Private health care is here to stay

The Canada Health Act is dead.

Canada’s first “urgent care” clinic is opening in Vancouver this week. Twenty-four doctors who would otherwise be working for the public system will be employed there. This isn’t a threat to Canada’s public health system – it’s just the latest sign that the system is already rotten and finally the private sector is being allowed to plug in the holes.

In case anyone was wondering what private health care costs, the Urgent Care Centre will charge $199 for a basic evaluation and various charges for other procedures such as blood tests for $50 and X-Rays and $70 for an arm cast. If you just waited in a public hospital’s emergency ward, they’d take care of those things for free – just as long as you’re willing to wait around.

Many will criticize this as a move towards a “US-style” system. It’s not, unless about a hundred other countries take their cues from our southern neighbor. Pretty much every country has a mix of public and private health care. How well the system works, though, depends on the country.

Hopefully, this will be a good thing. The way it was going, with BC having to pay up to 70 per cent of its total budget towards health care by 2017 if nothing is done, just wasn’t sustainable.

3 Comments so far

  1. Wu (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you less. There are a lot of people who simply can’t afford a visit that could run them several hundred dollars.

    I believe the weakness of the Campbell gov’t in dealing with this is actually a desire to see it flourish, to help control costs. Problem is, it won’t do anything to help those who really need it and who will always be at the mercy of private enterprise and uncaring gov’t.

  2. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2006 @ 12:22 am

    If people can’t afford a visit, then they can go to the public hospital, where service is guaranteed for free. They just might have to wait a few hours, or days, to get treatment.

    People are having worse health outcomes, and at the extreme end, literally dying in our public hospitals because there aren’t enough health care professionals or facilities to attend to them in a reasonable amount of time. When the government spends billions on improvements to Medicare without making any appreciable dent in the delay of service, then the private sector ought to be at least given a chance to show what they can do.

  3. timmy (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 10:35 am

    Here’s the problem with private care: if the best doctors can make $300,000 per year in a private clinic, or $100,000 per year in the public system, over time, most of the best doctors will migrate to the private sector.

    Note that other inducements can also lure doctors into the private system: better equipment, more time for research, more ‘perks’ (ie educational seminars sponsored by pharmaceutical companies).

    In the long run, you therefore wind up with lower-quality care in the public system.

    On the other hand, government can regulate the private system closely, so that it doesn’t become too profitable. It’s a tough balance to achieve though, since there will always be pressure from well-organized private sector lobbyists to ‘deregulate’.

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