As part of my irregular perusal of Canadian media, I came across an interesting article by George Jonas in the National Post. The article reports on a Frasier Institute study showing Canadians waited on average 18.3 weeks for non-emergency surgery in 2006, about half a week longer than in 2005. This despite the provinces spending more tax dollars to reduce unacceptable waiting times.
Mr. Jonas can’t understand Canadians’ tolerance of this, although he notes it “gives new meaning to the word ‘patient.'” He has no problem, or hesitation, in describing the predictable result of this situation, what he calls a three-tier medical system. The first tier is the traditional provincial health plan available to everyone, the “second tier is called the ‘inside track’ and the the third, the United States. Anyone who thinks that wealthy or well-connected Canadians stand meekly in line and wait 18.3 weeks to see a specialist doesn’t live on this planet. The well-connected jump the queue, while the rich hop on a plan … and get themselves looked after in Cleveland, Austin, Phoenix or Rochester.”
Mr. Jonas laments Canada’s lack of private health insurance. “No one can guarantee health, but people should be able to buy therapy. Making therapy a government monopoly, and then doling it out on whatever basis — first-come-first served, lottery, status, connections or some murky bureaucratic set of priorities — combines iniquity with inefficiency.”
Recent events in the debate over changes to California’s health care system will embolden single-payer advocates to push their legislative package, Senate Bill 840 (Kuehl) even harder. They’ll be out in force at the Assembly Health Committees hearing on the Governor’s bill currently scheduled for October 31st. Maybe someone will ask them about the three tier Canadian version of their proposal. I doubt it, but one can always hope.
In the meantime it’s kind of fun to read both Californian and Canadian newspapers. In the former, liberals are seeking Canadian-style health care reforms; in the latter conservatives are seeking private coverage such as available in the California. Perhaps we could bring them together in one room, sell tickets and finance health care reform with the proceeds.
OK, perhaps not, but it would be entertaining. And maybe even enlightening.