Maybe it’s the health-care house that’s burning, not the pension house


This one’s making the rounds tonight:

“Governments in large developed economies will face ‘ballooning’ debt levels and rating downgrades if they don’t act quickly to limit the impact on their budgets of rising healthcare costs, Standard & Poor’s Corp. warned Tuesday.

“…while a number of governments are taking action [on] rising pension costs, few have attempted to reform healthcare provision to achieve the same goal.

“S&P said that without any change in policy, it would start to cuts its ratings of developed-country governments from 2015, moves that would affect ‘a number of highly rated sovereigns.’…

“‘Healthcare spending represents the majority of the total increase in age-related spending in more than half of the G-20 advanced economies,’ it said.

“That group includes France, the U.K., the U.S., Japan, Canada and Italy…”

You should read the whole story. Some of it is less discouraging.




Maybe it’s the health-care house that’s burning, not the pension house

  1. Fortunately, health is not federal jurisdiction in Canada so the Harper government can take incremental steps – like, say a very modest scaling back in health transfers to provinces from 6% to something linked to GDP – and we won’t have to worry about our ratings being cut.  

    Additionally, the government could make modest adjustments to some programs that really are federal jurisdiction – like, say, the OAS – to ensure those transfers are sustainable long term.

    Ontario and Quebec, on the other hand…

    • You do realize that we are judged by the country as a whole, don’t you?…

      • The feds and each of the provinces have their own separate debts and own separate credit ratings.  Different governments, different debts, different credit ratings – it’s not that complicated.  Ontario and Quebec can and perhaps will have their ratings downgraded independent of whatever happens to the feds.

        For future reference, I’m pretty much never wrong, so don’t bother questioning me.

        • And they say liberals are arrogant.

          • No, they just have difficulty with irony.

    • Spoken like a true Harrisite: download the problem and let someone else worry about it.

      One of the many reasons we ended up with McGuinty…

  2. The question is whether sweeping reforms to healthcare or the pension system are more politically viable. It is in any politician’s interest to reform something that is working fairly well, in order to pay for something that is not, if the latter is say, viewed as a cornerstone of Canadian civilization. That said, I do find the rising pace of healthcare costs baffling. In the US, the real cost of medical care has increased more than 15-fold since the 1960’s. In Canada costs are lower, but health inflation is still very high. 

    Can anybody explain why?

    • According to the Congressional Budget office paper ‘Technological Change and the Growth of
      Health Care Spending (2008) “half of all growth in health care spending…was associated with…advances in technology” I’d post a link but the last one got deleted, you can Google it.

      • I’d imagine the ever increasing longevity of people also plays a part.

        • Depends on your measure, I’d think – whether you are looking at total cost, or cost per specific illness treated. Age is certainly driving total costs, as people require more frequent care as they age.

  3. Heh heh heh….any govt that makes an attempt to curb either pensions or healthcare will find it’s own ‘house’ on fire….and the pitchforks, not to mention the tar and feathers, waiting right outside.

    • Thanks for the demagogue angle, but the Harper government uses “evidence based” policy analysis, and the evidence says healthcare costs need to be curbed.

      • Harper has never used ‘evidence-based’ policy in his life….and no, the evidence says no such thing.

        Enough with the Jets, jails and jesus crap.

        • I understand the jets and jails reference. What’s the “jesus crap” about?

          • A great many Cons are ‘socially conservative’……very religious, and keen to evangelize.

            Our ‘science’ minister is a creationist.

            Brad Trost today is still going on about abortion.

            Harp himself is an evangelical…and they have a mission to convert.  His support of Israel is result of that background.

            All very biblical.

          • A great many Cons are ‘socially conservative’……very religious”

            Yes, and they have last names like Singh, Li, and Martinez.  They used to vote Liberal, but since Liberals like you are so hateful toward the religious (and given the that immigrants are more religious, a hatred which borders on white supremacy)  we now have a proper Conservative government.


          • This article seems to dispute the science minister being a creationist:
            And PW has an article on why it shouldn’t matter here:

            The Liberals also have anti-abortion/anti-choice (take your pick) caucus members. And, perhaps I’m leading a sheltered life, but I had to google Brad Trost to find out who he is and that he’s a MP.

            As for being an evangelical, it’s none of our business what a MP’s religion is. It’s entirely our business how a MP does his or her job.
            And, FWIW, to borrow some of PW’s words, I’m agnostic with gusts to atheism.

            Another possible explanation for the government’s support of Isreal is that it’s one of the few (are there others?) countries in the Middle East that shares western liberal values and is democratic.

          • @ce6222da41f3a7e3788ab6eba46b74f2:disqus 

            You didn’t hear Goodyear’s explanation of the ‘evolution’ he ‘believes’ in.

            “When asked to clarify this belief, Goodyear responded “We are evolving, every year, every decade. That’s a fact. Whether it’s to the intensity of the sun, whether it’s to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it’s running shoes or high heels, of course, we are evolving to our environment.”

            Which of course is not Evolution.

            I’ve said many times that all parties have anti-choice members….it is not however party policy.

            Canadians believe in the separation of church and state….and most of our MPs and PMs have done just that….even under threat of being excommunicated.

            SoCons want a religious govt…Canadians do not.

            Israel is supported entirely on the basis of religion…the Bible tells countries to support it, and Harp faithfully does.  Israel is a theocracy, and it has nukes, and a crowd of fundies every bit as crazy as mullahs.

            Now then….let’s both return to the actual topic here….healthcare.

          • What a flippin idiot !

          • @4a64130278c80432e4d05477e5ee5a66:disqus 

            Yes, Goodyear is certainly that.

      • @Terence Trent D’Arcy McGee

        Another one of your little myths. 

        Cons are mostly evangelicals…very rightwing christians, when it comes to religion.

        I’m not a Lib, dude….but there are overly religious Libs and religious Dippers too…they all meet together in Ottawa on their own committee

        Immigrants aren’t ‘more religious’….many of them come here to escape restrictive religions.  And if any of our parties could be said to be white supremicists, it’s the Cons.  A nice white christian english-speaking Canada, where males predominate, is what they’re after.

        PS…you forgot to throw in the kitchen sink. However most Canadians believe in the separation of church and state.

        • Frau Emily:

          First, Canada hardly has any “evangelicals”, that’s an American thing you picked up watching too much teevee.  You don’t even know Canada.  
          Second, the vast majority of Conservatives are not “evangelicals”.  

          Third, the proper term is non-denominational, evangelical is pejorative.  

          Fourth, immigrants are substantially more religious than native born Canadians.  

          Fifth, the Conservatives are actually more popular with immigrants, 90% of whom are not white, than with native born Canadians – to suggest they vote en mass for a white supremacist party is loony even by your standards.  

          Sixth, Canada does not have separation of church and state, read the Charter, the Constitution, and the lyrics of the national anthem.

          Seventh, an increasing number of non-denominational Canadians aren’t white – many come from the Caribbean and China and South Korea and Latin America.

          Seven errors in one comment.  Maybe you should take a nap?

          • No, Emily will just continue making errors.

          • Oh I like you : )

      • Oh; you’re doing stand-up now? That’s why they are ditching mandatory census completion, cutting scientific spending, gagging their scientists…

  4. Are you suggesting that ballooning debt levels aren’t a good thing?  I thought that was our magic formula for jobs, prosperity, and pink unicorns.

  5. Crazy thought…

    Maybe saving money on pensions will help to cover the costs of sprinklers to stop the health care house from burning.

    • I think you’ve cracked it – it’s beyond cunning – the ultimate reverse smoke screen. 

  6. Could not a sufficiently dramatic cut to health care perhaps help nip the pension problems in the bud?

    • Hmmmm, combined with a decent subsidy to defray funeral costs that just might work. :)

  7. Since S&P downgraded the credit of the United States, its cost of borrowing has plummeted 30%. I wouldn’t trust S&P to tell me the price of a bag of Doritos.

    • The credit rating and the cost of borrowing are not the same thing.  In fact, the cost of borrowing is not determined by the credit rating, there are many things that determine the cost, the rating being just one. And I find it hard to believe anyone thinks US government debt is a safe investment when they run annual trillion dollar deficits.

  8. Isn’ it overdue time for someone to seriously question S&P’s bona fides?

    • Drag the promise of an ego-boosting byline in the G&M through academia and you can get them to question whatever you want.

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