Are Seniors to Blame?

A recent Globe and Mail article’s startling headline “Canada’s health-care system braces for hike in costs with influx of seniors” appears to point the finger at the aging boomer demographic, stating that because the senior demographic is growing exponentially in Canada, this will cost Canadian taxpayers and governments more in health care dollars.

It’s inevitable that as we age we require more medical care. And the more health care needed, the greater the expense. However this information begs to question – what exactly makes up the hike in costs? After doing a little research, it became clearer to me that the issue isn’t necessarily the demographic, but rather how government coffers are spent.

The infographic below (courtesy of CIHI - the full report can be found here) shows that the largest health expenditures are for Hospitals, Physicians and Drugs. And it’s no surprise that when seniors’ health begins to decline, this is typically where the costs end up.

Where are Canada's health care dollars going?

Picture this: a boomer has heart palpitations, goes to his family doctor (PHYSICIANS), is referred to a cardiologist (PHYSICIANS) who diagnoses him with heart disease and prescribes medications (DRUGS). As the months and years go by, the medications cease to assist and the patient is hospitalized after a triple-bypass surgery (HOSPITALS). Unfortunately this is an all-too common scenario.

But what would happen if the boomer were regularly seeing a personal trainer and nutritionist? Maybe the palpitations wouldn’t appear in the first place. Or if the patient had received an alternate opinion on the treatment prescribed by the cardiologist? Maybe the medication would have been sustainable.

What would happen if we invested more in alternative or preventative health care? Maybe seniors who don’t require acute care can go to a long-term care or rehab facility, instead of occupying very expensive hospital beds. Maybe instead of going through costly procedures, Canadians can get a second opinion and learn that there are more economical (yet equally successful) alternatives for treatment.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not on whom we’re spending our health care dollars, but rather how we are spending them.

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