Sunday, June 19, 2005

What we REALLY think about Canada's Medicare

I'm sure all the Professional Professing Canadians are all flutter over last week's story in the Ottawa Citizen. The headline read: CANADIANS RUE MEDICARE'S DECLINE, BUT EAGER FOR PRIVATE SYSTEM.

I can hear them now, "SHHHHHHHH! Quiet! The masses might notice..." The story followed an Ipsos-Reid poll that showed 70% of Canadians would buy private medical insurance (so they could jump the waiting lists) if they had the choice. The poll was commissioned after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a Quebec law prohibiting private funding of services already paid for by healthcare.

The Poll also reported that 60% believe the court decision will lead to shorter waiting lists, and 54 per cent believe it will lead to improvements in service for their family.

The funny thing about the poll, however, is that the math doesn't add up. While 70% wanted to have the freedom to choose, 57% wanted their own province to ban private care. 60% think the supreme court ruling will lead to shorter waiting lists, but 57 per cent believe that, as a result of the ruling, doctors and nurses will start leaving the public system to work in a new private system, thereby causing shortages in the public system?

Doh? It sounds to me like they mixed up the results of two different and opposing polls, each with their own biased leading questions.

Speaking as a Canadian who has seen both the American and Canadian health care systems in action I'm all in favor of the ruling. I've waited for hours in emergency-room lineups with a hurting loved-one. I've seen an Ontario co-worker die of cancer while on a months-long waiting list for a diagnostic service (not treatment, just the bloody diagnostic). This at the same time a Connecticut co-worker received diagnostic service and began cancer treatments in the same week his doctor noticed a problem. Don't tell me there isn't rationing in Canada: After my Dad had his heart attack the hospital's idea of a cardiac ICU was to put him in a room with another heart patient. If one of them arrested, the other guy was supposed to ring for the nurse...

It's not that I want our system to change completely over, but that like most people, I want to have that choice.

Not everyone up here sees things the way I do, however. Writing in the Edmonton Sun on June 14th, Mindelle Jacobs (who looks nifty in her Star Trek Uniform top, don'tcha think?) says the ruling is bad because people who are sick won't be able to get health insurance- including the guy who prompted the Supreme Court ruling in the first place. (George Zeliotis was angy at waiting in pain for over a year on the waiting list for a hip-replacement)

Mindelle misses the point. Had private insurance been previously allowed, George could have bought his coverage years ago, and wouldn't have had to wait for his hip.

When it comes to health care, we all tend to be a little schizophrenic about what we want. We want quick access for everyone to the best health care services- which you can't have in a rationed system. We claim to want universal coverage, but we don't like the thought of paying for 'health-care-hogs'. And now we've got the mid-stream media to notice that we want the freedom of choice in how we fund our services, but we don't want to sacrifice universality.

The math doesn't add up. But that's Canadian politics for you.

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