottawa.

The CMA has submitted a proposal to the federal government that calls for an annual top-up to existing health transfers that would start at $1.7-billion in 2017 and would be divided among the provinces based on demographic pressures. President Granger Avery said Ottawa needs to boost transfers but it must also work with the provinces to tackle some of the nagging major structural problems in the health system.

Dr. Avery said governments could save billions by working together on prescription-drug policies and by shifting treatment away from hospitals in favour of home care where possible. Dr. Avery said he’s optimistic these talks will go beyond wrangling over transfer formulas and will actually address these issues.

Dr. Barrette, the Quebec Health Minister, said he does not share the CMA’s optimism that talks will result in meaningful change. Since last October’s election, he said there’s been virtually no behind-the-scenes talks between Ottawa and the provinces on health.

“It’s extremely disappointing to this point,” he said. “I’m expecting the federal government to come down from their ivory tower and tell Canadians exactly what they will do … This is a government that said they would distance themselves from the Conservatives. They’re doing exactly the same thing.”

So far, Dr. Philpott has attempted to refocus discussion away from the transfer formula in favour of negotiations on a separate “health accord” of specific issues such as home care, palliative care and mental health.

The Liberals’ election platform promised $3-billion over four years for home care. However, Dr. Philpott has said she has no plans to reverse next year’s scheduled change to the health transfer formula. That change will end the automatic 6-per-cent annual increase that has been in place since 2004. The new formula is based on economic growth, with a guaranteed minimum transfer increase of 3 per cent.