Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, March 18, 2005

Canada's Health System:
It IS Broken, & It Needs Fixing

One of the best brief assessments of Canada's Health system was written by Mario Dumont, leader of Quebec's Action Democratic Party. He begins with a destruction of the myths of about Canadian health care. [National Post; Date: Mar 14, 2005; Section: Issues & Ideas; Page: 19. Thanks to Jack for the article; $subscription required]

The issue of accessibility is the subject of the first myth. From waiting months for surgery to waiting hours at the emergency room, patients are risking their health daily — sometimes even their lives — because they don’t have access to the medical services required when they need them. Overcrowding and delays have destroyed the system’s claim to
true accessibility; nevertheless, we continue to make ourselves believe the opposite.

A second myth is that there is no “two-tiered” or “parallel” system. In reality, our system is like a residence with a front and back door. Depending on who you are, you use one or the other. If your employer pays for your access to a private clinic, you will be served at the speed of light. The same goes if you are lucky enough to know somebody who works in the health care system. Likewise, if you work for a hospital and your labour union has negotiated group insurance, giving you access to swifter care, there will be no delay. (Such arrangements are surprisingly common: Although health workers themselves are fiercely opposed to
all private financing of the health system, their contracts often provide them with care dispensed at private clinics by nonunionized personnel.) However, if you are not privileged enough to have these benefits, you will have to lose an entire day’s work while waiting your turn at the hospital. That is how hypocritical our supposedly egalitarian system is.

A third myth has it that our public healthcare system is free. But Canadian health care is not free. We already pay more than one quarter of total health care expenses directly from our own pockets, or through a private insurance plan.

Of course, we are talking here about non-insurable services, such as dental care, psychological services, physiotherapy, homeotherapy and so forth. But we are also talking about certain covered services for which there is a very long period of wait in the public sector — notably in the area of medical imaging.

One of the primary reasons for the serious deterioration of our health system is that in the mid-1980s, the federal gubmnt mandated that we could not have any private provision of health care. The gubmnt did not want any two-tiered health system -- better that everyone be worse off than let some folks pay to get more. Fortunately Mario Dumont would like to break the gubmnt monopoly on the provision of health care. Let us hope other politicians soon see the light as well.
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