Alberta leads all provinces in health spending, making deficits hard to shake: report

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Alberta spends more money on health care per capita than any other province and demand is only going to increase, making it difficult for the province to meet its modest deficit-reduction targets, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

“Last fiscal year, 46 per cent of every revenue dollar earned by the province was poured into health care spending,” reads the organization’s latest Alberta Fiscal Snapshot, released Tuesday.

Alberta spends “much more” on health care than the rest of the provinces, according to the report, with age-adjusted spending working out to $5,210 per person in 2013.

That’s 33 per cent more than the national average.

Age adjusted health spending 2013

This graph depicts health-care spending by province in 2013, adjusted for age and sex. (Conference Board of Canada/Alberta Fiscal Snapshot)

The current government has taken steps to curb the growth in health care costs, with spending set to grow at an average annual pace of 2.4 per cent over the next three years.

That marks a “significant slowdown” from the previous decade, according to the report, when health spending grew at an average of 7.5 per cent per year.

But, the report cautions that the government’s spending projections may not be in line with the reality of a growing — and aging — population.

“Changing demographics, coupled with estimates for health care inflation and increased utilization, suggest spending on health care will need to increase by an annual average of 4.8 per cent over the forecast period — double the average growth contained in the latest (provincial) budget,” it reads.

The Alberta government forecasts a $10.4-billion deficit in the current fiscal year under a worst-case scenario of the West Texas Intermediate oil price staying at an average of $36.

If oil prices increase on average to $42, the 2016/17 deficit is projected at $9.7 billion, but even then the government expects to continue spending more money than it takes in for years to come.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said his aim is to balance the budget by 2024.

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Alberta leads all provinces in health spending, making deficits hard to shake: report

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