Shocking per person cost of health care

When we talk about health care costs we talk billions. A billion is a meaningless number to most people. It’s hard enough for many people to imagine what a million is.

In Nova Scotia our annual health care budget is $3.67 billion. Here’s what looks like: $3,670,000,000.

That $3,670,000,000 is what health care costs the provincial treasury. It doesn’t include the costs to people in terms of pain and suffering and lost opportunities, as well as the additional emotional and real costs to their loved ones.

So let’s look at some of the hard, up-front costs to the people of Nova Scotia. We can’t quantify the suffering as well as out-of-pocket expenses of family members and friends who are supporting someone who is sick, but we can look at our contribution to the provincial budget.

Considering that the population of Nova Scotia is 940,000 people, we can do some simple math. Divide $3,670,000,000 by 940,000. You’ll get: $3,904.25.

That $3,904.25 is what Nova Scotia health care costs annually when broken down on per resident basis of this province! How in god’s name can we afford such an annual expenditure? How is this not going to further bankrupt us? It would be one thing to pay this if we were getting positive results for this expenditure, but we aren’t. Our wait-times are getting longer, ERs are still closing, and communities and people don’t have doctors which puts even more pressure on wait times and ERs. Meanwhile, we seem to think that we can support hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of health care executives who duplicate each other’s work and slow down the process and impede innovation.

This summer Canada’s Premiers met in Halifax to talk about innovation in health care. They decided to agree to save money through bulk purchasing of five drugs. For Jesus’ sake, they’ve been trotting this idea out since February 2003. Deciding on a shorter list of drugs to save money on via bulk purchasing bastardizes the meaning of innovation. What do they care – the Premiers, like the 400+ Nova Scotia health care executives our government protects by not demanding demonstrable results – manage to live comfortable lives on six-figure incomes no matter happens to any of us. It’s very much a ‘we-them’ situation.

According to briefing notes by Premier Dexter, Nova Scotia’s debt load was $12.9 billion in 2009 and could reach $16.6 billion in fiscal 2012-13. ( – see page 20)

That $16.6 billion in provincial debt is the sunshine scenario. It means that each resident would, in theory, be responsible for $17,659.50. How much longer will lenders allow this to continue?

Our biggest commitment, and by extension our biggest failure, is health care. If it were better managed and there were demonstrable positive outcomes most people probably wouldn’t mind paying $3,904 a year to support the system. But right now, those in charge are hard pressed to show value for money. Thus, their silence.

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