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Privatising healthcare

Here's something I hadn't heard about before although apparently it's been going on for a couple of years now: Canada is starting to privatise its healthcare system.

Last week, the Quebec government proposed to lift a ban on private health insurance for several elective surgical procedures and announced it would pay for such surgeries at private clinics when waiting times at public facilities were unreasonable.

Now, it would only be fair to point out that Quebec didn't actually start down this road voluntarily - they were forced down the road to reform by the Supreme Court, which said that a ban on private health insurance was illegal when you couldn't actually get the socialised healthcare you'd already paid for. Good for them.

The effect of the decision on the other provinces seems to have been salutory  too:

The decision applied directly only to Quebec, but it has generated calls for private clinics and private insurance in several provinces where governments hope to forestall similar court decisions.

Which sounds good to me. Banning private healthcare is absurd, if not outright obscene. It's worth remembering that there are only two other countries where this is the case: Cuba and North Korea. I can't really believe that this is the kind of company the Canadians want to be keeping, despite all the credulous claims of the superiority of Cuban hospitals.

Can you imagine a world so topsy-turvy that medics are forced to operate clinics illegally? Apparently this is what happens in Canada. I can't imagine how anyone in the free world could stand to see someone prosecuted for this. "You have been found guilty of providing hip replacements for the wrong reasons - send him down!"

The article I've cited at the top of this post is from 2006, but it appears that there's been no let up in the pace of reform:

The architect of Quebec's now-overburdened public health-care system is proposing a strong and controversial remedy that includes further privatization and user fees of up to $100 [£50] for people to see their family doctor.

In a 338-page report, former provincial Liberal health minister Claude Castonguay concluded that Quebec can no longer sustain the annual growth in health-care costs. The province currently spends about $24 billion annually on health care, or about 40 per cent of its budget.


It's that second paragraph which gets to the crux of the matter. The problem of the whole "equal but inefficient" approach of socialised medicine is that eventually it's either going to become unaffordable, as in Canada, or, as in the UK where costs are held down, the system decays to the extent that it's more dangerous to be treated than not

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Reader Comments (1)

While I haven't lived in Quebec, I have recently moved to Canada, via Australia & the UK. Despite what anybody from the US will tell you, the medical system in this country is broken. It's virtually impossible to register with a GP, any health issues you have must be handled at a walk-in clinic, where you wait for hours with the deadbeats, for your 10 minutes with a different doctor every time, which you have to pay for despite already having paid for it via the ridiculous taxes.
From what people here have told me about the Quebecois, the company you mention is exactly the type of company they want to keep.
Mar 3, 2008 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterColin Suttie

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