Monday, February 20, 2006

Socialized Medicine Being Eroded in Canada

From our Canadian correspondent:

Quebec opens door to private health care

Wait-time guarantee includes promise to cover private clinic bills if necessary


QUEBEC CITY — The Quebec government promised yesterday to provide hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery within six months of a patient’s diagnosis and said it would pay for the procedures to be done at private clinics if necessary.

This would make Quebec the first province to guarantee access to certain health procedures and would open the door to a greater role for private health care in Quebec.

“We’re putting the private sector to work for the public,” Premier Jean Charest said at a news conference. “What we are announcing today is a new era in the delivery of health and social services for the population of Quebec — a new era of guaranteed access to care.”

[. . .]

Under the proposals, the government promises to provide cataract, hip and knee surgery within six months of the day a specialist recommends the operation. If government-funded hospitals cannot perform the procedure within that time, the government will pay to have it done at certified private clinics affiliated with a hospital.

If the operation cannot be done anywhere in Quebec within nine months, the government will pay to send the patient outside the province, including to the United States.

The government estimates it will spend about $20-million a year sending patients to private clinics. As the population ages, that figure could grow.

The article goes on to explain that Quebec has a shortage of about 1,000 doctors (what does one expect under socialized medicine?).

As with school choice in Milwaukee, the forces of the public sector monopoly are not happy about having to face competition.
“Why is Mr. Charest so determined on using public funds to finance private clinics when the same services with proper planning and funding could be offered in our hospitals?” said Geneviève Pelletier, spokesperson for the patients advocacy group Coalition Solidarité Santé.

Other provinces may be tempted to follow Mr. Charest’s lead. The British Columbia Speech from the Throne this week called for changes to the Canada Health Act and hinted that the use of private clinics to deliver publicly funded health care should not be ruled out. The Alberta government plans to bring in legislation to allow, among other things, people to buy private insurance for certain procedures.
In seems that “patients advocates” in Canada are like “consumer advocates” in the U.S., which don’t advocate for consumer, but rather for leftist causes.

The world in which socialized medicine seemed to be the wave of the future is now gone. It has been gone since 1989, although HillaryCare was its last gasp in the U.S.

That’s not to say that systems of socialized medicine will be dismantled tomorrow. Not only is a vast network of special interests arrayed to protect them, the simple conservatism of the beneficiaries of the welfare state will prevent any change that seems to in any way threaten the goodies people want from government.

This is the same dynamic that rendered President Bush’s attempts to partially privatize Social Security a non-starter.

But it’s becoming clear that for socialized medicine, like the rest of the welfare state, it’s the forces of selfishness and reaction that are its defenders.


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