Friday, June 10, 2005

Canadian Court makes accurate diagnosis of health care system problems

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:22 AM |  

Private medical insurance in Canada got a boost from Canada’s Supreme Court on Thursday when it struck down a Quebec law banning private medical insurance. This ruling is a significant blow to Canada’s ailing publicly financed national health care system. As reported in the New York Times via the Pioneer Press --

Experts across the legal spectrum said they expected the decision to lead to sweeping changes in the Canadian health care system.

Patrick Monahan, dean of the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto and a well-known critic of the national health care system, was even more emphatic about the importance of the decision. "They are going to have to change the fundamental design of the system," he said. "They will have to build in an element of timely care or otherwise allow the development of a private medical system."
Lack of timely care is just a symptom of the many systemic problems with Canadian health care, but it is the most visible evidence that providing virtually universal and free medical care is moot if promised care cannot be delivered.

In recent years patients have been forced to wait longer periods for diagnostic tests and elective surgery while the wealthy and well-connected either sought care in the United States or used influence to jump medical lines.

The court ruled that the waiting lists had become so long that they violated patients' "life and personal security, inviolability and freedom" under the Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms, which covers about one-quarter of Canada's population.

"The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care," the Supreme Court ruled. "In sum, the prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services."
It’s not just patients fleeing the Canadian health care system that are crossing the border. Previously I’ve written about the experiences of Canadian radiologist Dr. Lee Kurisko, who now practices in Minneapolis, his family’s critical encounter with Canadian health care and some confirming reader response.

We ought to think twice -- maybe thrice -- before looking north for the answer to rising health care costs.

Update: From former Canadian physcian Dr. Lee Kurisko --
I am very pleased with the results of the court decision. This may be the event that gets the dam to break and open things up to privatization in Canadian health care. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Martin stated yesterday in response to the decision, that their will be no two tier health care system in Canada. I am not sure how he can unilaterally rebut the Supreme Court. Mr. Martin claims that they are going to put more money into health care and fix its problems. But how? That is the same mantra that I have been hearing from the Canadian politicians for the last two decades and things keep getting worse and worse. Socialism simply doesn't work especially for something as incredibly complex as health care.