Monday, June 27, 2005

We say this game's not of our choosing

How terribly gauche: Revealing how much the health debate has shifted, the Health Minister is feuding with Canada's top doctor over the Canadian Medical Association's growing embrace of private-care options. Ujjal Dosanjh says he is ''disappointed'' the CMA will debate the role of private care at its annual meeting this summer. He says he would have expected CMA president Dr. Albert Schumacher ''to be a little more circumspect'' on the issue. ''I am extremely disappointed,'' the Health Minister said. ''I am wondering where Dr. Schumacher wants to take the CMA. I am disappointed that he wants to take the CMA in a direction where he sees a private health care in Canada.'' Yes, how dare actual medical professionals debate the pros and cons of private care. It might send the wrong message, you know. Dickering in backrooms is fine, but for doctors to openly question the party line? Heavens! Here we have the perennial problem of the Liberal Party in a nutshell: faced with an opportunity to embrace a sensible and beneficial policy, but unable to, having spent years propagandizing the status quo as the only genuinely Canadian path. You'd think Dosanjh could restrain himself from spewing the usual FUD in this particular circumstance, given how inflexible and hidebound it makes the government appear, but it appears not: ''I don't see a great rush to set up private health care, because we have a very recent experience," he said of the Canadian public. "Forty-five years is not a long time in the life of a nation. There are people who still remember the dark days of private health care, where people had to sell their farms and sell their homes to care for their loved ones.'' If nothing else, such a now-improbable and nightmarish system serves to highlight the true cost of health care to the end user, currently shielded from the realities by circumspect federal and provincial payment schemes. If all care, and the infrastructure thereby accomplishing it, is everybody's, then it's nobody's; no one feels as though they have a responsibility to avoid wasting resources, because the spigot of "free" care will keep on flowing, albeit a little more sluggishly each year. Introducing the option of private care alongside a public system would allow a choice: is it important enough you want to spend your own money now, or can it wait? Having been established for forty-five years, I seriously doubt that it's possible to completely demolish socialized medicine in this country. The only real issue is how fast the supplement of private care can be established for those who are willing to pay, in addition to the tax revenue they contribute to the public system.

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