Saturday, March 15, 2008

Canada's Health System Is Sick

Promise Of Choice
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Socialized Medicine: Quebec's former health minister is tacitly admitting that the system he helped create is not sustainable. It has, as Claude Castonguay has succinctly noted, reached "a crisis point."

Actually, when 40% of the province's $60 billion budget is spent on health care, or when public health care costs in Canada are growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole, we'd say the crisis point was reached long ago.

But better late than never. And Castonguay, known as the father of the Quebec public health care system that was copied by the rest of Canada, should be commended for acknowledging that the province's health care costs are unbearable.

He should also be applauded for proposing further privatization. A report issued last week recommends that Quebec move toward a mixed-delivery system that includes more private care.

The report, "Getting Our Money's Worth," also calls for user and access fees that will cut the incentives to make those "free" doctor visits for minor ailments that have clogged the system and sent costs soaring. It also suggests eliminating the rule that prevents doctors from practicing in both the public and private sectors.

These are mere details, though. Of greater significance is the admission that state health care doesn't work. Perhaps most revealing is Castonguay's statement that "patients, instead of being seen as an expenditure for the hospital, become a source of revenue."

In nations that have the blessing of a liberalized economy, people are looked upon as sources of revenue in every facet of life. It's a formula that works well for both seller and consumer.

Even the poor in this nation, where we allegedly have a crisis of the uninsured, benefit from the arrangement: They have color TVs, microwave ovens, cell phones, multiple cars, VCRs and DVD players, air conditioning and plenty of food, enough for obesity to be among the top health problems for those below the poverty line.

"People can choose what car they want to buy, what suit they want to wear, what house they want to live in," Castonguay says. "But when it comes to their health, they don't have a choice. That's what I'm against. We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise a freedom of choice."

Too bad Castonguay failed to recognize this in the 1970s, when he was putting together Quebec's socialist health care system and stripping Canadians of their choice. He wouldn't now be forced to unravel the mess while trying to maintain the fiction that the public health care system that "has become a symbol that's very valuable in people's minds" will not be significantly changed.

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