Pauline Frost, health minister, talks to media about medical travel expenses while in Whitehorse on Oct. 24, 2017. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

No plans to increase medical travel stipends Yukon health minister says

Territory gets more money from Ottawa to help with costs but that won’t mean more cash for Yukoners

The Yukon’s health minister says the government is not planning to increase the amount of money Yukoners get to travel for medical care.

Minister Pauline Frost says upping either the $75 per day Yukoners receive to travel or the 30 cents per kilometre for driving, is not in the cards.

“Right now the Yukon has the highest rate of medical travel assistance in the country and we’re not changing that,” Frost told reporters after question period Oct. 24.

“Will we enhance that in the future? There’s a possibility that we might. At this point in time, given our budgets and where we are, it’s not likely to happen in the next fiscal year.”

Yukoners are entitled to $75 per day starting on the second day of travel for medical care.

Frost said while she empathizes with Yukoners who may struggle to cover the cost of travel, the government was never meant to foot the entire bill.

“The objective is not that 100 per cent of the responsibility falls on the government of Yukon. We’re trying to provide (or) subsidize as much as we can,” she said.

During question period Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod said government employees get a higher rebate travelling for work than people do travelling for medical care.

“The current rate of reimbursement for patients who are required to do this if they drive is 30 cents per kilometre. In contrast, the reimbursement rate for Government of Yukon employees who travel for work is double that — it’s 60.5 cents per kilometre,” she said.

“Mr. Speaker, with inflation and with the government working to implement a carbon tax, which will increase the cost of travel, Yukoners will soon find it most unaffordable to get that medical treatment that people in Whitehorse receive.”

Frost said the government is “really trying to do what we can to provide services to individuals and citizens where they reside.”

Late last year Premier Sandy Silver said that medical travel funding was the top priority during health-care talks with the federal government.

“Medical travel is really important for us,” Silver told the News in December. “And what we’ve seen over the years is that amount of money from Ottawa decreasing. We want to see it increase or at least stabilize. And we want to see a longer-term commitment.”

The Yukon government spends more than $12 million per year on medical travel, Frost said.

This year the territory will be getting more money from Ottawa to help cover travel costs.

As part of the 2017 federal budget, Health Canada earmarked $26.5 million over four years for Yukon in the Territorial Health Investment Fund.

Yukon Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said $2.1 million of that money will be going towards medical travel in 2017-18.

That’s a sizeable increase over what the territory received in the past.

Between 2004 and 2014, the Yukon received $1.6 million annually from Ottawa to support the cost of transporting patients out of the territory when they need specialized care.

When the new three-year agreement was announced in 2014, the funding for medical travel was set to decline year after year. In 2014-15, the Yukon received $1.2 million. That amount dropped to $800,000 in 2015-16 and $600,000 in 2016-17.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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