For some incomprehensible reason, Canadians are unwilling to have a serious discussion about health care reform.
Health care is the largest combined expenditure of our provincial and federal governments. Compared to other nations, Canadian health services have the longest wait times, are among the costliest, and least efficient and effective of developed nations.
And still, despite all this evidence, there are powerful ideological groups that insist Canada has the best health care the world and any change would precipitate some sort of catastrophic social calamity.
We hear that "Canadians do not want an American style system." We're told that our system is superior because it covers everyone. But that argument is hardly convincing. Russia has a universal health care system, but it is by no means superior to that of the United States. Universality does not make our health care system better, just different.
Canadians must wake up to the fact that we do not have a public health care system. We have a publicly funded health care system. (The Liberals at least are not confused about this difference as the NDP are).
In Canada, doctors are private contractors. Hospitals are not government run. Dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists all work in the private sector. Canada, just like our neighbor to the south, has a mix of public and private insurers that cover different services. In Canada the government covers your doctor and hospital bills and private insurers cover your dental and pharmaceutical costs. In the US, the least advantaged and the elderly have Medicare while others can choose from a variety of insurers.
Why is the American system more expensive? Primarily because it captures opportunity costs. In Canada, you need to wait months or years for a knee replacement. What price do we assign to that wait time? Zero. In the US, you can have your surgery within weeks. You can also get whatever test you want, or see whatever specialist you want, when you want. The catch is that you pay for it, or more precisely, that you can choose to pay for it. In Canada, that choice does not exist.
Then there is the specter that private insurance may lead to a two-tier system of rich versus poor. Well, we already have that. Canadians with money don’t wait for elective surgery. They travel abroad. We need only ask ourselves if we want to keep their dollars in Canada to pay Canadian specialists or have all three (patient, money and specialist) leave the country?
Ultimately, the Canadian/American health care diatribe that occupies so much time at the national level is an opportunity for socialists to ridicule the free market. It contributes nothing to solving our health care crisis. It blocks discussion.
The fear mongering must stop.
What Canadians need to ask is how a German citizen can receive medical, dental, optometry and pharmaceutical coverage, and experience no wait times for elective surgery, while a Canadian receives only medical coverage and long wait times for the same dollar spent? What is it that Germany is doing right and that we are doing so very wrong? Less centralization? Specialization of facilities? A public/private insurance and delivery mix that encourages competition for clients and funding? The way resources are allocated and utilized? Most likely it is a combination of all or these factors.
The Liberal government has promised Canadians a new health accord. Will everything be on the table? Probably not. According to the Liberals:
“Canada’s publicly-funded universal health care system is a source of pride for Canadians – and a source of economic security for the middle class and those working hard to join it.”
As long as certain politicians continue to hold the position that we have the best, when the facts say otherwise, Canadians will continue to be burdened with something less than mediocrity.
Besides, we have something more important to talk about: electoral reform...