Friday, June 1, 2007

Medicare Part 3: Extending the system to cover health

Going back to the medicare series, I will be talking about two crucial elements for the next generation of strong medicare: home-care and pharmacare. The reason we needs these two more elements is simple: health doesn't just include a trip to the doctor or hospital. Health means taking medication to get better, and having medical and domestic help while resting at your own home.

1. Pharmacare
While "Canada's New Government" has been trying to pretend that the concept doesn't exist, the NDP has lately been raising the issue of a national drug plan (which Manitoba already has a version of) so everyone has access to the proper medication.

Obviously, Canada has had our "medicare" system for quite some time, and we've been proud of it. We have been saying that everyone has access to the proper treatment, and thus we are all a bunch of health Canadians. However, while our system does provide access to see a doctor, or even get surgery, etc., our system still doesn't guarantee the access to prescription drugs. For many, if not most, somewhat major health problems, a free surgery won't do the trick without having the proper medication after the hospital visit.

The above means that we need to have a national pharmacare plan soon. Without it, people still won't have the proper treatment. Without it, we can't at all claim that everyone has access to health, when drugs are one of the most common ways of treating a health problem.

As a quick side note, I would also like to provide the cost of a pharmacare system, as told by Joel Lexchin. He says that currently Canadians spend about $20 billion every year on drugs. A pharmacare plan, thanks to bulk buying, price negotiations, etc. would only cost $7-8 billion, and everyone would be covered!

2. Home-care
Once again, I will start off with information that I learned at the conference. From what I understand, our current system only provides home-care, to people who need it, for two weeks. While in many (not most, though) circumstances that would be enough to 'rehabilitate' the patient medically, that person still may not be able to do many things on their own: shopping, picking up medications, going to the doctor, taking a bath, etc.

So in those circumstances, when the patient does not have adequate insurance to pay for home-care, the only people remaining to help are family members. In Canada, there are only approximately 50,000 home-care workers, however, there are 3 million family members who help—on average—ten hours a week (many insurance plans don't even pay for ten hours a week of home-care).

As you can see, there are problems pertaining to the current home-care system. Home-care should be just something for people who can afford it, or who have hard-working, willing family members; home-care is something that is a right, just like a visit to a doctor is currently a right in Canada. Too many people need assistance at home with, in addition to medical help, help with basic day-to-day items which most of us take for granted the ability to do them independently.

So as I have shown, we in fact currently do not have a full service, 'health-to-all' medicare system. Until everyone has access to both drugs and home-care, there will still be people who are not receiving the care/treatment that they need in order to be healthy. And in Canada, health is supposed to be a right. Let's actually act by our principles.

1 comment:

Devin said...

Excellent post. I haven't read the two entries that preceed it yet, but have you discussed dental care at all? I know that the social democrats in Sweden are attempting to introduce coverage for dental care up to the age of 21, largely because good oral care early in life is an important factor in overall health later in life.