Monday, February 27, 2006

Single-payer health system is breaking down in Canada

Part of freedom is taking responsibility for your own needs. It is easier to let the government take care of everything, but you are not free. And seldom does a government do a very good job. Big-government lovers in the US have long held up Canada's health care system as the ideal. "No one has to worry about paying for their health care. Everything is provided." But we have long been hearing of severe rationing of care - of long waiting periods - of limited infrastructure because the system won't spend for state-of-the-art equipment. And that the United States provides for the gaps - that Canadians cross the border instead of waiting six months - even longer - for critical surgery. The crack in the system came from Canada's Supreme Court last July. It ruled that the ban on private health care is unconstitutional. The New York Times reports:
The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine. .... Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians remain reluctant to openly propose sweeping changes even though costs for the national and provincial governments are exploding and some cancer patients are waiting months for diagnostic tests and treatment. But a Supreme Court ruling last June — it found that a Quebec provincial ban on private health insurance was unconstitutional when patients were suffering and even dying on waiting lists — appears to have become a turning point for the entire country. "The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services," the court ruled. In response, the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, proposed this month to allow private hospitals to subcontract hip, knee and cataract surgery to private clinics when patients are unable to be treated quickly enough under the public system. The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have suggested they will go much further to encourage private health services and insurance in legislation they plan to propose in the next few months. Private doctors across the country are not waiting for changes in the law, figuring provincial governments will not try to stop them only to face more test cases in the Supreme Court.
Good news. Hat tip to Cafe Hayek, though I saw it elsewhere first.

No comments: