In our world of defined resources, and competing social needs, what is the best approach to financing an expensive – and increasingly costly – health care system? Mr. Daniel Hickey in his timely, thought-provoking study on health care in Saskatchewan examines this question through the two related issues of health expenditure trends and financing options. In his paper "Health Spending in Saskatchewan: Recent Trends, Future Options", Mr. Hickey assesses total health spending over a thirty year period (1975 to 2004) and analyzes the changes and trends occurring in provincial health expenditures. The paper also focuses on the factors effecting future health spending (inflation, service use, ageing), and available financing options including their public policy implications.
- Contrary to claims of funding reductions, provincial expenditures on health care have increased by substantial amounts over the last 30 years. Health spending has exceeded growth in the provincial economy, population, inflation and general government revenues, and has contributed to higher provincial deficits and debt.
- Health costs are expected to increase over the next 20 years, and future financing will present a challenge for Saskatchewan and other provinces to manage.
- The methods of health financing are few in number (general taxation, private insurance, out-of-pocket payments) and differ by how health costs are shared amongst the population. However, the use and need for health services is not uniform but concentrated among a relatively small portion of the population. Changes in the methods of health financing will therefore be beneficial to some, and detrimental to others.