In light of some upcoming court cases in Canada on access to private health care and the question of ‘reasonable’ waiting times, the usual trenchant commentary of André Picard on the issues:
The fundamental issue, however, is whether individual rights trump those of the collectivity.
A single-payer system like Canada’s ensures “free” care to all, but often the result is some rationing, some waits.
The alternative is to offer much more choice but ration access based on wealth: Those with money or private insurance get care more swiftly.
As a result, the argument is often caricatured as rich versus poor, or capitalism versus socialism. Invariably, someone will point to Europe and say: They have two-tier health care there and it works. True, but they have far more regulation than Canada, and private insurance is often the norm not the exception.
The complicating factor in Canada is that the prohibition on private insurance applies only to hospital and physician services. Why are we allowed – sometimes even obliged – to buy private insurance for prescription drugs, eye care, dental care, home care, nursing-home care, etc. – but not for surgery and doctors’ visits?
The logic has been lost somewhere. Worse yet, we have opted to stick our heads in the sand rather than debate these issues openly.
These legal challenges involve issues the provincial health ministers and premiers (who will meet to talk health care late this week in Halifax) should be discussing.
Regardless of their views, politicians and policy makers should agree on one thing: Health policy should be fashioned by elected officials, not the courts.