Jun 27 2008

Canadian Healthcare: NOT the model for USA

Category: healthcare,socialismharmonicminer @ 3:31 pm

I wrote earlier on the problems of “universal health care”, or pretty much any heavily regulated or government funded health care scheme, which inevitably leads to rationing. That is, while we can find cases in free market systems where people won’t get care, through no fault of their own, we’re foolish to ignore the fact that in government run systems, which will of necessity be rationed, there will also be people who suffer for lack of care.

Writing in Investor’s Business Daily, David Gratzer gives the lowdown on the Canadian experiment with socialized medical care. Claude Castonguay was perhaps the most powerful driving voice behind Canada’s adoption of government run healthcare.

Castonguay’s evolving view of Canadian health care, however, should weigh heavily on how the candidates think about the issue in this country.

Back in the 1960s, Castonguay chaired a Canadian government committee studying health reform …..

The government followed his advice…. until eventually his ideas were implemented from coast to coast.

Four decades later, as the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care this year, Castonguay concluded that the system is in “crisis.” [emphasis mine]

“We thought we could resolve the system’s problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it,” says Castonguay. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: “We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice.”

Castonguay advocates contracting out services to the private sector, going so far as suggesting that public hospitals rent space during off-hours to entrepreneurial doctors. He supports co-pays for patients who want to see physicians. Castonguay, the man who championed public health insurance in Canada, now urges for the legalization of private health insurance. [emphasis mine]

In America, these ideas may not sound shocking. But in Canada, where the private sector has been shunned for decades, these are extraordinary views, especially coming from Castonguay. It’s as if John Maynard Keynes, resting on his British death bed in 1946, had declared that his faith in government interventionism was misplaced. [emphasis mine]

What would drive a man like Castonguay to reconsider his long-held beliefs? Try a health care system so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care; a system where people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor. [emphasis mine]

Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.

Sick with ovarian cancer, Sylvia de Vires, an Ontario woman afflicted with a 13-inch, fluid-filled tumor weighing 40 pounds, was unable to get timely care in Canada. She crossed the American border to Pontiac, Mich., where a surgeon removed the tumor, estimating she could not have lived longer than a few weeks more.

The Canadian government pays for U.S. medical care in some circumstances, but it declined to do so in de Vires’ case for a bureaucratically perfect, but inhumane, reason: She hadn’t properly filled out a form. At death’s door, de Vires should have done her paperwork better.

Read the whole thing.

The facts of economic life are these:

1) When governments engage in any form of price fixing, whether it is intervention in the market by fiat, or wholesale takeover of a sector of the economy, shortages will result. Period. No credible economist denies this. But politicians, or populist/progressive politicians, at any rate, would like to pretend that they can repeal the laws of economics whenever they think they see a good reason (that is, one that will help them get elected or stay in office).

2) No one, absolutely no one, nor any conceivable consortium of geniuses, is able to centrally plan a health care system that is more humane, supplying more health care to more people in a timely way, than the one now in the USA. The very best in the world have tried… and they have failed, pretty much without exception.

3) The US government’s interventions in the health care market, and earlier in wage fixing (in WWII, which led to our entire system of employer provided health insurance, which hid the true costs of health care from the users of it, and, along with Medicare, led directly to our current price spiral), is the single biggest factor in the high health care prices in the USA. But at least we don’t have serious shortages, mostly…. yet.

All of which leads to:

4) The government can only make things worse by further regulation, and most especially by dreaming up more plans that involve taking money from some people in the form of taxes to pay for the health care of others.

As Lazarus Long said (more or less… I didn’t take time to look up the exact quote), “No one ever learns anything from other people’s experience.”

He was wrong, of course, because some people clearly do. But it certainly seems to apply to governments, in spades.

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2 Responses to “Canadian Healthcare: NOT the model for USA”

  1. Alex says:

    Mark Steyn has a book, America Alone, which gives an incredibly unapologetic look at, among many things, government intervention in what should be personal responsibilities of civilian lives… healthcare, and how, unfortunately, most of the western world thinks it should indeed follow the way of the Old Continent… Europe, Canada, etc… it’d be interesting to see what you think of this book if you get a chance to look through it.

  2. harmonicminer says:

    As a matter of fact, I think “America Alone” is a great book. I recommend it highly to anyone who isn’t away of the demographic situation in Europe and elsewhere, and thinks the world will just go ticking stably along in its current form for the forseeable future.

    My guess is, we’re in for large changes.

    I’ll probably prepare a post of favorite books soon.

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