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Which Canadian governments have overshot their healthcare budgets in recent years? And what caused the overshoots?



The sustainability of publicly funded healthcare in the face of an aging population is a key concern in Canada. Initial estimates of spending from the Canadian Institute of Health Information have recently been reassuring. Unfortunately, those initial estimates, which rely on government budgets – are typically too low. CIHI’s revised figures based on actual results tend to be higher – and by amounts that heighten concerns about sustainability.

This edition of Graphic Intelligence looks at the difference in preliminary and revised figures on spending by the use of funds in each province and territory over the 2014-17 period. The biggest overshoots relative to budgets occurred in Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and the territories. In dollar terms, undershoots occurred in a couple of areas that may be surprising: drugs, where rising costs have been a high-profile issue, and hospitals were both areas that tended to come in under budget. The big overshoots occurred in spending on doctors, other healthcare professionals, and institutions other than hospitals.

Governments do not typically budget unsustainable increases in healthcare spending, but actually hitting their budget targets is evidently hard. To read more about how governments overshoot their healthcare spending targets, and how they could do better, read “Healthcare Spending Overshoots a Threat to Sustainability” by Bill Robson.