Sunday, September 12, 2004

Learning from others' mistakes...

The Canadian health care system is often held up as a model by those who favor nationalizing U.S. health care. But I keep coming across articles like the one in today’s New York Times, which paints a disturbing picture.

The publicly financed health insurance system remains a prideful jewel for most Canadians, who see it as an expression of communal caring for the less fortunate and a striking contrast to an American health care system that leaves 45 million people uninsured. But polls indicate that public confidence in the system is eroding, although politicians remain reticent to urge increasing privatization of services.

Note how privitization is being floated as a solution to nationalized health care in Canada at the same time socialization is being touted here in the U.S.

[Officials in one city] estimate that 22,000 people here have no doctor at all, forcing them to go to emergency rooms at overcrowded local hospitals to wait in line for up to four hours simply to refill a prescription, get a doctor's note for an employer or care for their flu symptoms.

"It's like winning the lottery to get in and see the doctor," Mayor Marcel Brunelle said. "This is a very wealthy country. What happened to bring the situation to this point?"

Many Canadians, frustrated by long waits, now resort to going to expensive emergency wards for their medical needs.
Administrators at the nearby Lakeridge Health Oshawa, an acute care hospital, estimated that more than 30 percent of the patients who went to the emergency ward would go to a family doctor instead if they could do so quickly. It is a burden on the hospital's staff, space and financial resources.

"Seeing a doctor and not having to pay is phenomenal," [one patient said], "but here I am taking up emergency time from doctors. I really do wish I could see my family doctor instead of coming here and talking to a total stranger."

When will we learn that "not having to pay" is an illusion? We can hide costs, or pay them in different ways, but we can't make them go away. When we create the false impression that something is free, people will use more of it, and if we artificial control the price of it, we destroy the balance between supply and demand. The result is ultimately higher costs and poorer quality.

According to the Times, Canada's health care problem is getting worse and approaching crisis status. Is this really the direction in which we want to take our health care?
[via Hugh Hewitt]

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