I will comment about BC Budget 2014 after more study but I’ve read a few reports from media stenographers. Studying detail takes more time than rewording notes issued by the gaggle of Liberal flacks paid for by munificent taxpayers.
One Globe & Mail report, written by the father of an executive assistant in the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, is titled, “How B.C. balanced its books by controlling health-care costs.”
Credibility of the piece is revealed by its first sentence,
When B.C. Premier Christy Clark made debt reduction an early priority of her government…
Priority? Maybe this writer has been spending too much time investigating new enterprises in Washington and Colorado. Either that or he’s intentionally misleading readers.
When Ms. Clark became Liberal leader, provincial debt was $45 billion. In Tuesday’s budget documents, it is forecast to exceed $70 billion within 3 years. In addition, under Clark, contractual obligations of the province grew by $23 billion between 2011 and March 2014. These commitments include hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and rapid transit financed with private-public partnerships as well as commitments to purchase private power, which this business-wise government resells at a loss.
The column continues:
It is the fourth consecutive budget in which the B.C. government has been able to achieve this goal, which has helped put it in a position to not only balance its books – for the third straight year – but also begin paying down overall debt.
…The province’s debt to gross domestic product ratio – the number credit rating agencies really keep an eye on – will hit 17.4 per cent this fiscal year and is forecast to decline to 16.6 per cent by 2017-18. This compares to a debt-to-GDP ratio of 54.3 per cent for Quebec and 39 per cent for Ontario. It would appear there are no immediate threats to B.C.’s plum Triple-A credit rating…
Here, the columnist is repeating Liberal puffery. The percentage is not calculated on total provincial debt, nor is de facto debt included that arises from public-private partnerships, where infrastructure is financed privately and government is obliged to pay over time, as it would with conventional financing. Undeniably, a large portion of contractual obligations ($103 billion a year ago) should be included to calculate an accurate ratio of debt to GDP.
The column applauds material savings in Pharmacare and attributes those to use of generics and lower drug prices. Long time users of prescription drugs in BC are aware that the “Low Cost Alternative” (LCA) program was introduced in 1994, when the Premier was Michael Harcourt. Contrary to Liberal talking points, there has been no recent conversion to generic drugs. Mandated interchangeability has been with us for more than a decade.
Not revealed in this article is that government is using an administrative method that reduces its Pharmacare costs – and drug costs of private insurers – but requires insured consumers to pay more out of pocket. This is done by setting prices that Pharmacare will pay for drugs below actual market prices faced by consumers. The excess must be paid. Government is relieved; private insurers are relieved; patients, regardless of ability-to-pay, are burdened.
Additionally, certain drugs that were covered a while ago under Pharmacare, and by private insurers that have me-too policies, are now excluded from coverage without Special Authorities. Since doctors expect to be paid if they negotiate with Pharmacare for a patient, there is a chill on applying for special coverage. Even if a physician requests Special Authority, it may not be granted. For some prescriptions there is no coverage. The decision is a financial one in Victoria, not a medical one in the doctor’s office.
By example, Pharmacare believes that over-the-counter products, which are not covered, are appropriate for certain conditions. Again, the decision is made by bureaucrats, not by physicians.
So yes, government saved big money in Pharmacare. So did private insurers. The losers though are people dependent on prescription drugs, many of them elderly with limited financial capacity. Liberals believe this is as it should be, that citizens suffering hardship deserve minimal attention.
I searched for indicators this article was sponsored content but found none, which leaves the conclusion: the columnist is attempting to deceive for his own reasons or he is not competent to write about financial matters. Either way, the Globe and Mail deserves censure.