Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Medicare Part 1: Our system v. America's

Last Thursday and Friday, I attended the S.O.S. Medicare conference 2 in Regina. The main objective was to establish a clear goal for where to go now in terms of medicare, particularly relating to the "second stage" of medicare. Today, I will start a series on medicare (with no definite end date).

" 'Everyone for themselves!' said the elephant as he danced among the chickens."

– Tommy Douglas
As we all know, there are several groups in Canada trying to fight against our medicare system, including the Fraser Institute. One of their arguments is that our medicare system is becoming unsustainable due to increasing costs. But, as was pointed out at the conference by economist Robert Evans, health expenditures in Canada are not rising in comparison to the GDP, and the biggest increases in health are, in fact, in the private system (which governments are quietly letting through the door). He also reminded us that we must remember that more than half of Americans who declare bankruptcy due to health costs actually have private health insurance!

Their other main argument is wait times. They say that if there was a second tier of health care—involving the private sector—people could simply pay and get treatment faster. They sometimes refer to the U.S. where there are barely any waiting lists. The thing, though, is that in the U.S. they have very little waiting lists, because many people simply can't get onto a list due to financial reasons! It is completely unacceptable to have a society where money buys health; all people should be treated equally, regardless of ability to pay.

In New Zealand—where they have a two-tiered health system—specialists spend only 48% of their time in public hospitals; the rest is spent at private hospitals treating people who can pay more.
Opponents of public medicare also point to the shortage of doctors and nurses as a sign that government medicare is not working for Canadians. However, we must remember that everyone is getting treated by these professionals; they don't have a shortage in America because, again, they have a smaller per capita population who 'deserves' to get health care.

Health care is not a privilege for the privileged few; it is a right for everyone. I believe it is quite obvious that a private, American-style system won't get us anywhere; and I think most Canadians believe that, too. However, the real fight is going to be to improve our current system to make it even more accessible to everyone, in order to stop a two-tiered system. We need to move forward to make health in Canada an even greater right for everyone, not make it a corporate profit-making business.

The next part of this series will not be posted until May 24th or 25th, as I will be out-of-town for the next two weeks.


Anonymous said...

Here. here. America thinks their system is soooooo great; it just kills their people . . .

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