Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 74–78 | Cite as

An Investigation of the Impact of Supplementary Health Benefits for Low-income Families in Saskatchewan

  • Trish Livingstone
  • Lisa Lix
  • Mary McNutt
  • Evan MorrisEmail author
  • David Rosenbluth
  • Doug Scott
  • Felecia Watson



To examine the changes in health service use by recipients of Family Health Benefits, a supplementary benefits program that was introduced to lower-income, working families in Saskatchewan beginning in July 1998. These benefits reduced or eliminated fees for prescription drugs and for chiropractic, optometric and dental services.


The study population included program beneficiaries between July 1998 and January 2000. Administrative data maintained by Saskatchewan Health were used to capture information on changes in benefits coverage and use of hospital, physician, prescription drug, chiropractic and optometric services from 1997 to 2000. Demographic characteristics of the study population were described. Utilization rates were compared for periods prior to and following introduction of the program.


Almost three quarters of Family Health Benefit beneficiaries had not had any form of prior supplementary health coverage in the previous year. A large proportion of these beneficiaries lived in rural Saskatchewan. Distinct demographic characteristics were observed for rural and urban beneficiaries. While utilization of physician and hospitalization services was lower following the introduction of the program, utilization of prescription drugs, and both chiropractic and optometric services increased.


The reduction in user fees for non-insured services resulted in an increased use of these health services, suggesting that user fees can act as a barrier to the use of medical services by low-income families.



Analyser l’évolution de l’utilisation des services de santé par les bénéficiaires des Prestations familiales de maladie de la Saskatchewan, un programme d’allocations complémentaires auquel ont accès depuis juillet 1998 les familles à faible revenu qui travaillent. Ces prestations ont réduit ou éliminé les frais des médicaments sur ordonnance et les frais des services de chiropractie, d’optométrie et de soins dentaires.


La population à l’étude comprenait les bénéficiaires du programme entre juillet 1998 et janvier 2000. Les données administratives du ministère de la Santé de la Saskatchewan ont servi à saisir l’information sur les changements concernant la protection et le recours aux hôpitaux, aux médecins, aux médicaments sur ordonnance et aux services de chiropractie et d’optométrie entre 1997 et 2000. Le profil démographique de la population à l’étude est fourni. Les taux d’utilisation ont été comparés à ceux des périodes antérieure et postérieure au lancement du programme.


Près des trois quarts des bénéficiaires des Prestations familiales de maladie ne jouissaient d’aucune protection médicale complémentaire l’année précédente. Une vaste proportion des bénéficiaires vivait en milieu rural. Les bénéficiaires des milieux ruraux et urbains affichaient un profil démographique distinct. Le recours aux services médicaux et hospitaliers a diminué après le lancement du programme, mais l’utilisation des médicaments sur ordonnance et des services de chiropractie et d’optométrie s’est accrue.


La réduction des frais modérateurs pour les services inassurés a entraîné une hausse dans l’utilisation de ces services, ce qui porte à croire que les frais modérateurs font obstacle à l’utilisation des services de santé dans les familles à faible revenu.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trish Livingstone
    • 1
  • Lisa Lix
    • 2
  • Mary McNutt
    • 3
  • Evan Morris
    • 4
    Email author
  • David Rosenbluth
    • 5
  • Doug Scott
    • 5
  • Felecia Watson
    • 6
  1. 1.Saskatchewan HealthReginaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Community Health SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Saskatchewan LearningReginaCanada
  4. 4.EcoTech Research Ltd.ReginaCanada
  5. 5.Saskatchewan Social ServicesReginaCanada
  6. 6.Saskatchewan Cancer AgencyReginaCanada

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