Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Help! I might not be opposed to private healthcare!

Recently I was reading yet another article on private health care -- against it of course -- and I was struck by the hollowness of an argument I had never questioned before. You've probably heard it yourself: why should a rich person get faster or better care just because they have money? And we all reply: they shouldn't! down with private health care!

But what struck me this time was that if we apply that principle to health care, it is strange that we apply it virtually nowhere else among our important social institutions. After all, we don't ask the same question about public education. Why should rich people be able to send their kids to a private school while everyone else has to make do with the public system? Or transportation. Why should some people have to rely on public transportation when others get to drive in privately-owned cars?

The answer to all of these questions -- including the one about health care -- is that we value the freedom we have to earn money and spend it as we see fit. We don't want the state telling us exactly what we can and cannot do with our own money. It our money. We earned it or someone gave it to us and we want to trade it for what we want. That's why its better to be rich than poor. That's why we seek to alleviate poverty. That's why we all want to be rich.

Needless to say, this line of thinking has caused me a very Canadian crisis of conscience. How can I NOT be against private health care, progressive Canuck that I am? Surely someone out there can give me a convincing series of arguments that do not require being opposed to private property altogether.

Would the private system drain the best doctors away from the public? Maybe, but that might well be offset by the willingness of the best doctors to stay in Canada rather than pursue a private practice in the US. Moreover, my sources in the education field say that a great many teachers prefer the public system because they are willing to trade lower pay for greater stability. And in any case, the private system would presumably never be very big since there are -- by definition -- only so many elite patients willing to go there.

Would private health care mean governments would invest less in the public system? There's no reason it would have to. That would be a matter of allocating funds just as they do now, and private care would not mean less money would be available for public care. Indeed, the poor and middle class Canadians might be better served if there were fewer people in the public system as at least some seek care elsewhere.

You see how far its gone? Someone, anyone, throw me a lifeline!

1 comment:

Patrick Giagnocavo said...

I recall the case of then-Premier Young some ten years ago. His daughter had leukemia, a very sad situation for any parent.

Every option available in the Canadian health care system had been tried; but there was an experimental treatment that might work in the USA.

Payment for such treatment is routinely denied by a review panel in the case of ordinary citizens--if you wish to proceed you have to pay out of your own pocket.

Of course the Premier got authorized.

The idea that rich or powerful people are going to limit themselves to whatever the base level of health care is in any country, is not one supported by reality.