Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Obama; Needs time in Canadian Instructional League?

Hillary Clinton appears to have lost her chance for a redo on socializing health care. Not to worry, Obama's for it too.

It's too bad we can't get him to spend some time in an Instructional League. Canada, for example, where a Halifax newspaper has published an opinion piece entitled: Private clinics ruining public health care. This is indeed a change from 30+ years of mandatory public health care destroying private initiative.

The assumptions the article makes might give even Obama pause. Some examples:

Private clinics are spreading like bad weeds across the country, welcomed by a federal government that is content to look the other way while these for-profit ventures offer health care for a price.

Last weekend, health coalitions, citizens’ groups and other organizations that support public health care confronted the federal government’s abandonment of the public health care system. People across the country raised a united voice to say that these private clinics continue to pose a real threat to the future of public health care in Canada.

It may seem easy to dismiss the clinics merely as service providers, filling a niche where people can pay money if they want to access surgeries, medical procedures and even family doctors. If people have the extra money, why shouldn’t they be able to pay for something as personal and essential as health care?
Why indeed? "Extra money," what is that? Money I should have paid in taxes in a fairer world?

In any case, the federal government can do nothing to stop these "bad weeds" because having the "extra money" means Canadians can come to the United States for treatment if they want to receive it in a timely fashion. Actually, they're perfectly free to go to Cuba too, but I have not received any word of this.

Now, it's probable for some people on the fringes of having "extra money," say saved up by eating Kraft Dinners for decades, that the additional cost of travel to the US might prevent them from circumventing Canada's free health care system. The idea then, seems to be punish the semi-fortunate, or force US health care providers to accept payments on the Canadian government's price schedule.

This second option is problematic even if US health care providers agreed to accept such payment, or Senator Stabenow forced them to. If Canada could afford to provide timely treatment at the regulated price they would already be doing it. It's not a doctor shortage that's the problem. The problem is the health care system is set up to discourage people from becoming doctors. If a magic influx of health care professionals reduced every waiting time in Canada by 75%, at the same unit prices, the total cost of Canada's health care would skyrocket. This is why health care must be rationed in Canada... but it's pissing more and more people off.

So, perhaps the federal government is "content to look the other way" because it realizes public health care is slow to be delivered and is an unsustainable entitlement. Government can't fix it. What the Canadian feds know for certain is that there is a price for health care whether it is public or private; a price measured both in dollars and in suffering. The public health care system in Canada is failing on both counts.

If public health care is so wonderful, you might ask, how can places that deliver health care for "a price" be a threat to it? Might the danger be that people begin to wonder about rationing if such enterprises thrive?

The fact is that Canada does not have enough trained doctors, surgeons, specialists, nurses or other health care providers. The professionals who practise in private clinics are spending their time away from the public system where there are arguably more people with greater needs – including the elderly, the disabled and the chronically ill. Private clinics may be able to help some, but they are the advantaged few. Everyone else is left with even longer waiting times or without access to family doctors.
Fully legalizing private clinics could help a lot more by encouraging people to become health care professionals.

Why is there a shortage of health care professionals in Canada? Perhaps because health care professionals don't want to be government employees who are directed to treat those "with greater need" according to some government official or newspaper editorialist. Besides, with the United States as a safety valve, the problem is not one of unequal access based on privilege. The problem is resentment that the "privileged few" are being allowed to use their property (their money and their bodies) as they see fit. So long as anyone is "unprivileged," the public health care theory goes, this should not be allowed.

Some other TOC comments on free health care can be found here.

1 comment:

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