Canadians pay more in out-of-pocket fees

An industry watchdog suggests Canadians’ out-of-pocket health-care expenses have increased at least sevenfold since 1981.

OTTAWA — An industry watchdog suggests Canadians’ out-of-pocket health-care expenses have increased at least sevenfold since 1981.

The Health Council of Canada is quoting a study by the Roy Romanow-led Institute of Well-Being that says Canadians paid $16.5 billion out of their own pockets for health care in 2007, up from $2.3 billion in 1981.

The council, created by first ministers to monitor and report on the progress of health-care renewal, says private, out-of-pocket health spending has almost doubled as a share of disposable income.

The council says private health care represents a growing financial burden, especially for low-income Canadians.

The council is calling on Ottawa and the provinces to fully implement the five-year-old National Pharmaceuticals Strategy, which it says would address issues like catastrophic drug coverage, patient safety and the increasingly significant issue of pricing.

The council says more Canadians will need help with the high cost of prescription medications with unemployment at an 11-year high and the loss of associated health benefits.

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