By Brian Low
The Alberta Tories have introduced a bill that will result in the issuance of permits for a number of privately run, limited-service medical facilities. The opposition and a number of other interest groups are up in arms, decrying the death of our “distinctly Canadian” Medicare system. Good grief.
Before I begin, let’s dispel a few common myths about socialized medicine. First, it is not distinctly Canadian. We were not the first to come up with the idea and we are not the only ones to benefit from or labour under it. We were Canadian before health care’s institutionalization and will continue to be Canadian regardless. Socialized medicine is simply not what makes who we are; distinctly Canadian–Puh-leez.
The second misperception is that Canada has a model Medicare system. The equipment used in our hospitals is generally not state of the art, the quality of service is not astonishingly high (who can’t think of a horror story from one of our hospitals?), the waiting lists for popular procedures are notparticularly short. Even in the muchderided us, if you need your gall bladder out, you don’t have to wait 8 months, regardless of insurance. The system is not perfect–compared to other industrialized nations, it’s not really even that good.
That said, the most common objection to privatize medical care is that it will usher in a two-tiered system. Hello, we already have a two-tiered system. There is one tier for the vast majority of us: it has long waiting lists, sub-par equipment and mediocre service. Then there’s the tier for professional athletes, anyone personally acquainted with a doctor, or who can afford to get treatment 300 miles south in the us. Despite the best intentions of all our pandering politicians, Canada does not have a uniform level of medical service delivery.
Private medicine also eases waiting lists and stabilizes the medical system. As the bourgeoisie pay for private service, it takes pressure off the public system. If there are privately offered services at a time when the government can’t balance its books, and cut backs on medicare can make up for it, we will still be able to have basic medical treatment. That’s good news for everyone.
What’s more, it is highly unlikely there will be significant gaps in the level of private vs. public medical treatment. Any difference would undoubtedly exert tremendous pressure on the government to buy new equipment, increase public capacity and provide better service. Otherwise, it’s no more votes from us.
Don’t get me wrong, privatized medicine won’t be a universal panacea. There will be problems that arise, but limited private medical services will not mean that the poor die while waiting for kidney transplants because the rich are hoarding excess organs.
Things will pretty much be business as usual, but it should be better business for all concerned.