Friday, December 02, 2005

Waiting In Line For Real Change

Stephen Harper's pledge to create guaranteed maximum waiting times for surgery and treatment, even if it means moving patients to other provinces, is a very smart short-term political move. Unfortunately, it is also a long-term disaster:

The guarantee is a positive, forward-looking plan to protect Canada’s public health care system while complying with the principles of the Canada Health Act, treating all patients equally for essential health care services regardless of ability to pay, and maintaining a single-payer, publicly funded health care system.

“There will be no private, parallel system,” Harper said.

“Despite the denials of the Liberal government, reforms have been taking place — especially in alternative, private delivery of publicly insured services. We can and will achieve better results for patients and maintain the essentials of our system of public health insurance while maintaining our universal public health care system.”


The Patient Wait Times Guarantee will be based on the recommendation of the bi partisan Senate committee chaired by Michael Kirby and Marjory LeBreton, with the key contribution of Dr. Wilbert Keon. It will fulfill the commitment that federal and provincial governments made last year when they agreed to establish maximum acceptable waiting times for key treatments and procedures and then meet those standards — but the Conservative plan will be implemented right away, not delayed until December 2007. The plan also responds to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Chaoulli case.

“Clearly and unequivocally embracing the Patient Wait Times Guarantee is the only way governments can preserve both the principles of the Canada Health Act and the Charter of Rights,” Harper said.

In the short term, Harper will come across as a resolute defender of both the Canada Health Act and Charter of Rights, both of which he and the party have been perceived as less than supportive of. And maybe that will win the election.

But in the long term, the Harper government will have to deal with the collapse of the single-payer public health care monopoly. He is going to have to break his promise to maintain the current system, a promise that he has made as unequivocally as Jean Chretien did to scrap the GST in 1993.

That broken promise is still hanging around the Liberals' neck like an albatross; otherwise, no one would have pointed it out following Harper's promise to cut the GST to 5%.

And when he does have to introduce private competition, the old "hidden agenda" canard will be revived and trumpeted even louder when the Conservative government goes up for re-election. Only this time, there will be the perception of proof to fight against.

Better for him and the party had he faced the privatization question head-on the way that he did with homosexual marriage. Lay out the policy, say that some sort of privatization is inevitable if medicare is to survive, because the public can't bear the load alone any more, either as taxpayers or patients.

The press and other parties would have screamed a bit for a day or two, then calmed down once they discovered the "hidden agenda" charges didn't stick.

Canadians are ready to consider real change to the public health care monopoly. Too many people have seen friends and family suffer and die waiting for life-saving surgery and treatment. They no longer necessarily associate private health care with some American bogeyman. The party's best asset is that people agree with its current election theme of change. Real choice in public health care is real change, much more so than a percentage point or two off the GST.

People will follow if the Tories take the lead. And they haven't yet.

Source: Conservative Party of Canada

1 comment:

Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system. Health insurance is a major aspect to many.