Ill judgment

I view today’s Supreme Court Ruling as welcome news. After Election Watch ’05 ran dry, I finally have something interesting to write about. All other aspects of the ruling may lead me to seek medical attention. My symptoms are nausea, depression, and NAFTA inspired nightmares starring American HMOs.

Soon Quebecers will be able to purchase comprehensive private health insurance. With this insurance they will increasingly access private health services. The private sector will certainly grow in Quebec, and many predict that similar rulings in other provincial jurisdictions will lead to a flourishing of private health services across the country. And although a majority on the Supreme Court does not foresee it, public health care across the nation will suffer at the expense of it’s rival tier. That is, unless Government acts to remove the threat long wait times pose to ones life, liberty, and security of person. And they must act quickly, it will not take long for insurance companies in Quebec to design comprehensive insurance plans, the blueprints are already in existence south of the border. Thankfully this ruling addresses Quebec, where both the governing Liberals and the PQ government in waiting will respond with measures to strengthen the public system.

It is an abomination for the Court to conclude that only the very rich being able to access private health is a greater injustice than the creation of an underclass of public health care users. When top doctors and other health care workers are siphoned into the private sphere only those young middle-class, working poor, unemployed and the elderly poor remain to leach of the public purse. Can the Government of Alberta be trusted to ensure that an individual will receive care at a public hospital in northern Alberta equal to that of a private clinic in Calgary? Or will Conservative governments across the country view the purchasing of private insurance as an invitation to further de-list their duties, abandoning the ‘fundamental justice’ that comes with knowing that each person one passes on the street is guaranteed a standard of care worthy of a society committed to universal, accessible, comprehensive, and portable health care?

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9 Comments

  1. Sniggins said,

    Friday, 10 June 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Why must the evolution toward a two-tiered system always be compared to the American system which, the last time I checked, is a 1 tier, private only, system. Two tier systems exist throughout the world successfully (See the German system for an example). Just because a health insurance provider, or health service provider, is private does not mean they cannot be regulated into providing care that is equal to or better than the public system.

  2. Manatee said,

    Friday, 10 June 2005 at 4:32 pm

    The American system is not 1 tier, it is just a good example of how poor a multi-tier system can function. Medicaid is supposed to be a universal system for poor people in the United States, but it does not sufficiently cover the working poor. Medicare is supposed to be the system for the elderly. Don’t you think that privatization in Canada would lead to a system where only the very poor participated in the public tier- and becuase of it the public tier would deteriorate.

    In the German example you provide it appears that the government requires all who earn less than a certain yearly wage to participate in the public system. This is sufficent to keep demand for the public system, and ensure it remains a government priority. Could Canadian governments issue such an income threshold for manditory participation in the public tier after yesterdays ruling? I think not (unless the problems of the health care system were fixed, in which case we would not have to argue about this).

    If a wealthy person were sick they might be better off flying to the US or seeking a private clinic in Canada for treatment. This indicates a failure of governments to maintain high standards of public health care- it does not indicate a need to sacrifice universal healthcare for the benifit of the wealthy.

  3. Sniggins said,

    Friday, 10 June 2005 at 5:08 pm

    I disagree the Medicaid is comparible to a 2 tier system but rather a wellfair benefit. The max income to be eligible for medicaid (in NY) for a family of 1 is $667/ month.

    The German system is just an example of a 2 tier system that works. I agree that it may take some “bending” to fit into Canada (or perhaps it is Canada that requires the bending).

  4. Gnomes said,

    Friday, 10 June 2005 at 7:31 pm

    Canada’s commitment to quality, universal healthcare has been in decline for more than a decade.

    It may be that governments will use private alternatives as an excuse to cut back on public services, but it’s been very clearly established that they don’t need any excuses to slash funding. I’m not prepared to forbid someone from seeking private medical services based on such abstract speculation.

  5. Sniggins said,

    Saturday, 11 June 2005 at 1:29 am

    They can always pull out the good old notwithstanding claus.

  6. Manatee said,

    Saturday, 11 June 2005 at 11:09 am

    The wavering financial support of Government in the last decade should not be misconstrued as a lack of support among Canadians for public health care. I don’t mind if it is construed as bad governance (and an unfortunate product of its time).

    The bottom line is this: Expansion of the private system will undermine the public system.

    The question Canadians must ask themselves is this: Do you want the social transactions of the health care system to exist as a market system?

    Since markets create losers, we should be discouraging (if not forbidding) anyone from doing anything that will lead to an undermining of the public system to the benefit of the market system.

  7. Gnomes said,

    Saturday, 11 June 2005 at 12:05 pm

    Two-thirds of Canadians in the past election voted for either the Martin Liberals or the Harper Conservatives. To me that demonstrates a clear desire to maintain healthcare funds at their current insufficient level, or, in the case of a Conservative vote, lower them.

  8. Sniggins said,

    Saturday, 11 June 2005 at 3:02 pm

    Some interesting monetary data I was able to dig up at the WHO:

    National Health Expenditures spending per Capita:

    Canada:
    Total Expenditures – $2931
    Gov. Expenditures – $2049

    Germany: (2 tier system)
    Total Expenditures – $2817
    Gov. Expenditures – $2212

    France: (Similar public system to Canada)
    Total Expenditures – $2736
    Gov. Expenditures – $2080

    USA:
    Total Expenditures – $5274
    Gov. Expenditures – $2368

    All data is as of 2002 and in international (US) dollars


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